First Lady of the Black Fingers: Julia Margaret Cameron

It is not my wish to insult anyone by including this post, but as a teacher I felt it important to include material about the key players in photographic history. As an amateur art lover, an artist with whom I made early contact helped me by giving me a reading list and a list of relevant artists. That gave me a good foundation and it is my intent to do the same for readers who may not have considered the interesting historical context. About one-sixth of Cameron’s output involved children and many are girls, but perhaps not as many as it might at first appear.

Julia Margaret Cameron (née Pattle) (1815-1879) was born in Calcutta, India of a respectable English family. As her family was well-connected, she was raised to perform the kind of duties expected of a woman of her class and upon her marriage to Charles Hay Cameron in 1838, became a devoted mother of six. Cameron got a late start in photography for two reasons; the techniques were still in their infancy and she had not recognized the need for artistic expression until the children were out of the house and she wanted something to help pass the time. Sir John Herschel, an astronomer and friend informed her of this new technology and she must have at first experimented by borrowing the cameras of others before receiving her own as a gift from her daughter and son-in-law Julia and Charles Norman in 1863. This was an unusual hobby for a woman as it was a technical and messy process using wet collodion and such photographers were noted for their black fingers from handling the chemicals. She was self-taught and worked on her craft in England and then in Ceylon where she and her husband relocated in 1875. Apart from Herschel, she was friends or acquaintances with a number of noted figures including Alfred Tennyson and his wife who were neighbors for a time. Running a business was becoming a respectable practice for the upper classes in Victorian England and photographers were making their fortunes producing postcards from their images. At that time photography demanded a lot of time and money, and though Cameron wanted to supplement her family’s income with her work, that ambition never reached fruition.

Fortunately for us and for posterity, there was a resurgence of interest in Cameron’s work in the 1970s and efforts to track down her surviving photographs began, resulting in the book Julia Margaret Cameron: The Complete Photographs by Julian Cox and Colin Ford in 2003. 1225 images are known to have survived and are included in catalog form in this book. She was a prolific correspondent and was one of the most written-about women of her time so there is ample documentation about her life and artistry. She classified her work into three general groups: 1) Portraits, 2) Madonna Groups and 3) Fancy Subjects for Pictorial Effect. No matter what the theme, Cameron regarded her goal as achieving a work of beauty. Her earliest efforts did make use of the children in her life, mainly members of her extended family and those of her closest friends. Her first exhibition was in 1865 at the South Kensington Museum. Her accomplishments are even more impressive when one considers the 3 to 7 minute exposure time required. Cameron made efforts to minimize the production time, but it must still have been a formidable challenge to get children to sit still that long. The exposure times also made the modern convention of smiling for photographs out of the question, as such a tense expression could not be maintained.  Although Cameron was a perfectionist when it came to composition and effect, she was harshly criticized for her sloppy technique.  Early photography was a sensitive process; chemicals had to be applied evenly and the photographer had to be careful handling the plate to avoid dust, scratches and other marks.  To preserve the authenticity of the artist’s work, such marks were not cleaned up for this post.

Cameron regarded her early work with Annie Philpot her first official success and this image is listed as number one in the catalog.


Julia Margaret Cameron – Annie (1864)

Many of her works had a sacred theme and a number of images had identical compositions and titles as she experimented with photographic effects and different versions were needed for friends and interested museums curators. I always felt that the sitters had an unusually devout expression in her images. Several of these were called Madonna with Two Children (Cat. #18).

Julia Margaret Cameron – (Untitled) (1864)

Julia Margaret Cameron – (Untitled) (1864)

This ensemble shows some of her favorite models: Mary Hillier (one of her servants), Elizabeth Keown, Mary Ryan, Alice Keown and Mary Kelloway (Cat. #147).

Julia Margaret Cameron – Lilies and Pearls (1864-5)

Julia Margaret Cameron – Lilies and Pearls (1864-5)

Cameron was fascinated with how the quality of a child’s skin comes out in photographs (Cat. #41).

Julia Margaret Cameron – Gentleness (1864)

Julia Margaret Cameron – Gentleness (1864)

It wasn’t that Cameron was especially religious, but children of that time were regarded as pristine and wholesome and that lent well to cherubic or angelic themes. Wings could be used to produce angels and cupids alike (Cat. #889).

Julia Margaret Cameron – (Untitled) (1872)

Julia Margaret Cameron – (Untitled) (1872)

An image like this may seem a bit startling with children, but the severity of the effect might have been exaggerated by the long exposure and as children were regarded as uncorrupted, the viewer of that period might imbue such images with deeper spiritual meaning than could be achieved with adults (Cat. #858).

Julia Margaret Cameron – The Turtle Doves (1864)

Julia Margaret Cameron – The Turtle Doves (1864)

Cameron and Charles Dodgson were well acquainted and collaborated from time to time. This piece resembles his work with Beatrice or Evelyn Hatch. After seeing some of Cameron’s angels, Dodgson probably requested a “cleaner” image of the girl without the accoutrement of wings. To me, Cameron’s title suggests an eerie double meaning. The more obvious is that this piece was a special request made to order, but there is also the suggestion that such an ardent desire for this image was unseemly and precipitates a child’s fall from grace (Cat. #896).

Julia Margaret Cameron – An Angel unwinged by your desire (1873)

Julia Margaret Cameron – An Angel unwinged by your desire (1873)

Many times while reviewing the catalog, I was surprised that a particular image was in fact a little boy. Her soft focus and motifs naturally emphasize the feminine qualities and it was fashionable for boys in upper-class families to wear their hair long to bring out their youthful beauty. The sitter in this image was Stephen Powys (Cat. #1013).

Julia Margaret Cameron – A Lovely Sketch (1873)

Julia Margaret Cameron – A Lovely Sketch (1873)

The parallels between Cameron’s and Sally Mann’s work is unmistakable. Both women, apart from being mothers, had obsessive personalities when pursuing their art. After Immediate Family and What Remains, Mann became fascinated with homemade cameras and old photographic techniques with long exposures and, like Cameron, likes the feel of handling the chemicals and other materials required in the process. This is demonstrated in the excellent documentary of Mann called What Remains: The Life and Work of Sally Mann.

A Perfect Little Girl’s Day: Armand Gaboriaud

For some reason, this series appeals to me and I always wondered what the missing images were and whether they included any of the girl washing up or grooming herself.  It turns out there is a card featuring a bathing scene.  Unfortunately, the quality of the image does not allow the text to be translated like the others and anyone able to provide a better scan of this card—or any of the other missing cards—is encouraged to come forward.

Armand Gaboriaud - La Journée de Suzette No. 3 (c 1900)

Armand Gaboriaud – La Journée de Suzette No. 3 (c 1900)

A lot of charming postcards were made in the Victorian and Edwardian periods and when I came across this, I felt it was typical of the genre. A lot of series were based on some sequential logic like the days of the week, the four seasons or a range of birthdays. This one had a different approach: covering the sequence of activities a little girl performs in a day. This one is called La Journée de Suzette (Suzette’s Day). At first blush, it would seem a delightful peek at the details of a girl’s life. However, each scene is really an idealized and mundane version of how her society would like her to be. There is no sense of the girl having a personality or an inner life and she dutifully plays her role creating a nostalgic but emotionally flat experience for the viewer. This portrayal of the little girl is emphasized in some of the poetic passages.

Even though Armand Gaboriaud is cited as a prolific poet and novelist—sometimes under the alias Marcel Houjan—little biographical information is available on him on the internet. It appears he not only wrote the short poems on the postcards, but was an amateur photographer as well. Most of his work takes this format and most were published just after the the turn of the 19th Century. These particular cards were produced in 1903 or earlier. Most of his images have young women and some sentimental poem, but apart from Suzette only one other series—Paul et Virginie—seems to feature very young people. I could find only six images from the series and only five are presentable here.

I was planning to just use a free translation program to give the readers a gist of the poetry here, but that style does not translate well by machine. I am grateful that an artist friend of mine was willing to translate these short passages for this post.

“While sleep sprinkles it’s golden grains on baby resting in Morpheus’ arms, a marvelous dream, like a fairy tale, makes her smile, and baby thinks about having fun again.”


Armand Gaboriaud – La Journée de Suzette No. 1 (c 1900)

“It’s time to wake up, time to pray. Suzanne gives her heart to dear little Jesus, and says, ‘Protect me, good father and good mother, if I have disobeyed, I won’t do it again!”


Armand Gaboriaud – La Journée de Suzette No. 2 (c 1900)

“Suzann has a very hard time getting dressed by herself. She puts on her corset, her stockings and her shoes. As you can see, Suzanne is a big girl; she turned 4 last year!”


Armand Gaboriaud – La Journée de Suzette No. 4 (c 1900)

“Finding just enough space to write a few words on this picture postcard, after a short time, and after a bit of effort, it’s soon finished, and Suzanne brings it to the mailbox right away.”


Armand Gaboriaud – La Journée de Suzette No. 6 (c 1900)

The postcard image to Number 7 is in poor condition. It depicts Suzanne sitting at a child’s table setting feeding her doll.

“Suzanne is back home again, her mother’s heart makes her think of her child! It’s time for her beloved doll to eat, so Suzanne responsibly feeds her.”


“Suzanne has a date with a friend. They’re going to take a walk, each with her own doll. They are going to have fun, sitting and playing from time to time during their walk. It is like this every day.”


Armand Gaboriaud – La Journée de Suzette No. 8 (c 1900)

I was unable to determine how long the entire series is—clearly there are at least 8—and what the subjects of the missing cards are. Anyone knowing more about this series or biographical information on Gaboriaud are encourage to share this information.

Raised to Hate

Today is the eleventh anniversary of Al Qaeda’s terrorist attacks on US soil that took down the Twin Towers, destroyed part of the Pentagon and four large jetliners, and killed thousands of innocent people.  As this is also Girls and Guns month here at Pigtails, it is important to remember that the culture of violence all over the world often impacts the young girls that we adore so much.  It is ironic, I think, that in the Middle East, where girls are the most disempowered of all groups, that it is not uncommon to see them toting weapons like assault rifles in propaganda photos and media reports on anti-American and anti-Israel demonstrations.  One of the saddest things in the world to me is children being brought up to hate. The first image here is an older photo taken by Owen Franken; the second is a contemporary photo by an unknown photographer, depicting young girls recruited and trained by the terrorist group known as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.


Owen Franken – (Untitled) – Beirut, Lebanon, 1970


Photographer Unknown – (Title Unknown)

Girls in Advertisements

Several posts featuring girls in advertisements from Pigtails 1.0 have been consolidated here for the convenience of the reader.  Each is noted with its original post date.

Posted on September 9, 2012:

An ad for Iver Johnson Revolvers.  Such an ad today would be considered highly inappropriate.


Artist Unknown – Iver Johnson Revolvers (1900s)

Posted on February 28, 2012:

A Sears catalog page here with some girls in cute Winnie the Pooh pajamas.  I believe this is from the early to mid ’80s.


Photographer Unknown – Sears Catalog – Winnie the Pooh Pajamas

Posted on January 30, 2012:

Little lovebirds sharing cookies and a bowl of milk. Don’t you love these old Victorian ads? Quaint? Sure, but also sometimes sweet in a way modern ads simply aren’t.


Artist Unknown – Biscuits Lefevre-Utile (1896)

Posted on December 18, 2011:

I thought this ad was kinda cute:


Artist Unknown – Bayer Children’s Aspirin (1969)

Posted on May 2, 2011:


Artist Unknown – Brer Rabbit Molasses ad (1942)

Posted on April 20, 2011:


Artist Unknown – Del Monte Pineapple Juice ad

Contrasting Cultures: Ingar Krauss

Ingar Krauss was born in East Berlin in 1965 and was perhaps fortunate to have lived in such interesting times. In his 20s, the Communist Bloc was collapsing and he started shooting photographs in the mid 1990s. His subjects were abandoned or condemned buildings in Berlin, as if he was documenting the passing of an age. Then, as many parents do, he began photographing his own daughter and her circle of friends in a remote area near the Polish border where he and his wife had a house. Throughout his work there is a feeling of melancholia as any transformation has an inevitable element of sadness. He liked capturing the children at a time when their bodies and minds were not clearly defined but showed a concentration and intensity. Shortly after completing these images, they were on display in Berlin. Krauss, who was entirely self-taught, cites only a few photographic influences: August Sander, NadarJohn DeakinPaul Citroen and Robert Häusser. He has exhibited his work consistently since 2001 in Western Europe, the United States and a few places in Eastern Europe. Numerous awards and articles accompanied these exhibitions and in 2005 Portraits was published by Hatie Cantz.

However melancholy these early images may seem, they still depict a relatively happy lifestyle. Being raised under a Socialist regime, Krauss knew things were not so pleasant even further east in Russia. He decided he wanted to capture the character of the juvenile delinquents and others trapped in Russian institutions such as orphanages and prisons. He got a stipend in 2002 to go there and shoot. He felt Western children were relatively nondescript and don’t have much of a history that can be seen in their character. He wanted to shoot children that had been through something and, at such a tender age, had already donned the cloak of adult responsibility. It should be understood that not all these children were criminals, but many ended up at such places as social orphans with nowhere else to go. Getting access was also not easy and the suspicious authorities and on-site guards were always present to scrutinize his work. These images convey more anonymity than the earlier work and have descriptions indicating only place and date. None of his subjects knew why they were chosen, just that Krauss thought they had the personality he wanted to capture. In places where the children were in uniforms, all individuality had to be focused in the face. As a kind of homage to a bygone age, he prints his photos himself on outdated East German photographic paper which he says has a relic-like aura and adds a subtle gold tone to the black-and-white processing.

After Moscow, he traveled to the Ukraine, Belarus and then to Arkhangelsk where he met some very young Sisters of Mercy and cadets from the merchant navy. From 2006-2007, Krauss did a project documenting migrant seasonal workers in Germany. The Marvelli Gallery website has an excellent overview of his work.

Officially, these images are untitled and have only a name and place associated them. This is the first image that caught my eye, not only because of the odd composition but because of its understated loveliness. The Bodo-Niemann Gallery in Berlin turned this image into a postcard. The fish may also suggest an erotic meaning as it is the animal of Aphrodite.


Ingar Krauss – Hannah, Zechin (2001)

Another very symbolic image juxtaposes life and death. The lily accentuates the youthful beauty of the girl but is also a symbol of death, helping to convey Krauss’s consistent melancholic attitude. There is a male counterpart to this piece of a boy holding a sword, symbolizing both masculinity and death.

Ingar Krauss – Sophia, Berlin (1999)

Ingar Krauss – Sophia, Berlin (1999)

His earlier works contained a lot of props and I thought this an interesting juxtaposition that spoke to the truth of these girls’ lives.

Ingar Krauss – Nora & Mathilde, Ortwig (2000)

Ingar Krauss – Nora & Mathilde, Ortwig (2000)

While shooting German children, Krauss discovered this girl walking through a pedestrian underpass. His work with this girl seems to have triggered the idea for his Russian project.

Ingar Krauss – Hannah, Ediger-Eller (2001)

Ingar Krauss – Hannah, Ediger-Eller (2001)

The stoic facial expression and features is counterpointed by the relaxed look of this girl’s clothes.

Ingar Krauss – Moscow, Russia (2002)

Ingar Krauss – Moscow, Russia (2002)

I just made an interesting discovery that I felt is worth mentioning.  I am fairly familiar with this artist’s work and yet I did not know he had done any images with full frontal nudity.  It does not appear in his book Portraits, so I am unsure how it came to be on the internet.  It clearly belongs to the “Girl with Fish” series of Hannah shown above.

Ingar Krauss - (title unkown) (2001)

Ingar Krauss – Hannah? (2001)

Close Neighbors: Starr Ockenga

Sometimes individuals would put together lists of artists who did work with child nudes. This is a common practice as this kind of information is regarded with suspicion and is not generally available through conventional media channels. Usually, I would already be familiar with the names, or there was just some incidental work and one would not say that the artist did any substantial work with nude children. When Starr Ockenga’s name came up, I made my usual effort to research her, but all I found were works based on taxidermic specimens and flowers—especially the Amaryllis—much of which can be seen on her official website. I was particularly impressed with her Northern Cardinal.

Starr Ockenga – Northern Cardinal (2005)

There was still the mystery of why she was listed among those who had photographed naked children. Reviewing a list of her published works, there was a possibility with one of her earlier books but nothing definite. Her handling of natural subjects impressed me enough for me to continue. There were two books that were worth checking out: Mirror after Mirror: Reflections on Woman in 1976 and Dressup: Playacts and Fantasies of Childhood in 1978.

The second book sounded like it would be more likely to feature children. If Ockenga could capture the exquisite beauty of a bird or a flower, I wondered what she would do with children engaging in fantasy and play. In Dressup, there were a couple of nudes of her son and one girl submerged in a bathtub, but as I read about the production of this work, the most impressive thing was the collaboration involved. Then I hit a treasure trove; in the back were a series of short transcribed interviews* with the children about their experiences being photographed and their attitudes about growing up. Their words expressed a frank honesty I knew reflected the real thoughts of young people. All through the interviews, the children kept alluding to being shot nude and what it was like and how it shaped their self-image. At that point I realized that Mirror despite its title contained female nudes of all ages. After learning the back story, it is hard to regard these two books as separate. This image is probably one of the most imaginative from Dressup; this is her son Robin as the puppet.

Starr Ockenga – (Untitled) (1978)

There are usually only a handful of reasons considered legitimate for photographing nude children. The most common are candid and intimate family scenes shot by a parent or other close relative. Another is a photographer who is accepted into a naturist community and allowed to shoot there. Ockenga is remarkable in that she defies these usual categories and seems to have found a niche that falls somewhere between where it would seem unusual to have opportunities to photograph naked children. In fact, Ockenga is a mother, but of a single son, yet her work features a number of girls and women . The fact is, they are all neighborhood children with whom the artist nurtured close friendships and collaborations—an impressive feat in my estimation.

Ockenga was raised in Boston, and though her material needs were met, she spent summers in the mountains of New Hampshire with no neighbors her age and a much younger brother and sister. To fill the time, she would dress up and act out various fantasies; she even tried to recall her own birth and act it out using bed sheets. Her father was a minister, and it seems she lived in a strict conservative household where she was not even allowed makeup. She was taught how honorable it was for a woman to devote her life to a man and, as expected, got married, having her first sexual relations with her husband. In short order, she realized that the marriage was a mistake and after five years had the courage to leave with her infant son. She decided to continue her education and earned her Masters of Fine Arts in Photography in 1974.

She became a newspaper photo editor and settled in Ipswitch, Massachusetts, when she had the sudden impulse to buy her first camera. As she had a good rapport with the neighborhood children, they patiently helped her learn the technical skills of operating the camera. Ockenga used her vivid imagination to invent games she could use to practice her skills. Before she left for work, she would give the children a “play word of the day” and they were to conjure up the materials and acts they would perform in front of her camera. Topics included: War, Wedding, The Double, Discotheque, Arabs and Funeral. She was amazed how the children took the initiative and had the costumes and props ready for her to shoot by the time she got home. The results struck her as uncannily adult and she began to contemplate the blur between childhood and adulthood. Her pictures spanned a six-year period, and when it was over she and her neighborhood friends—adult and child—reviewed the results.

Mirror after Mirror was to be a meditation on what it is to be woman and serve as a mirror for women between 30 and 50 years to reflect on who they are and how they got there. Given her rather repressed upbringing, it makes sense that she would infuse the images with sexual meaning. Her intent was also to bring out the duality of female sexuality as both empowering and imprisoning in our society.

One of Ockenga’s innovations was the use of this diamond frame which somewhat emphasizes the dynamic of change and growth. The concentration of light and the girl’s gaze at her lower body is deliberate here.

Starr Ockenga – (Untitled) (1976) (1)

Starr Ockenga – (Untitled) (1976) (2)

Starr Ockenga – (Untitled) (1976) (3)

A number of images feature mother and daughter pairs or the female members of a particular family.

Starr Ockenga – (Untitled) (1976) (4)

In addition to the diamond frame, the image here is further distorted by stretching it vertically to create the suggestion of growth. The shape of the head most clearly reveals this effect.

Starr Ockenga – (Untitled) (1976) (5)

This is perhaps the most artful of the images. The posture of the figure and contemplative melancholy struck my strongly as an archetypal image of vulnerability.

Starr Ockenga – (Untitled) (1976) (6)

*The following are some transcripts from Playacts. Ockenga interviewed the neighborhood boys and girls she shot about their experiences and I selected those most apt and insightful for this post. To protect the anonymity of each witness, she identified each only by his/her gender and age.

“I love to be photographed. I like dressing up and putting make-up on and posing. Sometimes before we get started photographing, I feel a little nervous. Like it is hard in many things in life to feel loose. But then when I get into it, I forget all that and really love to act out scenes. I think I do it pretty good, too. I like feeling things are real and not real at the same time. Or maybe not knowing or forgetting which is which for a little while.” (female, 13)

“I look around sometimes and all I see is masks and painted faces.
Perhaps that’s fantasy and those faces are real. So why not wear my own. It keeps my defenses up and nobody can get at my insides. Wearing my mask, in a funny way, makes me free. If you can understand that.” (female, 17)

“You know what I really think? I think it’s tough to be young and it’s tough to be old.” (male, 13)

“I’ve kissed a boy. I rolled him on the ground. It was at a PTA meeting and he didn’t expect it. Me and my friend chased this boy and jumped him, knocked him on the ground and kissed him. It was really fun to chase after him, but it got kind of embarrassing kissing him.” (female, 9)

“I like boys, it’s true. I guess I look and see if a boy is cute and then I’m attracted to him. But that’s not the most important thing; it’s just the first thing. I want someone easy to talk to. If my sister’s boyfriend were younger, he’d be just right for me. He’s not great looking, but he’s nice. Nice counts a lot.” (female, 13)

“I don’t like being nude. I guess I’m not very confident. My sister says, ‘Oh, you’ve got nothing to hide.’ I know that. And partly that’s why. Probably I’d still mind even if I were developed. I’m embarrassed in front of my sister, but not as much as in front of my brothers. Once Nancy and I took off our tops underwater when we were swimming. It was sort of a dare to each other. We held our tops up out of the water to prove it to each other. l’d have died if anyone had seen us.” (female, 13)

“I love to cook. I love to eat and making something special is what some girls do best. Especially desserts. Usually I cook for myself, even though it’s intended to be for everyone else. It’s not a girl’s job, really. I’m for Woman’s Lib. I’m for doing what I want to do as a person, not necessarily as a girl. I can do a lot of things that just boys are supposed to do. I’m good at softball. I like mowing the lawn. And I hate doing dishes.” (female, 13)

“I have a special shirt I wear when I want to be noticed. I guess boys like it. I tried it out on my brother, and he liked it a lot. It’s good to have a brother to try things out on because it’s hard to know how boys think, and I figure that what he thinks, other boys think, too. Girls who don’t have brothers have an awful lot to figure out themselves. Fathers are not really the same.” (female, 13)

“Having my ears pierced changed my life. I feel pretty. I used to be a real tomgirl and climbed trees, but now I’m different. Like I’m still active, but I’m more girly.” (female, 9)

“ ‘Daddy,’ l say, ‘you have to respond to me.’ I call him on it when he’s not listening to me. I need to be listened to. So now I just say, ‘Come on, Daddy, respond.’ Also, I climb up on his lap, and that gets his attention.” (female, 9)

“I started getting interested in boys in the sixth grade. I liked one boy for a year and a half, and he didn’t even know it. I couldn’t tell him; I would have been too embarrassed. I didn’t know how to act with boys, anyway, so I guess it was just as well, but sometimes it was sad that he never looked at me. I’m shy with boys still, and I don’t know why. If I knew why I could stop. I’ve learned patience. Loosening up is hard work.” (female, 13)

“There are some people I feel naked with. When people are formal or rich, I don’t feel comfortable with them. They just don’t think the same. lt’s not so much how well you know a person; it’s more like how well you know what they’re like. You sort of sense how a person would react, and then that’s something you can trust.” (female, 11)

“I love to put lipstick, eyeshadow, and makeup on. And pull my hair behind my ears. I like to use Noxzema too. Once I went to sleep that way and it felt good.” (female, 11)

“Some say they want to be a child forever. I want to be myself forever.” (male, 14)

“I think I get my way with boys, but I’m not sure how. Just a way I have with them. There are ways to smile. And sometimes, you ask them to do something, and they like that. Just ways that are hard to explain. My friend says when she wants a boyfriend, she wiggles when she walks. I don’t think I really do that, but Nancy says I do it naturally. I guess it’s all natural. I don’t try to do it, but I suppose it happens. Boys do like me.” (female, 13)

“Some sisters are not best friends, and I do feel sorry for them. My sister and I spend a lot of time together, and we work on our relationship. If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that a good relationship takes work.” (female, 11)

“I haven’t done much developing like a woman yet. Sometimes I’m glad I’m just a girl and sometimes I wish I were bigger, you know. I’m in junior high and when you look at some of the girls, except for the fact that they’re short, you’d think they were in high school. They’re very developed. Except it seems that most girls like that are not very smart. Most of developed ones are the dumb ones. They show off with their bodies instead of doing schoolwork. Not that I’m a genius, but it’s pretty hard for me to show off with my body. People would just laugh. Those girls pick fights. Mostly, they’re not very nice girls. And they talk about their neat-o boyfriends all the time. Some of the things important to me, they don’t care about.” (female, 13)

“Boys won’t hurt you if they like you. At least physically. But they can hurt you emotionally any time they want. Sometimes I guess they don’t mean to. They don’t have the same sensitivity as girls. They make a lot of blunders in my estimation.” (female, 11)

“I have short hair, and sometimes I’m mistaken for a boy. So I wear necklaces. Only now boys wear necklaces, too. My mother reassures me and tells me you can tell I’m a girl by my legs. I have great legs. When I don’t put long socks on, you can really tell.” (female, 11)

“I think my parents worry even when I walk across the street. I’m the youngest. They worry that something will hurt me. Like my feelings. And sometimes things do. Things to do with misunderstanding. I have a friend I really love. And because of some problems, I don’t see her much. Just that fact makes me feel it’s my fault, even though I know it’s not. Her mother makes her vacuum all the time just so she can’t play with me. That hurts my feelings a lot.” (female, 13)

“Sexy means pretty and showing off your body and the private places. Like your chest and your crotch. Like maybe you have a dress that is out low or slit up the side of the skirt. So you show people that, just easy and slow. Sometimes you put on a hat or high heels. I like to pretend that I’m a stripper. You can even put a blanket around you and slowly let it fall. It’s best in front of a mirror.” (female, 9)

“When I need to be private, I climb up on the porch roof. I get there by a tree that grows on the side of the porch. Nobody knows that I go there, which is the way I want it. It’s quiet there, and I can solve things. I just sit there and think about tomorrow and today. I go there when my feelings are hurt, and I don’t want anybody to know it.” (female, 13)

“Candlelight fascinates me. It gives a room softness and mystery. And I like the light effects on walls. My imagination likes it, too. You can imagine all sorts of mysterious things. It’s nice in a room with the electricity off. Everyone is softer, gentler. People look gentle. I’ve never been with a boy in candlelight, except my brothers, but I think about what it would be like. You know, romantic and soft. Maybe less shy and nervous. And I suppose I’d feel more grown up.” (female, 13)

“You know what surprises me a lot? Some kids have never seen their parents naked. If it’s cold, we wear bathrobes to the bathroom in the morning, but that’s only to do with the cold. Not the bodies. We’re real open with each other, and I feel good about that. I feel good and warm to be able to look at my parents naked. I liked it when you photographed us all together naked, it felt really warm. I guess we’re kind of strange to most people. Like we eat cottage cheese and brown bread instead of stuff like fluffernutter. That’s some indication of our differences. I feel sorry for up-tight families. We’ve got a special openness. All families ought to be like us. We could run a service, I’ll bet. We could really change people’s attitudes. We all work together. It sounds trite, but we do. I know a girl who doesn’t do any work in the house. That must make her feel not important in the house. We have a family meeting on Saturday where we decide things like who works and what we eat. See, I am a part of the decisions. Now the kids think that’s not fun, but it really is. You feel connected somehow.” (female, 11)

“You re a photographer and that means you’re an artist. And I’ve seen your pictures and they are different. I like them. Right from the beginning I liked you and felt comfortable with you. I’ve never minded being naked with you. In fact I really like it. I like my body, especially my legs, the backs of my arms, and my eyes. So I want to take off my clothes and have you take pictures of me. Someday when I grow up, I’ll hang them on my wall.” (female, 11)

“I don t really like my body much. Because I hate my skin. It never gets brown. I’m skinny and gangly. I wouldn’t care what I looked like, if only I could get tan, especially my legs. White legs make you feel stupid. I burn and peel or else stay pure white. People ask me, ‘Don’t you ever get brown?’ If only I did.” (female, 13)

“Once we pulled the shades and put a blanket over the front door. We took all our clothes off and put bathrobes on. We were partners with our friends, not with sisters because that’s no fun. We pretended a man called and told us to strip. So we all did. We even took our beads off. We got scared when we heard the floor creaking. We kept hearing noises, but no one was there. We slowly helped each other undress—it was better that way. And we’d drop the bathrobe on the floor. It was fun and sexy, too. I like to remember it.” (female, 9)

“I’ve never seen boys without clothes. Except my brother when he was about ten. Nancy and I were playing in the attic when Jonathan came up in his bathrobe and opened it and said, ‘Look.’ I was surprised. I did look, but I can hardly remember. And anyway, he was just my brother, not that other boys would look so different, but it would be more interesting, I guess.” (female, 13)

“I try to remember my dreams in the morning when I wake up. I find that if I lie really still and don’t even move my head, it’s easier to remember them. It’s very annoying when they escape me, and no amount of concentrating will bring them back. I like to think about my dreams. Since I’m the one who dreamed them, they must be trying to tell me things.” (female, 11)

Starr Ockenga (official website)

Ode to a Sick Little Girl: Paul Goodman

It’s funny how things can just fall into one’s lap.  Right when Pip inaugurated his “Drawn and Quoted” theme, I happen to see a wonderful documentary called Paul Goodman Changed My Life produced by Jonathan Lee and released in 2011.

Paul Goodman (1911-1972) was an interesting man and perhaps a largely forgotten American poet, philosopher and a number of other things depending on whom you ask. Among his prolific work, perhaps his novel Growing Up Absurd published in 1960 put him in the spotlight during an emerging youth movement.  Although his wife did not particularly care, Goodman badly wanted children and he treasured his first-born little girl Susie.  In 1956 she was afflicted with polio and Goodman devotedly stayed by her side. Perhaps delirious from lack of sleep, he wrote this poem about his feelings and experience.  He shared it with the public at a talk at the Library of Congress in 1957.


My little darling looked so pale today
fading away
pining and thin like the transparent moon
in the afternoon,
I cannot sleep, obsessed by Susie’s colorless
cheerless face
and bony body in my arms too light,
she who was bright
and comparable to the meadowflowers,
alas! that the mowers
passed and did not spare, their petals droop
—my shoulders stoop
for fear and neither can I breathe for fear.
Nay!  Hear my prayer,
Nature!  who alone healest and not wishes
nor art nor pity,
and do thou, Creator Spirit, visit her
with the quick future
that alone stirs to courage and to walk
and to work.


(Artist Unknown) – Susie Afflicted with Polio (1956)

Charles Twelvetrees

OK, how about girls and gunpowder? The idea of girls with guns can be one of brute empowerment. Quite the opposite is portrayed in this Charles Twelvetrees (1888–1948) postcard. He was an illustrator of many postcards and magazine covers after his initial stint creating the character “Johnny Quack” for the New York Herald from 1909–1911. All of his images are of chubby children or babies and as I read through them, they are really all adult situations projected onto child figures.

The image bothered me superficially because the girl is put into peril, but I get the impression the artist is intending this as comedic manipulation. One might at first guess this is an expression of an exasperated parent who finds his or her child getting into trouble with innocent unconcern.  One then learns that his quotes are directed at the reader, not a description of the scene, usually some reminder to write (Remember letter writing?)  This gives it an even darker suggestion, as though a lover is being neglected.


Charles Twelvetrees – Untitled (Nothing seems to worry you.)

Jan Saudek

As is evident on this blog, the image of the nude young girl is an image loaded with cultural baggage and, in some cases, peril for the artist.  We view children as vulnerable anyway, but the unclothed child is seen as even more vulnerable.  But nudity—when divorced from the modern context in which it conveys sexual availability—also can call to mind spiritual innocence, especially when the nude figure is a child.  This is precisely why the child nude was such a popular art subject with the Victorians; they saw each individual as the microcosm of the whole of humanity itself, and children were therefore a representation of pre-Fall Adam and Eve, the earliest incarnation of Man, an idyllic period of time before humans fell out of God’s good graces and became sinners in need of redemption.  With the waning of Christianity in the West the nude child has come to be seen differently, and, ironically, it is the Christians who now most often look upon the nude child as something shameful and sinister.

Under our knowing postmodern gaze, it is with mixed emotions that we look upon images of nude children which subvert this paradigm . . . exactly the point of the image below, taken by the masterful one-of-a-kind Czech photographer Jan Saudek.  Here we have perhaps the ultimate example of the subversion of said paradigm: a nude little girl (young girls being traditionally viewed as even more vulnerable and innocent than young boys) firmly gripping an instrument of pure destruction, a Parabellum pistol, and confidently pointing it straight ahead of her at some unseen target off-camera.  Moreover, the Parabellum is not just any pistol–it is well-known for its use throughout WWI and WWII by German officers, giving it particularly dark and political connotations.*  In fact, much of Saudek’s work has subtle political inferences in it, and he worked largely in secret during his early years to avoid being caught and his work seized by the Communist secret police.

The contrast is fascinating and, it must be said, gives the young girl (who looks something like a living baby doll in that ridiculously bright blond, outsized wig) a power she would not otherwise convey.  We do notice, however, that her finger is not on the trigger, probably because her hand is simply too small, her finger too short to reach it.  Her face is barely visible behind a stray lock of that crazy hair, adding an extra dimension of tension to the image.  What is she thinking, we wonder.  Does she know what she’s doing?


Jan Saudek – Parabellum 9mm (1983)

Jan Saudek (Official Site)

Wikipedia: Jan Saudek

* Saudek is of Jewish origin and many of his relatives perished in the concentration camps. He and his twin brother (when they were children) and father were also sent to the camps late in the war, and they all survived. Saudek’s brother, Kája is now a famous artist in his own right, one of the preeminent comic book artists in Europe and the most notable one in his home country, the Czech Republic.


From Jack Storyman on September 6, 2012

I think it bears mentioning that Jan Saudek had a photo taken down from an exhibit in Ballarat International Foto Biennale on the eve of its opening in 2011, because a woman went to the Office of the Child Safety Commissioner, Tourism Victoria and the local council to complain that the 1995 Saudek’s work, “Black Sheep & White Crow”, which the woman had seen in an ad promoting the exhibition in Art Almanac, depicted “a mother prostituting her child.”

Saudek is the most renowned and important Czech photographer in the world who took a lot of his photos while sneaking around under communist rule. As you mention, he lost a lot of his relatives to the concentration camps. His photos are considered to be some of the most powerful images in the world and I have admired them for decades.

Yet…one wild eyed woman’s cry of child exploitation managed to reduce him to a child pornographer.

Because the exhibit relies on public funding, they caved into city official’s demands that the photo be taken down.

If you take a picture of a naked young girl nowadays, no matter how famous you are and no matter what your intentions may have been…be prepared for an epic shit-storm.

Just ask Jock Sturges, Bill Henson, Polixeni Papapetrou, David Hamilton, Jan Saudek or Sally Mann. All of them respected and accomplished artists…all of them shown in galleries throughout the world…all of them vilified for taking pictures of young nude girls.

In 2007, the Gateshead’s Baltic Centre was to exhibit 130 of Sir Elton John’s photos from his amazing collection. A photograph called “Klara and Edda belly-dancing” by Nan Goldin, was seized from Arts Centre by police on charges that it violated child pornography laws even though it had been exhibited around the world without objection. Sir Elton had his own epic shit fit and pulled the entire collection, thus closing down the show.

Sturges had the FBI raid his studio and confiscate all of his incredible silver-toned photographs. It cost him over $100,000 in legal fees before the judge finally ruled what we in the art community had known all along:

They were art.

If you can’t tell the difference between an artistic photo and porn…you’re a idiot. But then again, we are talking about governments, radical feminists and the sexually repressed religious right…so I rest my case.

However, in the history of the world, there has never been a case of a sexual crime against children being caused by an artwork.

Never.  I double dare you to cite just one.  End of Rant.

From pipstarr72 on September 6, 2012

Good rant.  Yes, I recall mentioning the thing about Saudek’s photo being removed from the BIFB in another post on Saudek I made last spring. One only has to peruse Saudek’s catalog of work to see that he isn’t interested in sexually titillating the viewer but rather in provoking them to look at these subjects in a different way.

From Anonymphous on September 7, 2012

“in the history of the world, there has never been a case of a sexual crime against children being caused by an artwork. ”
I may be an idiot in your eyes, but I’d say, what is art is still subjective, and even the most pornographic images still can have some artistic value. For example, to me, Lolicon is rather art than porn, but to many others, it´s not. And I think, there already have been cases where this “caused” people to commit crimes against children (while it´s actually hard to say, what REALLY causes such things…). But then again, it also works as an outlet for many others, to not live out any urges in real life. And I`m pretty sure, there also already have been the one or other person who had some Graham Ovenden pictures on his HDD, who got caught for sexual activities with children (or whatever you mean by “causing such things”).

I think, rather than to look at, if something is “art” or not, one should look at and listen to what those who were involved in it have to say to this. But sadly, we live in a society where “children” are supposedly all fucking retarded and can´t judge about anything. However, ironically, everyone still can look at Eva Ionesco pictures in erotic poses, although she clearly seems to regret these pictures, and her mother even forced her to pose for them, but when you have a picture of Cat Goddess on your HDD, who actually looks more happy than 90% of every other child out there, well, then you are a criminal, and should go to jail, because it´s not “artfully enough done” – lol

From Pip Starr on September 7, 2012

Yeah, it’s probably a stretch to say that an artwork has never caused a sex crime against a child; it’s safer to say that acting out as a result of observing art would fall in the ‘statistically insignificant’ range. In fact, I’ve seen studies that said the same thing about actual child porn: there is virtually no link between the end users of child porn and the sexual abuse of children. Those who make child porn don’t do it for profit and are thus already likely to abuse kids even if they didn’t create the porn; my hunch is that most producers of it make it as a kind of trophy of their sexual conquest, which is also done by some men with their adult lovers.

Anyway, I think it also depends on how you define ’cause.’ It is probably true that an artwork at some time might’ve pushed someone over the edge who was already very near it; what I’m certain is not true is that an artwork caused anyone who was not already so inclined to commit a sex crime against a child. But again, I suspect even the former case is very rare, and it is far more likely that the presence of a child has incited more sex crimes than anything, since the majority of sexual abuse cases seem to be crimes of opportunity. But what are you gonna do? Ban children from interacting with adults altogether? Not even remotely possible. In any case, even if art did influence some people to commit crimes, that is not a good enough justification for banning it; as I once argued–rather forcefully I might add–with one of my college professors (a conservative Christian who was a vocal advocate of censorship), you cannot punish all people for the crimes of a few which haven’t even been committed yet.

From Jack Storyman on September 8, 2012

Sorry…but I must emphatically disagree. While I would wholeheartedly concur that art is relative and subjective, I would not waste any time arguing that Lolicon was art. At least…not the stuff I’ve seen.

Lolicon comics follow a storyline of little girls being groomed, then brutally raped. And of course, they like it.

In my opinion, that is pedophilia. You are opening your mind up to images (whether they be drawings or photographs) of children being abused; so it stands to follow that YOU would be predisposed to abusing children if that is what you like looking at. (It is immaterial whether you have acted on those feelings or not.)

But you would have to stretch that line of thinking half way around the world if you’re attempting to compare Lolicon to a William Bouguereau painting. One is art. The other is an outlet for fantasizing about child abuse.

Are the artists that produce Lolicon talented? Without a doubt. But it is not, in my opinion…art. Child erotica maybe…

I said, “If you can’t tell the difference between an artistic photo and porn…you’re a idiot.” And I stand by it. However, I would also add paintings and sculpture to that statement too.

Hold a picture of Akseli Gallen-Kallela – In the Sauna (1889) next to a Lolicon rendering of a little girl being sodomized and tell me if you cannot tell the difference. I think the majority of rational people could.

With that said, I think, as do many other people in the art community, that there is a movement to demonize and slander anyone who chooses to paint, draw or photograph a child who is nude no matter what the intentions of the artist. (A good example is an art trade show in New York I attended in 2010. A vendor put on an image of Paul Peal’s, “After the Bath” on the wall of his booth. One of the trade show organizers came by later and ask that he take it down. That one incident started my interest of nude children in art and the drive to suppress it.)

The naked child has been a staple of artist’s canvas’ and clay since the beginning of time because the artist thought that the body of a young child was beautiful and worthy his time to paint. No one questioned whether the artist had a sexual predisposition toward the girls they painted or sculpted. The image of a naked young girl was seen as a symbol of purity and chastity and in many parts of the world, it still is. It is only in the west that the body of a child is viewed with shame.

Polixeni Papapetrou’s husband wrote a piece defending the few pictures that Polixeni shot of the couples six year old daughter in the nude. I can’t quote him exactly, but he said something along the lines of, “This art was produced to entertain the higher functions of the mind with the conviction of the artist that it is wholesome and worth seeing. In the artist’s estimation, either the image is worth seeing, or it is not.”

So…is the image of a naked little girl wholesome and worth seeing? Does it speak to the higher functions of our brains? A great many artists thought it did and I would agree.

I’ve been in the art business for 30 years. I live and breathe it and believe it enriches my life. I also believe that the nude child has a place in the artistic world. But please…don’t try to blur the line any more than it is. There is a huge difference between what Jock Sturges does and what you find on a Japanese Lilicon site.

I was lucky enough to attend a Sturges showing in Dallas many years ago at the Photographs, Do Not Bend Gallery. The impact of those photos has stayed with me twenty years later. His books do not do the actual photos justice. His photographs actually glisten in the light and I would have crawled over your dead body just to own one of his beach scenes…without a nude! His subjects and composition speak of a man who is truly gifted. His work is powerful and sublime. You simply cannot compare that to Lolicon.

And Pip…did I really just hear you say, “It is probably true that an artwork at some time might’ve pushed someone over the edge who was already very near it”

Are you kidding me? I had to read that damn sentence over twice to make sure I heard you correctly. I can only assume it was late at night and you were tired because I have read your blog since day one and know you don’t believe that.

Artwork does NOTHING! A gun does not leave its drawer on two little legs and go out into the world to kill. Someone has to carry it. Art is just hanging on the wall. It does not “push” someone to do anything. That is what an abuser would say to justify his deviant behavior.

“Oh dude…the picture made me do it.”

The same goes for the alleged Graham Ovenden pictures on someone’s computer. Anonymphous said it too but I chose not engage such a ridiculous statement because his head is somewhere else. In the very next sentence we lean that the person who had those photos on his computer was in fact, abusing children.

We play right into the radical feminists, religious zealots and fear monger’s hands when we mimic such hogwash! If it were true that such images were causing men to run amuck, kidnapping and raping children, then I would be of the same mind. Ban it all.

And that is exactly what they would have us believe: That images like the ones display on this website are the reason there is child abuse. And we know that is not true.

At least…I hope you do Pip. I would hate to think that you would put something up that you believed might “push” someone over the edge.

Mmmm…I started out saying I would not waste my time arguing, and yet…

From Pip Starr on September 8, 2012

Hi, Jack. Well, I think we’re arguing semantics here. I did say it depends on how you define ’cause’–you are taking a rather pedantic definition of the word, suggesting that cause is direct from object to action, whereas I (and Anonymphous, I am guessing) meant the word as more along the lines of ‘to influence’. And can you really say with certainty that no artwork has ever influenced anyone to commit a sex crime against a child? I certainly do not know–and cannot know–whether that is the case or not, but I would err on the side of the possible being probable but incredibly rare, meaning that particular argument for censorship is not a very good one (as if there are any good arguments for censorship). Likewise, by your definition we could make the same argument for child porn, that it has never caused a sex crime against a child (although it’s production would, by definition, have involved at least two sex crimes, the sexual activity/activities caught on camera and the production of the child porn itself). And as I have said, there have been studies that show little to no connection between child porn consumption and sexual acting out; indeed, some have shown a reverse correlation between the two. Of course, we must remember that correlation does not imply causation.

I also must disagree with you that lolicon cannot be considered art, both as an artist myself and as an art aficionado. I think art, like beauty, is largely in the eye of the beholder. There’s an excellent article by author Neil Gaiman which makes the case pretty well that, while it may not be good art, it is still art and still worthy of First Amendment protections, particularly since it involves no actual children in its production. You suggest it is merely erotica, but can erotica–even child erotica–not be art? I disagree with you that it cannot. In fact, you’ll note that ‘erotic art’ is a category on my blog. Can we, for example, dismiss those erotic works by Franz von Bayros which include children as less than art? Or those of Paul-Emile Bécat or Martin van Maële? (Note: I plan to feature all three of these artists on this blog at some point, and compare them with lolicon.) What is the difference, other than that lolicon is modern, and, I think, has a bad reputation in the West largely because of cultural differences? Arguing against lolicon without bringing up the similar traditions which have existed/do exist here (even though it is much less of a cultural phenomenon than lolicon is) seems to me a bit racist (or, more accurately, culturalist, if that is a proper word) and more than a bit classist, the latter because lolicon belongs to the comics genre, and there have been numerous comics artists in the West who have depicted children or adolescents in sexual situations, sometimes as deliberate erotica. Gaiman mentions Alan Moore’s The Lost Girls, illustrated by Melinda Gebbie–I’ll toss in a few more: Frank Thorne (whose work Devil Angel was seized by authorities; he was eventually acquitted on a technicality), Robert Crumb (for his infamous incest comic piece “Joe Blow”), Kris Guidio (numerous comics–many collected in Fuck Off and Die–featuring a little girl, La Squab, who does drugs, has sex and kills people), Debbie Dreschler (her semi-autobiographical comic Daddy’s Girl is about a child who is sexually abused by her father), Phoebe Gloeckner, Renee French and Moebius (in the comics short “The Apple Pie” which can be found on this blog). With certain panels taken out of context, any of these could be viewed as erotica or porn.

Note that I am not advocating for lolicon or child porn here, merely suggesting that, yes, while there is a vast difference between the works of Sturges and lolicon, that it is far too simplistic to accept one as legit art and dismiss the other as mere illustrated porn. Lolicon is illustration and illustration is an artform, is it not? Basically my overall point is that these issues–including discerning what is and is not art–are complex, and if you’ll pardon me for saying so, I think it is a tad pretentious, at best, for anyone to claim without a doubt that such-and-such is art and such-and-such is not. There are lots of gray areas with this stuff, and whether a point might contribute to an opposing argument or not has no bearing on the truth. At any rate, I cannot see how recognizing that there are lots of gray areas and that these issues are complex ultimately strengthens the argument of would-be censors, who more often than not ground their arguments in moral absolutes.