Maiden Voyages: June 2016

There has been a lot of drama this past month.

A Disturbing Precedent: On May 11th, an organization called FSM-Hotline, sent a request to Pigtails in Paint’s service provider to have two pages removed from the site: ‘Stolen Dreams and the Japanese School’ and the ‘Dream Girls’ companion page. Since service providers tend to err on the side of caution and give themselves liberal discretion in interpreting the Terms of Service (TOS), they have directed us to clause prohibiting, “child pornography or content perceived to be child pornography”. The problem is that Pigtails’ mission is to work to alter those very misperceptions and yet we must somehow operate under these arbitrary standards. Nonetheless, to prevent being summarily shut down, we have complied with the request.

The Charge: According to the complaint, the pages contain material that are “potentially criminal” under German Criminal Code. FSM claims that German law enforcement concurs with their assessment, but the statement is ambiguous. It is also unfortunate that the service provider decided to respect a request from a watchdog organization rather than an appropriate law enforcement agency. Even law enforcement agencies have a tendency of misjudging situations (out of ignorance) and take actions that are later thrown out in court. The proper authority for making a removal request ought to be an agency belonging to the court system. Additionally, the request should be made from a U.S. agency, under whose law we are supposed to be operating. It is impractical to have to comply with the myriad laws that may vary from country to county. Issues of jurisdiction aside, an article quoting a real law expert in Germany seems to confirm that the ‘Stolen Dreams’ post is actually legal in that country and would not have precipitated legal proceedings.

The Organization: FSM-Hotline and its parent organization INHOPE are private charities and are being deceptive when they make such strongly-worded requests. Like many such organizations, they probably do submit reports to law enforcement but do not have any special standing with them. It is disconcerting that such a vigilante group should have this kind of sway on what is presented on the internet, given their highly-prejudiced standard that demonstrates less expertise than Pigtails in Paint itself. Any readers who want to protest FSM’s actions—accusing this site of hosting Child sexual abuse material (Child Pornography)—should do so by email and refer to unique report number 54892:

Our Action: Ideally, we want visual materials to be available to the public so it can judged on an individual basis and not filtered by the biases of those who purport to represent the average person or a moral code. When time allows, a text-only version of the ‘Stolen Dreams’ post will be published with a paragraph explaining the situation. We will also be shopping for a new service provider who can be counted on not to cave in to such insubstantial and ill-informed pressure. Ideally, Pigtails should be formally sponsored by an established art or academic institution that would help allay any questions of legitimacy. If successful, we hope to republish the post intact at a later date. A PDF version of the post will be made available to prospective service providers and/or sponsors as needed.

Please help us resist these efforts to suppress legitimate material that allows our detractors to diminish our effectiveness bit by bit.

An Impending Conflagration: On May 23rd and 24th, a final hearing was held in the Isleworth Crown Court between Graham Ovenden‭ ‬and the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. The hearing was dedicated to making a final determination regarding the destruction of historical and art photographs and a number of graphic works created by the artist. The hearing was conducted by senior Judge McGregor-Johnson who was flanked by two others, Ms. S. McGregor and Mrs. A. Newmark.‭ ‬Barrister Robert Linford and Solicitor T.J. O’Callighan‭ ‬represented the appellant, graciously offering their services free of charge. The biggest objection at the proceedings was the simple fact that there is no legal grounds for judging artistic merit in a court of law. The judges also used common colloquialisms to describe images instead of using the more proper language of the “visually literate”. The issue of the relationship between words and pictures was also brought up and how they together create the context for judging a work. However, the lead judge’s verdict was to ignore such connections, regardless of historical or political relevance. As a result, many of the poetry broadsheets, ‭which lent voice to children—expressing both their positive and negative experiences—are now to have their words posthumously obliterated from history. Surely the fact that this imagery might be considered distasteful by the tender-minded or sexually neurotic does not justify the indignity of these children being silenced. The decision to deem some pieces indecent and some not reached a point of absurdity. In some cases, one would have been hard-pressed to notice the difference between two examples when placed side by side. Nevertheless, the fact that the court should save any of the images slated for destruction is at least a partial triumph. Of the pieces deemed not indecent—none of which were created after 1987—were three from the Pierre Louÿs collection (27 are to be destroyed) and the bulk of the drawings and paintings produced by Ovenden himself.

Alabama is a Third-World Country: After a number of postponements, Chris Madaio’s trial to determine if he violated his parole conditions took place in Morgan County, Alabama.  Unable to afford his own attorney, a public defender was assigned to him.  The problem with public defenders is that they are usually overworked or have an understanding with the judge to just process people through the system, regardless of the merits of the case.  Madaio discovered his lawyer was incompetent and decided to accept a plea bargain, getting a sentence of 14 months.  The disturbing thing about the case was how obvious questions were not even asked like why the prosecution assumed he had access to the illegal materials in the storage unit, why others who clearly had access are not being charged and when those materials were placed there.  The third question suggests the possibility that the defendant has been subjected to double jeopardy in this case.  Madaio believes the court is going out of its way to make an example of him because he was a published photographer and wants to remind Americans that, “Freedom isn’t a right, it must be earned.”

Contact Form: For those of you wishing to reach the editorial staff by email, there is a new contact form on the ‘Contact Us’ page.  You can reach us using that form or just leave a private message in the comments section of the appropriate post.  If any readers find out-of-date email addresses printed on the site, please inform us so they can be updated.

RSS Feeds and Site Design: As we continue to experience growing pains, it has been necessary to add features that enhance our security and professionalism.  Until the site is fully updated, there might be some rough edges here and there.  For example, information on RSS Feeds had to be returned to one of the tabs at the top of the page.  For the time being, this information can be found under the ‘About This Site’ page.

Context is Everything: Facebook is at it again.  Images of nudity are being shared on social media, but because it is taken out of context, Facebook finds itself removing the images then replacing them when it learns the actual intent or backstory.  Learn more in this BBC Trending article.

‭I Must Plead Ignorance: Although I pride myself on being well-read and knowledgeable, life is an ongoing learning process. One of the complaints about the final Ovenden hearing was the judges’ failure to use proper terminology in their descriptions. I find it annoying when the term vagina is used to refer to a woman’s external genitalia when anyone versed in anatomy knows it to be internal. I usually resort to more clinical or scientific terms in my descriptions, but I was surprised to learn of the word pudendum (more commonly used in the plural, pudenda), which can be used to refer to the superficial genital organs of a girl or woman.

Maiden Voyages: May 2016

A Premium Postcard Collection: It is with great excitement that I announce that my friend Stuart—who has perhaps the world’s biggest collection of Edwardian postcards—has finally consented to share his collection with Pigtails readers.  It will take time to sort through and scan thousands of postcards but as they become available, I will share them here.  For starters, some new Reutlinger images have come to light and that post has been updated.  I think I can speak for all of us when I say that this generosity is greatly appreciated.

Guilt by Association: On May 9th, photographer Chris Madaio is scheduled to stand trial for charges that he violated the conditions of his parole after serving 4 years in prison for possession of child pornography (see more details on his story here).  Although Madaio does not contest the original charges, the Morgan County, Alabama authorities seem determined to find any excuse to continue to punish him.  The new charges are based on images found on a computer and some USB drives found in a storage unit with his name on it.  The unit belonged to two women, the sister and a friend of Samuel Hyde.  Hyde was a convicted sex offender whom Madaio knew for a short time while attending the same court-ordered program.  The women allowed Hyde personal use of the unit, but neither they nor Hyde have been indicted.  To complicate things further, Hyde made a statement against Madaio before dying under mysterious circumstances.  It would be difficult to speculate on the veracity of all the details of the case, but it is an excellent illustration of how the justice system prefers to grandstand on prosecutions rather than rehabilitate and reintegrate those who have been convicted.  Although Madaio has a court-appointed attorney, he is hopeful that a more trusted family lawyer will be allowed to serve as co-counsel.

No News is Bad News: An item came across my desk about a controversy regarding a GAP Kids clothing line and the portrayal of Black people.  An ad campaign featuring a performing troupe called Le PeTiT CiRqUe (more on them in a future post) included one image with a bigger girl resting her arm on a shorter Black girl.  You can read a little about it here.  With all the special interest groups involved in this issue, many people are getting on the bandwagon and making a lot of noise.  Whatever the circumstances, I would like to humbly suggest that those sincerely interested in the cause of racial justice not waste their energy on something that will accomplish nothing while giving free publicity to a major clothing company.  On the other hand, it is nice that Le PeTiT CiRqUe got a little press.

Gap Kids Ad Campaign (2016)

Gap Kids Ad Campaign (2016)

“Moral Welfare” on the Set: One of our readers, who is child modeling agent, has shared items of interest regarding the changing rules and conditions of child models and actors. For example, in the past, outtakes from films shot in the days before the internet would never see the light of day and if there was some inadvertent nudity, it was of little concern. But today, a lot of behind-the-scenes footage gets leaked and so the rules in Hollywood have become a lot stricter.  An online article shares an interesting anecdote regarding the opening scene of Disney’s Pollyanna and informs readers that now, under California law, it is studio teachers who are responsible for the moral welfare of children in their charge.

To Top or Not to Top: As many readers of this site are aware, in many countries outside the United States, it is routine for undeveloped younger girls to swim in public without bikini tops.  A mother shares an interesting story about her 7-year-old daughter’s recent trip to Spain.  It offers a little insight about a child’s body image and her ability to adapt to different cultural norms.  The editorial concludes with the mother seeking this advice: now that the girl is used to swimming without a top, how can she be persuaded to go back?

Auction News: A friend passed on this small item about Sotheby’s auctioning off a few Sally Mann photographs on May 19th.  A lot of big-name photographers are featured and the Mann images are numbered 58–61.  Speculation in art has continued to inflate prices.

Maiden Voyages: August 2015

Beloved Photographer Dies: I was just informed that Wyatt Neumann died on June 11th from a motorcycle crash triggered by a brain aneurysm.  From what little I learned in my research, he had courage, wit and a zest for life.  It is clear that those who knew him will miss him deeply.  Our sincere condolences to his family and friends.  [added 150804]

A New Voice: As most of you have noticed, a new writer has joined us. When Lily C. first wrote to Pip, he got the strong feeling that she offered an important fresh voice. Pip and I are both pleased that she has agreed to contribute posts to this site. Her first effort regarding the novel The Clan of the Cave Bear has gotten a lot of notice and I know we all look forward to her future endeavors.

Wish List: The Wish list has been working only so-so. Given the number of readers that visit this site, I expected to have gotten more leads. I did get a few though, so thank you. I have reorganized the Wish List page by categories because I know people tend to be more knowledgeable in one area or another. First will be the artists listed alphabetically, then books, comics and finally films. That will make it possible to focus on one particular section to see if we have made new requests. Once the list gets long enough, we will establish separate pages for each category.

Dropbox: Pigtails in Paint has a Dropbox account so the exchange of materials needed (files up to 2GB) for upcoming posts can be done with relative ease and anonymity.

Little Orphan Images: Last month, I decided I needed some help identifying the artists of some random images. The problem with the internet is that casual publishers of these images do not identify them. They are images that strike me as important or show the kind of skill worth mentioning on this site. There are only three, but I intend to add a lot more.

Growing Pains: Pigtails in Paint is like a little child and is growing in spurts. We are reaching a point where we need a dedicated server. That is being arranged, but it will cost more money. There is good news and bad news about this. First the good news: because of the dedicated server, it will be possible at some point for people wishing some protection from unreasonable censorship to be hosted by our server. And the bad news: maintaining such a server costs more money so we will need to bring in money from readers and other supporters. A PayPal account will be established for donations/memberships. We are currently brainstorming ideas for incentives that can be offered to those who contribute.

Cabinet Cards: I know you have all seen a multitude of cabinet cards for sale on the internet. However, they do not come with much commentary or background information. One of our contributors informed me of an excellent site to visit that actually goes into more depth.  See also this.

They Have to Start Sometime: An associate found a cute video about the art of Flamenco dancing. About 5 minutes into the video, you can see some little girls practicing.

Nice Girl Images: A fellow blogger informed me of someone who linked to his site and has is showing off a lot of nice girl images. The site is in Dutch but well worth translating.

Creepy Lyrics: I was also given a link to a site that put together a list of songs with lyrics that would certainly make many people cringe today. They were or are all popular songs with catchy tunes, so what does that say about our culture? Were the old days better with a greater latitude of expression or is today better, now that we don’t express such disrespect to young people? Were they innocent expressions of fantasy or brainwashing to put ideas in the heads of young people?

Legal Briefs: Chris Madaio has been generously using his knowledge as a paralegal to educate us on the vagaries of law. However, due to his conviction, he has been subjected to aggressive censorship triggered by watchdog groups. The latest indignity is having his Facebook account shut down. This is remarkable since that social networking site tolerates a hell of a lot. I thought it would be more interesting here to share some of his ideas for filing a lawsuit against the company (and one particular watchdog group) for this perfunctory termination.

Madaio had been on Facebook since early 2014, using it solely to contact old friends in Italy and sending them some of their pictures from the 1970s through ‘90s. Has says 95% of them were pleased and he also used the site to publicize his photo site and paralegal site, hoping also to get some contract engineering jobs. In about June 2015, the local Parents for Megan’s Law (PFML) informed the local Sex Offender Registry (SOR) officer about his account. Because he’d never caused trouble with the local SOR officer, he was called in to her office to update the records. In the beginning of July, his Facebook account was disabled. A message indicated that he was “ineligible for an account”. The company hasn’t responded yet to his complaint generated through the Better Business Bureau. In mid-July he called the local PFML and while never expressly admitting to initiating the Facebook action, it was obvious they knew all about him.

Here are the legal issues—bear in mind that the legal basis of these causes of action have not been confirmed and are only speculative questions at this time. Perhaps Facebook is in Breach of Contract and/or violating Madaio’s First Amendment rights. There is a clause restricting convicted “sex offenders”, but he has operated the account for over 1.5 years without complaint. Since he believes PFML is directly responsible, he is looking for ways to tie that organization to his legal action. He also wonders if he can compel PFML to produce documents showing they were involved.

Naturally, attorneys are reluctant to take on this kind of case pro-bono and attempts to contact the ACLU in the past have gotten no reply. Without financial backing, he will have to muddle through this process on his own with uncertain results. He is motivated by the thought that all his work might be invalidated in the public’s eyes because of a 2006 conviction not directly connected to his photographic work. It would be one thing if he were guilty of child molestation or assault, but he was convicted of possessing child pornography (on his computer). On these grounds, it would be hard to make a case that Madaio is some kind of danger to children and limit his access as a precautionary measure. After all, a Facebook page is easy enough to monitor if someone really thought there were something sinister going on and Pigtails would not be taking up space here by offering these updates otherwise.

Maiden Voyages: July 2015

Alternative Lifestyles: Pip wanted to offer a couple of movie recommendations to our readers to commemorate the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of the universal right to gay marriage. The two films are: Ma Vie en Rose and Tomboy. Both deal with the early onset of homosexuality and transgenderism—boy turned girl in the first and girl turned boy in the second. There is a Pigtails review of Tomboy here.

Word Processor that supports Japanese Characters: I recently had my hard drive crash. Fortunately, I was able to recover most of my material and there is no loss as far as Pigtails is concerned. However, because of the new drive, certain software that came with my computer is no longer included. Microsoft Word seemed the only program that supports Japanese (and Chinese) characters. The problem is that their pay structure means I will have to renew every year just for this one function. Any alternatives?

Anime Writers Needed: And while on the subject of Japanese, Pigtails is still looking for someone who would like the opportunity to write about the anime/manga medium. This is an obvious medium which covers young girls and neither Pip nor I are experts. Anyone want to give it a shot?

Unusual Request (Estonia): I have been meaning to ask any of our Estonian readers (or anyone with contacts in Estonia) if they could help with a thorny problem. An art and books dealer there was charged and convicted of some kind of crime (I don’t know the specifics) and is in prison. The problem is that he was entrusted with a number of historically significant items and I am trying to get this property back to their rightful owners. His wife does not speak English and so it is difficult to get good information (term of sentence, etc.), but it does not appear that these materials are connected to the conviction and so are just lying around in an office somewhere collecting dust and degenerating.

Rare Videos: One of our readers provided a lead to a video club that carries films that focus on children. They have many hard-to-find titles and offer a kind of rental service to its members in good standing. They are also soliciting people who may have access to titles they are looking for (as are we). It is called CVMC Movie Club  ( and I recommend you take a look.

Girls with Bicycle Sculpture: One of our contributors gave me this lead. I do not know if there is enough here for a dedicated post, so I am sharing it here. The artist’s name is Riet Vandecasteele and the title of the piece is Schoolmeisjes met fiets (schoolgirls with bicycle) and is located in Sint-Maartensplein, Moorsele in Belgium. He shared two relevant links (with text in Dutch) here and here.

Legal Briefs, First Installment: The Effect of Child Pornography Laws on the First Amendment Rights of Photographers and Artists by Chris Madaio

One of the most common convictions in the courts nowadays is for possession, receipt and/or distribution of materials referred to as “Child Pornography” (CP). Not only does a conviction like this affect a person’s immediate situation (most likely serving time in prison), but also his/her long-term future (registration as a “sex offender” and the subsequent extreme difficulties of reintegrating back into society). Even if the person is not convicted, the effects of a lengthy investigation, indictment, prosecution and trial can significantly affect his/her rights and future livelihood, especially if that person is an artist/photographer.

This is the first of several articles regarding how current child pornography laws and their enforcement specifically affect the First Amendment rights of photographers, artists and, to a certain extent, parents/guardians of children and minors. For now, we’ll focus on federal and state laws in the United States (U.S.) and how they’re applied in this context. These articles will initially focus more on criminal prosecutions rather than civil actions. Also, any analysis in these articles will not cover those situations where the person being investigated/prosecuted was in possession of clear-cut child pornography.

One more summary judgment of general interest before I get into the “nuts-and-bolts” of the U.S. legal system—the effects on you as a photographer/artist, and even as a viewer, depend much more on the community you’re in and the aggressiveness/maliciousness of the prosecution. In other words, the laws regarding CP are fairly uniform across the U.S.; but what isn’t uniform is how vigorously those in the legal system (and how much they’re influenced by the political concerns) decide to prosecute.

A Primer on Law and the Legal System in the United States:
The “Law”: It should be understood that in the U.S., there are both federal laws and state laws regarding possession, receipt and/or distribution of child pornography (or other restricted materials), and that federal laws typically “trump” the state laws. What most people don’t know is that laws are typically divided into the following general areas:
Constitutional Law: A prosecution/conviction on constitutional law (either federal or state) based primarily on the language of the constitution and interpretations thereof. There is no provision in the federal or any state constitution (as far as I know with respect to the latter) applicable to the possession, receipt/distribution of child pornography. There are provisions in the U.S. Constitution relating to what is commonly referred to as “protected speech” and as “First Amendment Rights”.
Statutory Law: Statutory laws are laws enacted either by the U.S. or state congress(es). Title 18 of United States Code (USC) covers Crimes and Criminal Procedures. More specifically, “Certain activities relating to material constituting or containing child pornography” is governed by 18 USC 2252A(a)(5)(B) {Possession} and 18 USC2252A(a)(2)(A) {Receipt}.
There are other U.S. Codes associated with criminal procedures and/or the civil procedures associated with them. For example, Title 42 of the USC deals with the The Public Health and Welfare. There is a specific provision of Title 42 that may be used for defense by artists/photographers in child pornography prosecutions.
Often statutes and codes are instituted following an Act of congress. For example, the Adam Walsh Act regards certain controls over how the community is to deal with sex offenders. The Act itself is not used to enforce the law. Instead, it led to several detailed statutes describing how its provisions are to be enforced.
Case Law: Case law is not a separate set of laws. As described in Black’s Law Dictionary (an authoritative law reference)—“the law to be found in the collection of reported cases that form all or part of the body of law with a given jurisdiction”. In other words, it is not a separate set of laws in and of itself, but simply a description of how decisions by courts in previous cases (of a similar context or jurisdiction) can be applied to the current (i.e.; instant) case. From my personal experience, case law carries a significant weight in the U.S. Legal System.
For example; a typical case decision is “cited” (legally “referenced”) as: U.S. v. Dost, 636 F.Supp.383, 832 (S.Dist Cal – 1986). This was a case in the Southern District of California (federal) where the a U.S. Prosecutor indicted a man named Dost on possession of child pornography (based on whatever statutes there were at the time) and the case was decided based on various factors (“the Dost Factors”) that describe what constitutes child pornography. The court’s decision in this case was based on various factors that he/she developed and used to determine whether the material Mr. Dost possessed were actually prosecutable under the statute for possession of child pornography. It is not the first or last determination of what constitutes child pornography, but one of the most cited in later cases. In other words, cases subsequent to this have often used the Dost Factors as a “reference” (i.e.; cited) to make a determination in the specific case at hand.
Common Law (from Google): “the part of English law that is derived from custom and judicial precedent rather than statutes. Often contrasted with statutory law”. In other words, this is law that arose from the old English system, which was not written down (codified). Most of it has been codified by statutes, some have not. Anything to do with child pornography has undoubtedly been codified in statutes, therefore this are is of little interest, except to know that it exists.

The Legal System: There are various legal systems in use in the United States. I’ll be concentrating on those relevant to how prosecution of child pornography cases by the legal system has affected the First Amendment rights of photographers/artists.
The Federal Court System: The Federal Court System was created by Article III of the U.S. Constitution. This system is divided up into: The District Courts, The Court of Appeals, The Supreme Court and other courts not associated with the scope of this article.

Discussion of the typical State Court System will be cover in a future installment.

Maiden Voyages: June 2015

I know there has not been too much activity this month, but items of interest do continue to come across my desk and I feel it necessary to make them available to you.

Surfing the Net: There are a handful of readers who surf the net regularly and send me little tidbits. They are interesting items but not important enough to make into stand alone posts, therefore, from now on, I will post them on upcoming Maiden Voyages as they come in.

Mary Ellen Mark dies: A reader just informed me about the death of photographer Mary Ellen Mark on May 25th.  Although Pigtails has only covered her work once (here), she was a prolific and talented artist worthy of mention.  There is also an iconic image of a girl in a wading pool and smoking which Pip intends to cover in a future post. [added 0604]

6-Year-Old Gassed in Auschwitz: There is a poignant account of the testimony of Judith Kalman, a Jewish Hungarian-born writer living in Montreal, during the trial of Oskar Gröning, known as the bookkeeper of Auschwitz. It centers around the fate of her family, most notably a half-sister she never knew, Eva Edit Weinberger—gassed at Auschwitz ten years before Kalman was born. An excellent consolidation of this material can be found here. The site includes commentary and links to more complete information.

Hashtag Culture: There is a cute YouTube video of a little girl named Lily going through a series of personal observations associated with her tweets.

“Faces” Art Exhibition: The Bozar Center for Fine Arts in Brussels (Bozar, Palais des Beaux-Arts de Bruxelles) is having a retrospective called ‘FACES NOW’. The idea was to collect intriguing examples of faces in the fine arts since 1990. Although the reviewer, Mario Zilio, found the exhibit mundane, an intriguing image was used to promote the exhibit. The photo is titled Sonya (2000) by Sergey Bratkov and came from his series ‘KIDS’ submitted by The Regina Gallery.

Legal Briefs: Chris Madaio, through his experiences with the legal system, has become a paralegal himself and has offered to share some of his research and insights. The ongoing distractions and challenges due to his conviction has caused him to seek to educate others while giving him a way of focusing his efforts in a productive way.

I would like to research state-by-state (and also on the federal level) First Amendment and/or pornography laws relating specifically to photographers/artists who take pictures of children, minors, and very young adults.

Madaio is cognizant that people who have downloaded bona fide child pornography should be brought to justice. However, those laws meant to prohibit and prosecute such activities have also been loosely interpreted and used as a weapon to harass legitimate artists (like Jock Sturges or Graham Ovenden) simply because they personally disagree with the artists’ choice of content.

The study would not be limited just to what’s on the books, but also to how it’s applied through “case law”. I would also include…parents who’ve been hassled/convicted because of photos like their kids playing in the bathtub. In fact, even if a photographer/artist/parent is acquitted, one could argue that a considerable amount of damage has already been done.

As I receive new reports from Mr. Madaio, I will include them at the end of future Maiden Voyages posts and readers are welcome to suggest cases they heard about for Madaio to research.

A Kinder, Gentler Nation? Chris Madaio Revisited

When I wrote my previous post on this artist, I simply took information from the book Il Ritratto Giovanile. When I look beyond the beautiful images and read something about the artist, I usually feel a spiritual connection and the work begins to have a deeper meaning for me. In this case, my own memories of spending time with various families while stationed in Germany gave me some context to understand Chris Madaio’s artistic experiences. After completing that last article, I decided on a whim to try to contact the artist through the internet. I found a strange news item about a Chris Madaio in Alabama being arrested for failure to register as a sex offender. Further digging revealed this was indeed the same artist I had just covered and I could not help wondering, “How could someone who produces work with such sensitivity be capable of such a crime?” I have wisely learned to be skeptical of almost anything in the media and given the grave paranoia about people who work with children, especially in the South, I decided to uncover the facts. I managed to reach him to get his side of the story and give the readers a clearer understanding of his art.

Chris Madaio - Luciano - Napoli (1992)

Chris Madaio – Luciano – Napoli (1992)

Chris Madaio was born in May 1947 in the Bronx, NY and took an early interest in photography. By age 10, he owned his first camera–taking the requisite photos of landscapes, architecture and people. He was also an avid collector of cameras and got his first collectible at age 16—a 35mm Leica IIIf—continuing to hone his craft while working on the high school yearbook. After graduating, he went to Penn State and earned a degree in Fuel Science in 1969 before enlisting in the U.S. Navy. His tour of duty offered him his first chance to live overseas and he was stationed in Gaeta near Naples in Italy, the homeport of the 6th Fleet flagship. Exploring on his time off and rarely without his camera, he caught the attention of the local people, fast making friends and eagerly learning the language. He began to recognize his skill as a teacher after first successfully coaching the kid’s basketball team then later teaching English and science to the young people there.

Digital cameras are ubiquitous and easy to use now, but at that time, the practice of street photography was still something of a novelty and Madaio made one of his first discoveries: young people love to have their pictures taken. Over time, he realized that having someone take one’s picture is a form of validation that can boost self-esteem. The following comes from a 1976 issue of the Penn Stater:

Most serious amateur photographers don’t venture beyond scenics, muscular sports heroes or glamorous models. It’s the small, unnoticed people and things that also require our attention if we are to go beyond the ordinary and mundane … I feel that everyone has a need to be recognized. During that instant when the shutter is snapped, the subject is important to one other person in this world—important enough to have his or her picture taken.

Chris Madaio - Emanuela (1993)

Chris Madaio – Emanuela (1993)

After completing his tour on active duty, Madaio returned to the U.S. with a strong attachment to this beautiful place. He went back to Italy in 1972 to use his GI Bill and take additional courses in engineering while maintaining his connection to the people and place. Recognized and appreciated for his work, he was published in Long Island Newsday in 1973 and then in the Penn Stater magazine in 1976, the same year he held his first photo show at La Nave Caiattas in Gaeta during a vacation. Shortly thereafter, he had his first major exhibition at Penn State and 10 other Pennsylvania commonwealth campuses. He continued his work as a part-time professional by covering gymnastics, swim and softball teams and capturing important milestones of the adults and youngsters in Maryland and Pennsylvania. His photography also included travel, industrial, wedding and architectural subjects.

Chris Madaio - Maria (1994)

Chris Madaio – Maria (1994)

Because of his skill in engineering, he had the opportunity to travel throughout the world on one project or another working for Bechtel Corporation and a few other companies. All the while, he made a point of returning to Gaeta every few years to spend time with his friends. In 1999, he became an avid biker and in 2001 trekked from Great Yarmough, UK to Gaeta on a Triumph Trident motorcycle—a 1600 mile journey.

Chris Madaio - Angelica (1994); (2002)

Chris Madaio – Angelica (1994); (2002)

After leaving samples of his work in a bookstore in Amsterdam, Madaio caught the attention of Ophelia Editions and was offered his first chance to publish. The result was Il Ritratto Giovanile (Portraits of Youth) in 1996. As a fledgling company, Ophelia Editions had a necessarily narrow focus, hoping to establish itself in a wider market and that has given most people—at least those who don’t really know him—the wrong impression about the artist’s scope and interest. There were plans for another book, Lo Scugnizzo, covering his work with street boys in southern Italy until Ophelia Editions shut down. In retrospect, the failure to publish the second book may have been a blessing. Scugnizzo translates as “street urchin” and in the English-speaking world, that has connotations of poverty but also of charm due to Charles Dickens’ humanistic portrayals. In Italy, however, the expression has a more pejorative meaning and having his now grown-up subjects—especially those who were not really street kids—associated with that term would belie the artist’s respect for the people whom he still regards as friends.

Chris Madaio - Giovanni (1974)

Chris Madaio – Giovanni (1974)

One of Madaio’s most vivid memories is of a boy who might more properly be called a scugnizzo:

I was hiking/backpacking through Tarragona Spain, on leave from the U.S. Navy (I did that often). I believe it was 1970 and I was 23 years old … I slept in an open meadow that night. When I got up the next morning, Francisco was hanging around. He told me he lived in a trash dump nearby (presumably with his parents), and he had a horse. I assume he told me the latter because it was painfully obvious how poor he was, so I guess that was his way of saying he had something of value. Then we split up and went our separate ways.

This picture appeared in Newsday and the Penn Stater.

Chris Madaio - Francisco sin Caballo - Tarragona (1970)

Chris Madaio – Francisco sin Caballo – Tarragona (1970)

After the publication of Ritratto, another major show was held in Gaeta—promoted by the local community—and another at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland shortly thereafter.

Chris Madaio - Martina

Chris Madaio – Martina (1999)

Despite his earlier success, by 2003, Madaio had largely curtailed his photography of young people as he noticed a decline in demand and less respect from his former clients and friends about the focus of his work. He attributes this to the rising hysteria taking place in the U.S. that casts a suspicious eye on anyone doing substantial work with youth.

Keep in mind that one of the joys of taking pictures of children is when they actually act like kids and not little adults. Sometimes kids act goofy. It may not be artistic, but the spontaneity is enjoyable and reflective of my attitudes toward childhood … Anything can happen with kids and usually does. This spontaneity can manifest itself either with a street boy skinny-dipping in a public fountain in Italy or little girls cutting up in gymnastics class.

Chris Madaio - Frederick Gymnastics Club (1993)

Chris Madaio – Frederick Gymnastics Club (1993)

Accompanying the decline in photographic work came a stressful period during his mother’s precarious health. These conditions contributed to what could only be called an addiction to pornography. Despite these setbacks, he continued to get good engineering jobs, the latest in Alabama in 2002 and he moved there. In 2004, he brought in his computer for repair and was reported to the authorities for his images, many which had been exhibited or published. In October of that year, FBI agents from the Huntsville office visited his home without a warrant and inquired about those photos. Madaio did his best to cooperate and turned over his two computers, fully aware that adult pornography would be found and he gave them some of his professional photography as well. He was surprised when over a year later an indictment was handed down from the federal authorities accusing him of receiving child pornography. Madaio had cooperated confident that no such images were present on his computer—only legitimate adult pornography. It appears the prosecutors used his browsing history to help secure the indictment and then stretched the definition of “child” to bolster their case. He was released on pre-trial bond at a January 2006 arraignment. He was not savvy to the ways probation officers gather evidence, so after winning a gun in a company raffle (he is a certified expert marksman), he made sure it was turned in to comply with the probation conditions. They say no good deed goes unpunished and that gun was then used to justify incarcerating him until his conviction on child pornography charges in June 2006. He served 48 of the 60 month minimum sentence in a federal prison. Little did he know his mother would pass away during this time and he never had the chance to see her again.

Regarding the professional photographs that were still being held by the authorities, Madaio filed a civil action under the Privacy Protection Act of 1980 (PPA)¹. However, unable to get any legal assistance from the local or national chapters of the ACLU²—who seemed more concerned about their political image than justice—the petition was dismissed in 2010 on a technicality. While in prison, he taught literacy and GED courses to prisoners and in 2008 began to take paralegal courses so he could defend himself and his fellow inmates more effectively. After his release in early 2010, he was instructed to return to Alabama despite no longer having any ties there—neither a job nor property. Thus began a 3-year fight to convince the U.S. Probation Office to allow him to return to his native New York where his handicapped sister was living.  In the mean time, he had to comply with state laws regarding sex offender registration and in the heat of legal negotiations, he momentarily forgot about a new Alabama law that required him to register quarterly. When he did present himself to register, he was arrested and searched, this time by the local Sheriff’s Office. Many items were seized including those that had been returned by the federal authorities in 2010. To complicate matters, a one-time associate of his shortly thereafter had a storage unit raided where child pornography was found and was used as a basis for additional charges issued in December 2012. He was released on bond that same month and a month after that was released from the federal probation restrictions. But he still faces a possible second trial on the state’s charges this February.

Madaio is not claiming to be completely blameless and in a properly functioning justice system, he knows he should pay some kind of penalty for his hapless browsing in 2004. But the tragedy is that because of the stigma of this kind of conviction, he cannot get a fair hearing or a fair sentence and to make matters worse, there is a culture of vigilantism in the South that prevents him from moving on and reintegrating into society. Our society would rather punish than treat a person’s problem and because of these restrictions, he has not held a steady engineering job for more than four years. On the brighter side, most of his own photographs were returned after the original seizure and are therefore still available to us. He recognizes that there are fewer years ahead of him than behind and is making a concerted effort to establish a noble and compassionate legacy.

Chris Madaio - Vista da San Francesco (1986)

Chris Madaio – Vista da San Francesco (1986)

Legal battles cost money even if one is representing oneself, so any assistance in scraping together some funds would be very much appreciated. To offer your support, order prints or hire his legal services, you can visit his website here.

In reviewing the background material for this article, I realized that the artist’s experiences are a treasure trove of legal and political advice. It would be naive for the layman to imagine that his legal system is just and that he would have nothing to worry about if he were accused unfairly. Therefore, I intend to write an article that will make use of this material and shine a light on our current political situation, its realities and offer some vital practical advice. -Ron


‭1. The Privacy Protection Act of‭ ‬1980‭ [‬42‭ ‬USC‭ §‬2000aa‭]‬,‭ ‬was enacted into law by Congress to limit searches for materials held by persons involved in First Amendment activities who are themselves not suspected of participating in the criminal activity for which the materials are sought. This is meant to discourage law enforcement officers from targeting publishers simply because they incidentally gathered evidence of a crime.

2. The American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) stated mission is “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.”  The Free Speech Coalition was also approached to no avail.

Madaio’s tumblr account

Overseas Bonds: Chris Madaio

Now that summer is ending, I wanted to do a post that felt appropriate. Little did I know that this artist’s experiences in Europe would provoke some of my own memories. When I was stationed in Germany I naturally made many friends with the families of my fellow soldiers. During my time there one of our unit’s helicopters went down in a deep lake in Bavaria, killing both pilots. The recovery operation was tricky and took several weeks, and soldiers were needed to perform mundane services and guard military equipment from the curious locals. The amusing thing was that officers were put up in the local hotel on the coast while the enlisted men were put in a little gasthaus inland. We had a great time, because the proprietors prepared authentic German food for us while the officers got faux-German tourist fare. Because I spoke the language, I bonded with the families who ran the place and was even invited to have dinner with the mayor. I tried everything on the menu, even things that had mysterious ingredients, and slept blissfully under a feather bed every night. When I had to leave, the old matriarch there gave me her recipe for apple strudel. I visited this small village several times during my remaining tour in Germany, but once back in the States it was impractical to stay in touch. Those memories are still so bittersweet to me.

There is little biographical information on Chris Madaio because he was not a professional photographer, but he was born in the late 1940s or early 50s, educated and trained as an engineer and served in the U.S. Navy when this country was embroiled in the Vietnam conflict. Madaio, however, was stationed in Europe and made friends with locals and got to hone his photography skills. That was a fortunate hobby, because he would have a more vivid record of his time there. He also had the good fortune to return from time to time and reinforce the bonds he had with the children as they were growing up.

Madaio gathered many of his best photos and published them in a book called Il Ritratto Giovanile (Portraits of Youth) in 1996 through Ophelia Editions. He focused on girls because he believed the mood of a book on girls would be very different than one that included boys. Madaio’s observation was astute and I have often commented that although children are charming generally, there is something exceptional about girls. He did conceive a similar project about boys, but there is no sign that it reached fruition.

This collection covers twenty years of his work starting in the mid-1970s. He got to see the change in attitude about photographing people in public and children in particular. He comes off as a bit defensive and tries to explain why he has chosen this subject matter. He emphasizes the enthusiastic participation of his subjects and their pleasure with the results of his work. The photographs were taken in Italy, France and Spain and it was common practice for undeveloped girls to go without tops at public beaches. Although Madaio’s work shows off the natural beauty of the girls, there are no nudes in the book at all and the girls shown here were wearing the customary attire of their culture. That gives the images a feeling of being candid but not especially intimate.

This image appears on the book’s cover. Madaio wanted titles that use the native language of his subjects.

Chris Madaio – Mergellina, Napoli (1986)

Chris Madaio – Mergellina, Napoli (1986)

I find expressions of rapt attention particularly compelling as in this image of a girl focused on a tiny shell.

Chris Madaio – La Conchita, Valencia (1984)

Chris Madaio – La Conchita, Valencia (1984)

When executed well, black and white photography brings out the velvety quality of skin, regardless of color.

Chris Madaio – La Pescadora, Portbou (1982)

Chris Madaio – La Pescadora, Portbou (1982)

No summer day is complete without a bit of tree climbing.

Chris Madaio – Tree Climbing at the Y., York (1979)

Chris Madaio – Tree Climbing at the Y., York (1979)

By the end of this project, Madaio was shooting about half his images in color. This is an especially charming scene that makes use of an old-country alley.

Chris Madaio – Sorelle sulla Scala, Gaeta (1984)

Chris Madaio – Sorelle sulla Scala, Gaeta (1984)

There are so many beautiful images in the book. I only selected these (as I do with every artist) to give the reader an idea of the scope of his images.