The recent publicity over Bill Henson has prompted me to explore this theme earlier than I had planned, but this will be the last, at least for now. This blog will cover much more than this relatively minor subject (so minor I wonder what all the fuss is about).
The core problem is that moral conservatives associate nudity with sex and any image of a naked child must and can only be viewed as pornographic. This is nonsense of the highest order. Since classical times the body of the child has been represented as a thing of beauty. This tradition has continued into the modern era.
It is hardly surprising that photographers would wish to continue this long established tradition. One of these photographers is Jock Sturges and one of his principle subjects/models is Misty Dawn. (Was Sturges thinking of Donatello when he took this image?)
Jock has photographed Misty since she was three years old and continues to photograph her today (making it a 27 year collaboration). The photos above and below appear in ‘Misty Dawn: Portrait of a Muse.’ (pg 9 and 155 respectively).
The moral conservatives like to claim that photographers such as Sturges have sinister motives, that they are exploiting their subjects. But what can they say when the photographer continues to collaborate with a model over a lifetime? And what does Misty say about their relationship? Here are her own words from Notes by Jock Sturges, pg 85-86.
Jock has been a very important part of my life, from the first time I met him. After every shoot, my family and I await in eager anticipation for a glimpse of the gorgeous pictures he captures… People may not know that in Jock’s pictures, he would always photograph us as we were. We were hippies (sort of), so we didn’t own bathing suits. So when we were swimming he would photograph us without clothes… That was twenty-three years ago. My life has changed in many ways, but Jock has been a constant throughout. As a result of my childhood on the river, and three trips to Jock and Maia’s house in France and the naturist community there, I have a completely relaxed sense of my physical self. Jock photographed my childhood, my adolescence, my marriage…when I have kids, it will be wonderful to have their lives begin with pictures as well!
So where moral conservatives see something sinister and exploitative, Misty sees a lifelong friendship and collaboration.
Misty is featured on the cover of Radiant Identities and Misty Dawn: Portrait of a Muse, both published by Aperture. (Other books by Sturges: The Last Day of Summer, New Work 1996-2000, Notes, Life-Time)
Moral conservatives would have you believe these women (Jessie Mann, Miranda and Kai Beverly-Whittemore and Misty Dawn) have been exploited and must now be deeply ashamed of their exposure. They are not. In fact they fiercely defend their photos. They want you to see them.