Sunday, March 27, 2011

When is a photograph pornography?...

Framing Innocence: A Mother's Photographs, a Prosecutor's Zeal, and a Small Town's Response tells the story of...

Cynthia...a passionate photographer, particularly of her favorite subject: Nora. In the years since her daughter's birth, Cynthia had shot, cataloged, and stored in her cramped dining room more than 35,000 pictures. She hoped to someday publish a photojournalistic account of her family's life. But her most ardent mission was to give her daughter a photographic memory of her childhood.

Nora's childhood changed irrevocably one July day when a film-processing lab sent a roll of Cynthia's prints, including snapshots of Nora in the bathtub, to the police. When she had shot them, Cynthia hadn't thought twice about those pictures, which were a sequence of her daughter bathing and rinsing off with a handheld shower sprayer. The police and county prosecutors, however, looked at the pictures and saw a child performing a sexual act. They indicted Cynthia on two felony charges. Soon afterward, Children Services filed child endangerment charges against Cynthia, alleging that Nora was an abused child. Those leaps of the prosecutorial imagination launched Cynthia and her family into a legal ordeal that would consume one and a half years, cost $40,000, and send emotional aftershocks through their lives for a decade.

...When does a photograph of a naked child "cross the line"? What makes a photograph dangerous — the situation in which it is shot or the uses to which it might be put? Does context matter, or is a photograph a world sealed within its thin white frame? Who decides whether a picture is cute or lewd — the parent who shot it, or the prosecutor who has learned to look through the eyes of the perverts he prosecutes?

Framing Innocence