In the past few weeks I have been sending out DMCA notices left and right. Several each day. I knew going in that some of my models would have an appeal to crowd of people that don't share the values I do. Having to go to these websites and serve these notices has me a bit reflective.
Add to that the fact that I was researching a photographer today and Google lead me to this website purporting to be from the group "Anonymous". (The site doesn't read like it was done by hackers... in terms of being "doxed" it is a pretty sophomoric effort.) I really had to put some words down about child modeling. My path keeps meeting it. And I don't like it.
The following was posted at this blogs Facebook page.
I found this website while backgrounding some people. I must say that someone has done their homework.
And while I agree with the general stance that child modeling is wrong. I think a full vetting of what we are talking about is appropriate.
I'm a photographer. I have been for 15 years. Many years ago a person sent me an image of a model and said I should photograph her. I had no idea what her website was. To my surprise it was a child modeling website. NOW... this photo sent to me could have been found in any magazine or website. It was not in any way risque and the model was no longer a child. Rather she was likely 16 or 17. The general age when girls start to model. But the website I found of her photos likely dated back to when she was 9 or 10 years old.
This one photo introduced me to very strange world. One I am not at all comfortable with. One full of success and unfortunately exploitation.
You see I have worked with many child models once they reach a legitimate modeling age. My photos have given models the opportunity to shed their past and integrate with MAINSTREAM modeling opportunities. I worked with the model known as "Play Kitty" when she was 18 or 19 years old.
Over the years I've been sent many images by fans saying you must work with these models. In most circumstances I've been very disappointed with what I have found. Obvious exploitation and manipulation. The owners of these websites and creators of these photos are catering to pedophiles. There is no other way to look at it. The photos style, wardrobe and surroundings do not mimic what is normal, what is acceptable for a child. 12 year olds don't play dress up with suggestive lingerie. And if they ever did it wasn't done with the understood ends of being sold to the public.
The "art" stipulations that these websites stay safe under are purposefully broad. They must be because we do not want to dissuade legitimate artists and harass them for their legitimate work.
I've seen individual states in the US try to combat these online sites but usually end up making too broad a law that is likely Unconstitutional.
That is why sites like this are so important. But with this "importance" comes responsibility.
I don't suggest you post the names of the parents that allow their children to be exploited online. But I think it is VERY important to note that the best line of defense against child exploitation isn't Anonymous, or Law Enforcement... it is the parents.
More should be seen on the blog and facebook page here about the responsibility of parents.
Second... if you are going to be "real" about this industry you have to understand that not every culture is like the US, UK and Canada. What we consider an adult in the US is not the same in other places. Just because your 16/17 year old can't make a rational decision and you can't conceive of a son or daughter at that age able to make adult decisions... doesn't mean there isn't a culture somewhere that does. I don't think a soul would disagree with me when I say we extend childhood as long as possible in the USA. For better... and worse.
There are efforts underway with organizations that would love to see YOUTH made illegal. Not to get too feminist here... but if it were left to some every part of pubescent girls body would be illegal to show or talk about. From a purely artistic stand point youth has forever been a major subject. Its loss, its wonder, its innocence. It's innocence has chiefly been depicted by nudity. This is not nor has it ever been legitimately seen as exploitation of children.
And that is where these exploitation websites stand to do the most damage to artists... to legitimate artful endeavors. By walking the line and exploiting the law, these websites coax politicians into doing too much and catching legitimate art in the net cast to catch "child modeling agencies".
We all agree that children, 1-13/14 should not be exploited for monetary gain, or any age for that matter. This doesn't mean that children should not model. This doesn't man that a legitimate work of art that depicts children in situations that are normal to childhood or are artful derivations of childhood are not to be sold and do not have value. What this means is that using these same "art" exemptions to exploit children is wrong. It deserves exposure.
But those that do the exposing have a responsibility to be sure of their charges, clear in their efforts and concise in their scope. Steering clear of what has come to be known as Pedo-Hysteria or the act of accusation and insult in an effort to cover up ones own insecurities and fears. This is not a victim centered reaction. It's a selfish reaction.
So again... I support the shaming of those that exploit children. But only when it is done with legitimate ends in mind and with a limited and accurate scope. And only when the effort is obviously child centered and not solely about punishment or extortion.