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Controversy over Jill Greenberg's "End of Days" Photography Series

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The Photographs:

In July 2006 Jill Greenberg unveiled a photographic series titled "The End of Days." Greenberg told ABCNews that "I'm just trying to convey that the children, if they knew, would be really upset about the way the world is going." Greenberg was very outspoken about her dislike of the Bush Administration. The photographs show unclothed head and shoulders of toddlers very upset. Some are screaming and some have faces covered in tears and bright red eyes. The images are all presented in Greenberg's signature "shiny" style.

The Start of the Controversy:

Instead of drawing attention to her own personal worldview, as Greenberg had hoped, the photographs drew global condemnation. How the images were achieved seemed to nearly universally horrify. The children (including Greenberg's daughter) were set up in the studio, given candy or toys, and then the candy/toys taken away from them abruptly. The candy/toys were not returned until Greenberg had captured a photograph of the child in acute distress. According to Greenberg, "Apparently it’s controversial for children to cry? I don’t know, mine do it so much."

Lack of Parental Supervision Leaves Questions:

After the initial uproar, more details began to surface about how Greenberg got the extreme reactions from the toddlers. When children refused to cry the candy/toys were repeatedly given and grabbed back. If the toddlers still refused to cry enough, the parents were asked to leave the room until the child was upset enough Greenberg could get the photo she wanted. While Greenberg insists there was no physical harm done the children, there were no parents in the room and the toddlers can't tell us so there really isn't any way to know for sure exactly what happened to the children while their parents were out.

Viewpoint Cross-Section:

"People in the photography world, anyone who is sophisticated about photography, knows that this is not offensive," collector and former gallery owner Stephen White told the LA Times.

"...what Jill Greenberg is doing makes me want to throw up. And it shouldn’t be allowed." Thomas Hawk

References:

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