Response To A Mother Who Demanded I Delete A Picture Of Her Breastfeeding Her Child
“I understand that you are upset that I took your picture. Feelings are not right or wrong, they just are, and I would not argue with them. But I would like to suggest that calling me a “creep” who can’t wait to get home and jerk-off looking at an image of your naked breast is ill-considered and quite a bit off the mark. And if you will calm down enough to listen for a moment, here’s why…
When you decided to sit down on a bench and expose yourself to the entire world to breastfeed your child – which you have every legal right to do in a public place – you were undoubtedly acting from the purest of motives stemming from a mother’s instinct. A natural life-giving offering of yourself is nothing to be ashamed of.
And when I simultaneously clicked the shutter button – which I have every legal right to do in a public place – I, too, was acting from within a time-honored tradition. Street photography is committed to capturing unique moments that document life in urban environments, at the least, and the larger human condition itself, if we’re lucky. And luck it so often is, given that we can’t stop the flow of time to manipulate actors and props on a stage. Out of the corner of an eye we sense a movement about to occur and if instinct and our knowledge of human behavior suggest that it might be significant, we whirl and shoot.
In short order you and two no-nonsense-looking guys caught up with me and demanded that I delete your photo. I politely refused – and not, as you suggest, from any prurient interest.
Why, then? The goal of any artist is to take a “subject” and transform it into a “content.” That is, to capture a moment and render it timeless. Given the right mix of elements – line, color, space, texture, composition – a two-dimensional image of a mother and child might transcend itself and become suggestive of Motherhood, Love, Nurturance. Will my picture of you rise to that level? Probably not, chances are slim. But most certainly I won’t know until I download the image to a larger monitor.”
[In spite of her insistent demand I made a decision not to delete this image for two reasons: (1) to demonstrate that it is about as far from the sensual as it is possible to be, and (2) because the image itself is “respectfully artistic” (IMO) and there are a combination of elements that I particularly like: the pyramidal composition, interlocking gazes and gestures, the petulant expression on the kid’s face, etc. Out of deference to the mother I did, however, drastically darken the image to conceal her identity.]