PetaPixel

Photographer Accused of Posting ‘Pornographic’ Photos of His 2-Year-Old, Here’s How He Responded

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Wyatt Neumann is a photographer and father who last year took his two-year-old daughter Stella on a road trip across the country, documenting their travels as they went. Along the way he captured beautiful landscapes, pictures of the open road, as well as a handful of adorable images of Stella wearing what two-year-olds very often wear: a fairy dress or nothing at all.

Normally, when put in a family photo album or a personal collection to show off to friends, this sort of subject matter isn’t an issue. But, as Neumann found out the hard way, these nude but non-explicit images engendered an entirely different reaction when he posted them online.

As the trip progressed, Neumann shared the images from his travels with his daughter through Facebook and Instagram. Until, that is, about halfway through the road trip when the images began drawing criticism from people the world over.

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The public backlash of the images brought a hailstorm of critics who called them “perverse,” “sick” and “pornographic.” Specifically, a group from the website Get Off My Internets began verbally attacking Neumann for publishing these images after a forum thread drew more attention to the photos than he had ever anticipated.

Before long, members of the site sent out a plethora of complaints to both Facebook and Instagram and managed to get Neumann’s profiles suspended. Eventually reinstated, it was the broad criticism of both him and his daughter and the suspension of his accounts that lead Neumann to realize this was a matter of freedom of expression and the freedom of speech.

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It was then that he came up with the idea to turn these images into a gallery and accompanying book. Aptly titled I FEEL SORRY FOR YOUR CHILDREN: The Sexualization of Innocence in America, The Safari Gallery exhibition and book take what Neumann hopes is an honest look at what childhood is and what it’s been turned into. As he explains in his artist statement:

What’s troubling is the abject reviling of the human body, the intense and overt sexualization of the natural form, especially the naked bodies of carefree young children, who have yet to feel the burden of institutionalized body image awareness and the embarrassment that comes with adolescence. My children are free, they live without shame.

As part of the series, the gallery and book featured images from their entire road trip, not just of Stella. And along with each image comes a comment, one of the comments left on the nude or semi-nude photos of Stella by the people who were so offended by those images.

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Neumann says he is committed to “showcas[ing] the lives [his children] get to live, express myself, and catalog the reality of my children’s experience.” As for the online critics who had more than a handful of words to share with Neumann in regards to the images of his naked child, his closing statement seems to sum it up fairly well:

So the choice seems clear: do we live in fear and condemnation? Or do we celebrate one another, and ourselves, in this life? I choose to believe in our ability to fight fear with love, ignorance with understanding, and to unite rather than divide. But you be the judge… is this pornography, art, expression, or exploitation. It’s up to us to either cower in fear, or liberate ourselves and live.

Below are a number of images Neumann was kind enough to share with us, presented as they were in the exhibition: alongside the critical, hateful and often vulgar words of anonymous strangers who commented on the images of Stella:

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“This man is a sick f**k. Why in the world would you do this to your child? Great job, Wyatt Neumann. That poor little girl…” -Ships Go Overboard aka It Burns, April 26, 2014 6:23pm

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“He’s an attention seeking f**k. Wake up, Wyatt, you f**king piece of s**t.” -SelenaKyle, April 26, 2014 8:59am

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“He seems like a d**k. I want to puke. The nude photos are gross and disturbing.” -tunawhiskers, April 25, 2014 4:09pm

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“Every good thing you are and every good thing you do is cancelled out by the fact that you exploit your children. You truly have no right to do this to them.” -skeptical girl is skeptical, April 26, 2014 1:55pm

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“Way to serve your daughter up on a plate, sicko. I will be sure to email you directly when I find this image being traded on the deep web, Wyatt, you sick f**k.” -your mirror lied to you, April 26, 2014 10:27am

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“I doubt she’ll ever be in a real school, have any real friends, or develop any real attachments to anything because that would be counterproductive to the isolation her parents probably want to keep her and her brother in. I’ll bet the only people they’re around are their parents ‘like-minded’ adult friends, a healthy portion of which are probably pedophiles that they’re too blind to see are right there waiting to get their children alone for 5 minutes.” -NamelyThis, April 26, 2014 12:47pm

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“I am a licensed clinical social worker and I work with abused children and adults every day. I have listened to children tell me about their parents selling them for sex to buy drugs, about parents who locked them away in closets for hours at a time without food or water because they wouldn’t stop crying, about parents who beat their children to within an inch of their life, just for being a child. Wyatt, you clearly hold yourself to a higher esteem than those people, but I don’t. You are no better than they are.”

Here’s a feature of Neumann by Vocativ (warning: contains strong language):


To learn more about this project or see any of Neumann’s other work, be sure to visit his website by clicking here.

(via Huffington Post)


Image credits: Photographs by Wyatt Neumann and used with permission


 
  • Don Davis

    PORN??? Not so much. Would I have posted the pix on the internet for the world to see? Not so much. There are too many sick people out there, suffering from a plethora of fantasies, and too many tightasses , as Neumann found out.

  • derekdj

    This is why we can’t have fun or nice things. It’s the Sally Mann problem compounded by a million, because of sickos on the net.

  • Vlad Dusil

    People need to get their minds out of the gutter and quit being so unreasonably oversensitive.

    By the way, what’s with the Upworthy-esque headline? I don’t think PP needs to be baiting for clicks.

  • Stephen Hagans

    I think he did this expecting the backlash, just for the attention.

  • NickGHK

    Haven’t you noticed that’s *exactly* what PP now routinely does with their headlines? They’re just an aggregator for sensational photo ‘stories’.

  • Suzanne

    This isn’t “porn”. Political correctness and fear of people being paedophiles puts fear in everyone. My mother took photos of myself and sister when were little in similar situations, so what does that make her?

  • Jaime

    Perverse people can fap to anything. This isn’t pornographic.

  • http://natiniphotography.tumblr.com Natalie Skittles Williams

    I wouldn’t say pornography… but I would personally think some of those should probably be kept personal
    there will be some guy getting off on these regardless of them being clothed or not but still… a couple of these although nowhere near pornographic… I just think they’re more personal….
    like
    the potty one I would say personal
    but jumping on the bed one I think is a great sense of natural fun, and the middle of the road one is quite surreal
    hands in the pants one- would rather teach the child maybe not to do that in photos… (I have a thing for clean hands and thats something I’d consider would need a hand washing after)

    butt… stillll not porn. If it was an adult it would be fine nude and perfectly acceptable.

  • pvbella

    The real sickos are the critics and bashers. These people cause more trouble than they are worth. What next? One of these over concerned so-called people contacting authorities? There are really too many busy bodies in the world.

  • Penmar

    What does it say about our culture when those people’s first thought is sex with regards to a child, families have been taking pictures of their children in a similar manner since the beginnings of photography, so it’s not the photography that has changed, it’s the pathetic responses to the innocence of a child. If your first thought was sexual in nature after viewing these pics, you are the one that should seek help.

  • MJ Coffey

    Taking pictures of your kids, even in situations when they’re nude? Yes, but only for own personal memories. Posting said pictures on the internet? No. I doubt his daughter was fine with that idea.

  • I-RIGHT-I

    The poses make me question the man’s judgment. The fact that he published them makes me question his sanity.

  • Debra Flechner

    I see parents all the time who posts their kids pics naked in bathtubs and other garbage on facebook. Here a guy does it as a professional because his daughter looks like a open minded carefree child. He is inspired by that and that is fine. Parents have become so close minded about how children are raised. As if they are superior to others, which of course is not the case. This is how children develop mental instabilities and narrow-mindedness and then by that time parents are wondering why their kid is such a horrible person because “i know I raised my child right” is their excuse. I am sorry to off on a rant here but this kind of nonsense with “bad parenting” drives me insane.

  • http://blog.joshsouzaphotos.com/ joshsouzaphotos

    It’s a shame they sullied his experience he had with his daughter.. it’s clear as day the love these two share.

  • http://provlimatikos.blogspot.com Tsiroto

    This reminds me of the story of that american couple (in the pre-digital era), getting arrested in the US after returning from vacation somewhere in Europe. They went to the photoshop to print photos, which included pictures of their small children being naked at the beach. Something quite common in the med countries. The printer guy called the police, accusing them of child pornography! They were arrested and actually separated from their children for some days, until they convinced the authorities that …they were just swimming and playing at the beach.

  • NATO

    His final statement really does say it all. It’s a real sign of the times when people go up in arms over this. They really are just family photos that any old photo album would have in it. People; especially on the internet; just want something to complain about. They aren’t happy with their own close mindedness so they instead choose to try and pull someone else down. Neumann handled this extremely well.

  • Tonja

    The problem is that it becomes porn when sick people use it for pornographic purposes. It isn’t appropriate or smart or acceptable to put naked pictures of your child on the Internet. For those of you that would suggest it’s art, what kind of art is it? It’s exploitation of children on the Internet. If you are really that naive, you shouldn’t be allowed to take pictures. It’s a shame that a talented landscape photographer would make such a poor decision.

  • Mark Denman

    The images don’t bother me, because art is very subjective. I probably would not have posted some of these images for the world to see…buts that’s me! Great images though. I love the feel of youth and freedom they captured.

  • https://twitter.com/adamhowardcross Adam Cross

    Did Sally Mann ever get this kind of backlash? jeez, I’m with the guy 100% on this. People need to check their own minds for darkness before they start projecting it onto other people’s lives and start trying to police their actions.

  • stevengrosas

    I could’t agree more.

  • Tonja

    Do you have kids or pay attention to the news, Adam? I don’t mean that in a condescending way, but it shows really bad judgment as a parent. We are in a different age in a different culture. Protection of our children should be priority 1. Not artistic expression.

  • gee

    Beautiful shots. Nuff said.

  • stevengrosas

    I have no idea why her father would want to put these out there, especially knowing what kind of effect it would have on people. And with that said, if he thinks this is okay, would it be alright for another photographer to take similar photographs of her, to be openly distributed? Just because he is her dad, doesn’t make it okay. Most of the pictures seem very contrived or even posed which is also giving me bad vibes and making me question his motives.

  • Syddue

    you are part of the problem then….

  • http://icewolf08.com/ icewolf08

    It amazes me that there is so much negativity towards this father/photographer on this site that is really dedicated to the art of photography.

    We do live in a strange time, where the things that used to just be stored in the family album under the coffee table are now being shared online on social media. But social media is the new coffee table album, for better or worse.

    If you don’t understand what happens when you upload a photo to social media sites, you don’t deserve to have a device capable of doing so! If you do understand what happens when you post a photo (or any other piece of media or creative work) and you consciously make the choice to do so, no one else should tell you that you were wrong.

    The images and the stories behind this father-daughter road trip are really amazing. It is a beautiful collection of images and was probably a really fun and amazing trip. Who are we to criticize the photographic and parental choices this man made?

    Sure, there are sick and twisted people out there, most of which are likely the people who really wasted their time and energy berating this father. Facebook, instagram, twitter, etc. are all full of provocative teenage bathroom-selfies and people choose to attack an actual artist? It is sad and depressing.

  • http://missmooseart.com/ Lis Bokt

    “It’s fine to take but not fine to share” bothers me a lot.

  • https://twitter.com/adamhowardcross Adam Cross

    I don’t personally have children, no, but I am an uncle to 5 kids under the age of 6. I’m not sure what you mean by paying attention to the news? and how does any of this “show really bad judgment as a parent”… again, I’m just assuming you’re someone else thinking their so-called “moral standards” are better than someone elses…

  • Kiltedbear

    Here’s the thing. People on the Internet need to stop acting like freaking psychologists and leave psychology to real professionals. Actually, from the way some of them reacted, it seems like *they* need a psychologist. Something deeply personal is likely causing such radical reactions.

  • https://twitter.com/adamhowardcross Adam Cross

    the thing is… he clearly didn’t know what effect it would have on people, but I would be exactly the same, If I had documented a trip with my kids and shot photos that were as striking as his, I would want to show them. The problem here is the overwhelming number of people that look at these photos and thing about them in a sexual context. That’s the problem, the people. not the photos.

  • Tonja

    No. Not at all. Morality is not the question. It is the idea that other individuals will, if they find these pics, use them in terrible ways. Every day on the news there are countless stories of sick individuals exploiting children. As an artist, you MUST remember your audience. If you saw these pictures of your nieces and/or nephews being traded on an underground porn site, would you consider it art, or would you want to kill someone? There goes my morality, right? Once they are out there, you cant take them back. These pictures are personal–not for the world to see. Again, I think he is a great artist, however, his judgment as a parent in this case was beyond poor. They are beautiful pics for those of us who do have a horse in the race know that this is a bad idea. Please don’t take this as judgment, because it isn’t. It’s about the repercussions of his decisions. He may never even know.

  • Kiltedbear

    True that this is sensational, but how is this click baiting? Now if the title was lying about the content and being over sensational I would agree, but this title described what is exactly unfortunately the truth, thus not click baiting.

  • Jonathan Maniago

    My virgin eyes have been defiled! Somebody, give the poor child a burqa!

    It’s funny how people are sensitive to pictures of naked children, but pictures of naked adults are considered as “art”. Is the former more sexual or more offensive than the latter?

  • Greg Weatherford

    The idea that an artist should never create or exhibit a work that someone somewhere might “use” for nefarious purpose will inevitably lead to the conclusion that no real art should be created, just in case. I hardly think that’s a good road to go down.

  • https://twitter.com/adamhowardcross Adam Cross

    people can find terrible uses for all kinds of photos. Are you not going to share a photo of your grandparents for fear that someone will think about them in a sexual context?

    The same goes for any photos of children, children don’t have to be naked to be thought of sexually by a paedophile, just a smile could be enough to set someone off.

    It doesn’t matter what photographs you decide to post and share online, you can’t have 100% control over their use, and that goes for photos of children whether they’re naked or not. Are we going to stop photographing poor, sick children in Africa and using them for global donation campaigns because “someone, somewhere, might be masturbating to this” ?

    Yes, I would be upset if certain people used photos of my family for their own use, for whatever use, sexual or not. But if I want to share photos of my family, naked or not, then that’s something you have to deal with.. or you don’t post them. It’s that simple.

    There’s a truth to these photos, they’re beautiful, and it would be a terrible shame if he had decided not to share them. So many photographers and artists have shared their families with us for countless amounts of years, it would be a sad, sad day if they all decided “nope, there are peadophiles, can’t share my work anymore”.

  • Greg Weatherford

    The idea that people can’t see children as anything other than proto-sexualized beings is depressing. Read the comments on Sia’s “Chandelier” video, which features a young ballerina in a unitard — it brought out many of the same scolds.

  • Tonja

    It’s not about being a psychologist. It’s about being a parent. Take a look at how many sexual predators live near you. It’s public information. It’s about common sense and the breadth of the Internet. Not about being an artist. He’s an amazing artist–that’s not the question. And this doesn’t make him a bad parent. It just shows a lack of discretion.

  • Sarah Milteer

    she looks like she’s two, and normal.

  • https://twitter.com/adamhowardcross Adam Cross

    it’s clear you’re thinking about the poses differently to the father. Also… I’m 100% certain he didn’t tell her to put her hands down her pants. I have 5 nieces and nephews, they do that allll thee tiiime.

  • maverickmage

    Agreed. I wouldn’t show pictures of my naked kid to total strangers… which is what this photographer did. He has failed to apply what is now rarely known as common sense.

  • MEC

    If you’re viewing these pics in a sexual manner then you’re the one with the problem. Not him.

  • Carrie Chastain-Little

    Porn?? Uuuuhhhhh… then all our parents we’re into it! My parents took so many nekkid pictures of me and my sister as kids that I’m not sure I ever owned any clothes! These pictures are so cute! The only people who are going to think they’re porn are those whose minds need to be washed out. Even great works of art have their detractors who say it’s porn – Botticelli, etc. Get over yourselves! If you don’t like it, don’t look. With the internet it is too easy to say horrible things to people without repercussions or having to look someone in the eye. Look at what people posted to Robin Williams daughter. We need accountability.

  • Jonathan Maniago

    rule #34 – If it exists there IS porn of it
    If we were to remove everything that may possibly be arousing to somebody out there, there would be nothing left to publish.

  • https://twitter.com/adamhowardcross Adam Cross

    so now we know where all paedophiles live…. are we going to stop going outside with our children because a paedophile might use their eyes to look at them? you have to think rationally about these things.

  • Tonja

    You are absolutely correct! That is the problem. All the sick people out on the Internet. You couldn’t have said it better.

  • Tonja

    Naked adults have a choice, right?

  • Bunny Love

    Everybody who has or has had kids have naked or semi-clothed photos of them. I do. But I would never put them on the internet because of the creeps who get off on seeing little children with no clothes on.

  • Jonathan Maniago

    Is the former more sexual or more offensive than the latter?

  • muellerworks

    Agreed. I might take the picture, and treasure it. But as a parent I would not allow those images to enter into an online world where who knows where they would end up. It is not my mind that needs adjusting. It’s my job to project my children from what IS out there. It is my job to predict what could happen and keep my child safe from it. I also think this child is not old enough to give to consent to this invasion of her privacy. Even small children deserve privacy. They are not ours to showcase for our own creative whim. They are people who deserve respect and to decide whether they want their naked picture on the internet FOREVER.

  • Tonja

    Yes. It is a beautiful thing for your family photo album. Absolutely. It isn’t for crazy people’s eyes. Ask someone who isn’t an artist what they think about putting naked pictures of their child on the Internet. I truly respect your opinion as an artist, but presentation is important. When it comes to the unintentional effects we could have on our children in the name of art, do you really want to blaze that trail? Again, I think the photos are beautiful, but you have to take them into the context of our society.

  • Tonja

    Did your parents share your naked pics on the Internet with a distinct subset of pedophiles? I’m thinking not, however I’m not sure.