Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Lolita-Complex in the Work of Jock Sturges


The work of Jock Sturges [1947- ] raises a number of issues which I am unable, in this short space, to address adequately. Nevertheless, he himself has proposed that his work should serve as a platform for the open discussion of nudity in photography (and in society).

For those who have not seen it, Sturges's primary emphasis is on nude pubescent or pre-pubescent girls. Due to the more permissive atmosphere regarding nudity and sex in Europe, the majority of his images have been made there.

Sturges became notorious when, in 1990, the FBI raided his photographic studio, seizing his files and images, computer, cameras. Sturges was charged with child pornography, but a San Francisco grand jury refused to indict him. Both Sturges, and British photographer David Hamilton, have come repeatedly under attack by cultural watch-dogs (like Operation Rescue, the anti-abortion group), for purportedly crossing the line from legitimate art portraiture, to child pornography.



While Sturges is a professional, in that his work is very well-done, and presented intelligently and with evident taste and care, the implications of his subject-obsession cannot be flagrantly set aside with claims of innocent regard and 1st amendment crusading. In over a dozen slick monographs and catalogues, and many exhibitions and one-man-shows, he has openly and conspicuously flaunted his preoccupation with nude young teen-aged women--easily 90% of his photographic prints are devoted to them. In addition, most of the rest of his subjects are nudes taken at different ages--children under the age of 10, or women in their twenties or thirties, with an occasional young nude male in the mix. In short, Sturges has emphasized his obsession with pre-pubescent young nude women, almost to the exclusion of any other type of subject-matter, even though he is known to have done much other commercial (non-art, non-nude) work, such as of ballet.

Clearly, Sturges wishes to make a point, and he is unashamed and earnest about it. Let's think a bit about what he might be trying to tell us.



Traditionally, the nude as subject in art has been a hot topic. Prior to the 20th Century, images of nude children were almost absent from art generally, though tactfully posed, and modestly conceived images of children and adolescents were common in ancient sculpture and reliefs, and in Renaissance and post-Renaissance painting and sculpture. In late 19th Century England, Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson), took a number of pictures of young girls, which some critics believe border on a prurient regard for "little girls"--no surprise, perhaps, given that Carroll's signature work, Alice in Wonderland [1865], features a pre-pubescent English girl. Missing portions of Dodgson's Diaries, and certain facts about his life, tend to suggest that he may have been a paedophile; indeed, Dodgson may have intended to propose marriage to 11-year old Alice Liddell, the presumed model for the fictional Alice.

In the 20th Century, Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita [Paris: Olympia Press, 1955], provided a striking instance of a fictionalized paedophilic narrator, Humbert Humbert--whose fixation upon, and adventures with, a New England high school ingenue constituted a fully fleshed-out, and evidently unashamed portrayal of a psychological type which has come to be associated with her name. Though clearly not in the clinical sense a paedophile himself, Nabokov the Author sought to realize a version of the type in no uncertain terms.

I am not trained in psychology, and indeed I'm not altogether invested in psychology as a scientific discipline, believing (as I do) that the field is still in its relative infancy, and that what we don't know about human thought and feeling is of a very much greater portion than that which we do know. However, it is believed by some theorists that genuine paedophiles experience an arrested personality, causing them to fixate on pre-adult girls, instead of adult women. Why and how this occurs, is a matter of dispute among psychologists and psychiatrists. But it seems to be associated with otherwise introverted personalities, whose sense of guilt or rejection reinforces and rationalizes their obsession. There are even some, referred to by supporters as the childlove movement, who advocate the relaxation of age-of-consent laws and mental illness classifications (as child molestation).



It's often convenient to imagine that the time-line of civilized practice is quite long, but we know without any doubt that what we think of as settled society and culture is a very late (new) human development. Our ancestors didn't begin living in "permanent" communities until very late in the game. Life expectancy in pre-civilized circumstances (tribal and/or nomadic), which went on for hundreds of thousands of years, was short, perhaps 30-35 years. It is generally assumed that sexual activity began much earlier in "pre-civilized" human society than it commonly does these days. Girls reaching puberty at age 12-14 began to bear children immediately, experiencing multiple pregnancies, accompanied by many lost infants, by their mid-twenties. What this means in real terms, is that what we now tend to regard with surprise and perhaps revulsion, was probably the behavioral norm among primitive human societies. The idea of regardng very young girls as potential sex objects, desirable and ripe for indoctrination and mating, is a much older and more common "tradition" than the customs, laws and habits which have developed over the last 4000 years. Age-of-consent debates, and various controversial religious precepts regarding procreation notwithstanding, cultural notions of prescribed social and sexual interaction between individuals have undergone changes over time, and there are significant differences among present-day cultures--primitive, residual and "modern"--which suggests that there is no hard and fast definition across the spectrum of human society that supports a single interpretation of the meaning and variation of sexual imagery.

Is Sturges's work an example of unsublimated sexual obsession, masquerading as a system of valorization of his subjects' confident identity and lack of shame, as he has claimed in his public statements? What exactly do Sturges's images of naked girls, standing idly on beaches or by bungalows, or in forest settings, tell us about them, or him?

Traditionally, sexually charged images may resemble multiple different idealizations. When people refer to "child pornography" today, they usually mean the unwanted exploitation of innocent (i.e., "underage") subjects, designed and made to appeal to those for whom such images are a form of vicarious stimulation and prurient regard--a projection of forbidden indulgence, a secret game or pastime. Sturges has said that his images "respect" the subjects' lives and personalities, that they "own" their bodies in a way which is neither prurient, nor naively beguiled.

But how subjects may feel about themselves, or about what images of them may actually mean, either in terms of the range of cultural contexts in which they are viewed, or how the full implication or eventual consequences may not be clear to them, is not a separate, irrelevant fact about this process. This is especially true of innocent subjects, who may not yet fully realize the degree of appropriation of their identities and lives which photographic reproduction may entail. Are girls of 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 or 16 years of age, fully capable of taking full responsibility for the potential consequences of becoming nude subjects, published or displayed around the world? Does the model release, or even parental consent, entitle an artist (or photographer) to seize the souls of children, to capture their identities for purposes which go far beyond some admittedly immature sense of permission which they may imagine they are feeling?

In what sense, ultimately, are we obliged to accept the pretext of Sturges's claim of politically correct "beauty" or "innocence" or morally neutral aesthetic exploration, in place of the more damning assessment of a "perverted" obsession to expose pre-pubescent girls to a serious art public?

The unadorned human body, in all its various manifestations, is subject to as many different feelings and meanings as there are kinds of people. In the totally objective sense, a naked human body is neither more, nor less, the sum of its purposes and functions. Its structure is determined by genetic inheritance, and subject to the manipulations, augmentations and transformations of aging, defacement, or decoration. It means what we want it to mean. In the hands of a photographer, a photograph tends to mean what the photographer wants it to mean: He intends that this image be seen in this way, for this purpose. On balance, I'd have to say that Sturges wants us to see and appreciate pre-pubescent or early pubescent girls as desirable, beautiful, unspoiled, and ultimately, as common things, i.e., the more we see of them, the less shocking and unusual they will seem. Is this an exploitation, or a de-sensitization, of innocence? Probably both. No matter how hard Sturges may try, he can't altogether succeed in making us believe that an 11-year old fully comprehends the meaning of her nakedness before his vision.

In Lolita, Nabokov suggested, indirectly, that Humbert Humbert, rather than being the seducer, the manipulator, was indeed the victim, not just of his own obsession, but of the shrewd manipulations of his love-object. Despite her supposed innocence and guilelessness, she used Humbert to attain her selfish ends. But that was fiction. Sturges is photographing real girls, who live real lives. Sturges may fantasize, or not, about his subjects, in ways that belie his vaunted artistic program. But no one who so single-mindedly, and determinedly, labored so hard to expose a forbidden subject as Sturges has done, can claim not to have some very powerful personal (and ulterior) motives. The sense of violation and discomfort which accompanies a viewing of his images doesn't go away.

[Note: I have posted three of Sturges's images, commonly available for download on the internet. I could have made copies of these same, or other, images from several of his books. I chose these because they were among the most "tame" in terms of exposure. I do not wish to offend anyone, or to incite morbid curiosity. They are for illustration only.]

48 comments:

Kirby Olson said...

You should take these photographs down.

I'm deeply sorry to have seen these.

I'm deeply sorry you put these up.

J said...

Ooo la la lalalala la la

Mere nudity of pre-pubescent girls may not meet the criteria for ...porno (ie, of an illegal sort). Either way, I wager you just increased yr site-traffic substantially, Sir F. Really, I think Fine-Ahht photography tends to drift towards erotica, and then at times heads south (like, TJ-way, ese) towards Porno-land. but

Nabakov's Lolita presents slightly different issues. For one, it's a novel, not merely photos. Nabakov's not my favorite scribe--he seems like a Liberace of prose-- but there is more to the tale then mere sexuality, like Politics and Kultur (as you are probably aware). Old europe, represented by Humbert, meets the new world of America, represented by Lolita, and her chubby, ditzy mama Charlotte Haze (was it Shelley Winters in the old Kubrick flick?? heh)...but also brought out in their journey across the US, and the duel with Quilty---a real porno hound. That said, I don't think Nabakov had any particular moral message to impart, but was just describing with quite witty and elaborate syntax, various odd and colorful scenes (including Humbert and Lol's love): Vlad's all surface, baybe. He's no Conrad.....

Curtis Faville said...

Kirby:

1) I chose to make this post as a serious discussion of the issues raised by Sturges's work. It would be difficult to talk about it without at least showing something of what it's comprised.

2) I chose the least offensive images, I thought, that were generally indicative and available.

3) It's not as if these images are unavailable all over the web. Showing them hear isn't some primary disclosure.

4) Your indignation is completely appropriate, and noted. I like your forthrightness. Now tell me, in some greater detail, why you take this position. Amplify.

Sturges is popularly regarded as being a serious artist with valid intent. If you disagree, you're not alone. I was trying to think about it from several angles, but I came down on the side of mild approbation, albeit primarily on legalistic grounds, rather than aesthetic. I don't like the photographs, but it's useful to test the case aesthetically, to see where it leads. Don't you agree?

J said...

Leave 'em up, pops.

Take down Rev. Olsonberg's predictable moral wind-blast, however.



Into the fiery Flames....

Curtis Faville said...

J:

I get no ooh la la from Sturges's images. They strike me as awkward, and inappropriate somehow.

I was trying to dissect the issues which these images raise, in a dispassionate way. My gut reaction is negative, but from a purely objective position, it's all very subjective. Subjectivity, though, as we know, is inevitable and always at issue, i.e., we all of us are inextricably tied to our respective cultural contexts, and can never be wholly objective about anything, especially naked bodies. There is no such thing as a coolly objective, emotionless regard, completely lacking in sentiment.

IOW, what you feel about it is unavoidable. Sturges would have us believe that there's only one, liberated, way to see them--an assertion with which I tend to disagree. His is only one way, and perhaps not the most compelling, or correct, way.

J said...

Well, since we're waxing aesthetically, I don't think they are so erotic, but as you suggest sort of about the models themselves: 13 going on 35 or something. The photographer. challenges the usual idea of teens (or younger persons) as innocent, or something. But knowing a bit about the Ahht world, I am sure some rich dweebs...get off on them, or hang the pics in the boudoir, or something.


But compared to a lot of nasty--and illegal--cyber porn, they are not that offensive, though I'm sure the usual monotheistic moralist (ie jew/xtian/muslim) finds them offensive. Now, were the gals actually having sex--i.e. sapphic action---or if an adult female or male was involved, Struges would I think move from erotica into porno, and would deserve condemnation.

That said, as photographic art they don't do much for me, even compared to your previous shutterbug Garnett's pics of dunes, etc. I'm not so into photography as an art-form. Ansel Adams or Weston had a certain skill (same for filmmakers, really), perhaps, but Rembrandts or Renoirs they are not--and alas, the Weston-wannabe often becomes a Sturges, I think. Rich collectors tire of dunes and mountains--they probably don't get tired with Lolita.

Kirby Olson said...

Basically, Curtis, I think they're probably illegal, and could get you into trouble.

I don't think adults should exploit kids in this way. I'm not sure about the legality of it.

The French seem to accept Polanski.

few americans do.

I wish you would take them down. I think it's probably illegal.

I like coming here, but will try not to come over for a month or so until these have been archived. Let me know if you take them down.

to me it's as bas looking at a kid whose head has been chopped off.

I can't stan dit when the innocence of kids is not protected.

adios, amigo!

Curtis Faville said...

J:

I'm not certain you have a clear opinion about this stuff, but that's okay.

Photography isn't for everyone.

Either you like it, or you don't. Personally, I've always found Renoir to be a complete bore.

Okay, gotta go. Talk to you later (maybe tomorrow).

Ed Baker said...

i see
here
an element of
a documentation

reportage

much akin to that Ut photo

(can't put my finger on my piece but email me and i will send it to you)

and

images of people in nazi camps also come to mind

maybe it is the presentationing as the color (sepia?) of the images ) dictate

not exactly my "cup of tea"

but I accept...

also comes to mind

Egon Shielle and Balthus

I also tink that you will come up against

Politics and Religion..

both bologna!

Ed Baker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J said...

Kirby the Snitch and Foxnewster, back in action. And he supposedly hung out with the "beats' at one point, most of whom faced obscenity charges of one type or another.

Watch out, CF, or you could be reported like to the Nancy Grace show or something.

Put down the lollipop, Mr Faville, and come along quietly.

What's amazing is that Olson's taken seriously by the Silliman crowd, and by others. (and note Silliman, that confused moderate and moralist has said nothing about KO's praise of Foxnews, his endless evangelical hype, his love for Palin, BushCo, capitalism, etc. I have made a few comments on S-mans' blog about neo-cons, AIPAC, Foxnews and Silliman tries to call ME a conservative. BS. I've never been in GOP. Opposed Prop. 8. Oppose Foxnews, BushCo, neo-cons. And oppose Silliman's highly moderated, neo-liberal pseudo-PC blog ).

jh said...

perhaps all photography
is a violation of sorts
degrees of violation

the lie within the truth

jh

Anonymous said...

Your point of view of Jock's work is "fair" in the way you express your opinion rather than damning which you deserve credit for. Unfortunately, our western views on nudity, and sexuality and whether or not the two are always or should be connected are etched into our heads at an early age. Keep in mind that Sturges has photographed the same families for over 20 years now, and holds his subjects dearly as close friends. These "pre-pubescent" girls which you have posted here, are in their late 20s now, and hope that when they have children that Sturges will be willing to keep telling the family story. Sturges work is more than photographing young girls as many like to stereotype his work as. His work is more about the evolution of the beauty of the body. If you pay attention to the bodies of work over time, his models are photographed every year, from the time they are toddlers to adults. Nude, yes, but his subjects are naturist families from Europe who are accustomed to and prefer to live without the confines of having to wear clothing every day. They live their summers unashamed, and equal in their naturist resorts in south France, and raise their children to be proud of their own skin and not be ashamed of it.
Here in the west, we are not lucky enough to own these values, and though everyday life, schooling, media, advertising etc. we "sexualize" almost everything which adds to the opinions that people have when they first view the work of Sturges. Automatically, the images should be hidden, secret, people who are used to everything being "sexualized" think they are dirty, unacceptable. One must view the images and understand the background with a clear head, and open mind, and it's easy to realize that the images are all about the person, and not sexualizing the person, or making pornography. Every image I have seen from Sturges has been celebration of that person, no matter how young, or old the subject may be. They are a true hommage to beauty in many forms, and as honest as one can be. Bravo!

Curtis Faville said...

Dear Anon:

I would be inclined to accede to almost all of your justifications, here, but for the fact that Sturges seems to have devoted nearly his whole efforts to the same subject-matter.

You try to claim that he's "tracking" people over time, as if that, in itself, somehow justified the idea of pure nudity. That doesn't wash. No viewer is going to trace this implied lineage over time on a subject by subject basis. The images are presented as narrowly focused obsession on a single aspect: Young girls at the pre-pubescent stage of maturation. Few of them, in my view, appear "comfortable" or "at ease" with the occasion.

As I explain in my post, our deeper natures--and our pre-historical "primitive" behavior--legislate against the strictures which society has placed on nudity. But we can't not see ourselves as sexual beings, because we are. No amount of rationalization can change that fact.

Sally Mann's portraits of her nude daughter speak to a different emphasis, and of course she explores many different subject areas.

If Sturges's work were more various and eclectic, there might be some justification for finding in his nude portraits an interest that transcended vicarious obsession, but his career has been maniacal. One portrait, perhaps 20, but hundreds and thousands?...that's not natural, and I question his motive.

Anonymous said...

We'll agree to not agree on the basis that I have been a supporter of Sturges' work for years, and have met, and discussed his photography at length.

I will leave this for your viewers, and yourself to digest, and perhaps, or perhaps not you may have a different view after reading.

http://weeklywire.com/ww/04-20-98/boston_feature_1.html

It's a few years old, but addresses many of the issues that you put forth in your forum here. Enjoy!

Curtis Faville said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Curtis Faville said...

Sturges's work treads precariously on the edge of child pornography.

Any single image--as such--stripped of all its associations, is bland and empty. But humans are incapable of seeing things stripped of all associations. It's impossible.

The most primitive, or the most sophisticated among us--in history--would be incapable of seeing another human being shorn of identity, shorn of sexual significance, empty of meaning and purpose. People are not animals. But even animals are incapable of seeing each other as "things."

There is no "perfected" state of regard one can enter, which cleanses one's sense of responsibility to oneself, one's identity, and the integrity and identity and fragility of others.

Sturges's work speaks for itself. I'm really not interested in his justifications. Or the fact that there are practicing nudists in France and Scandanavia. They didn't ask him to come photograph them. That was his idea. His obsession. The longer he does it, the more he marks himself.

Anonymous said...

You're over compensating Mr. Curtis. Nudity is not pornography. If you think so, It's your issue. Plain and simple. The more you try to project your insecurities onto the art, the more you mark yourself.

Curtis Faville said...

Okay. "You're over compensating...Nudity is not pornograhy."

Ah, overcompensating for what? Pornography certainly is nudity, or controlled nudity. Of course--in a wholly discrete, philosophical sense--nudity isn't pornography, but nudity is neveer neutral. A physician may regard the naked body of a patient as a neutral object in a clinical setting, but see it as "sexual" in another context.

I'm secure in my sexuality--I would have no reason to "project" my "insecurities" (whatever they may be) onto an artistic work.

We're talking about at least three things at once, here.

1) Nudity as art.

2) Nudity as pornography.

3) Sturges's photographs as art, or as sexual obsession.

There's simply no way of "separating" nudity from sexuality--it won't work, no matter how hard we try. If we define pornography as the portrayal of sexuality for the purposes of vicarious or licentious seduction or arousal, then pornography could be separated for the purposes of argument, from sexuality. But trying to separate the components of arousal from the aspects of artistic regard is an impossible task. Everyone is sexual. Every body is (at least potentially) sexual.

I agree with you: "Nudity is not pornography."

Using my definition of pornography, Sturges's use of nudity contextualizes it as arousal--he sees young girls as sexual beings, and his obsession is single-minded, and unrelieved. He's maniacal.

Does that mean he should be censored? No.

Does that mean he's a weaker, less significant artist? Yes.

No point in trying to bait me with [my] "insecurities." That won't work. I'm not hung up the way Sturges is.

Barry said...

What is wrong with nude children? Nothing!
Them beeing nude does not mean they are getting raped or something...
It is plainly just a nude person at a younger age. What is so wrong?
Nudity in general is also nothing wrong with.
Some hate nudity and also love to hail soldiers who have just arrived back home from some war where they have murdered people.
Military is something to get upset about! Still you love soldiers who have murdered - and you hate nudity as you believe it

to be much worse. Grow up people!
Look at nudity with a sence of logic. Do not think with your heart - think with your brain!
What has soldiers to do with this, you might say - nothing maybe! But can you not see the example and what it is: why be upset about innocent pictures, when there are killings going on in the name of liberty. Why get upset with innocent things. Of course there are murderers and rapists and childmolesters out there, sure...but innocent pictures has nothing to do with that. How many children are not wandering round nude on the beach - who really cares? Noone! What is rong with a picture then? Grow up people!

Curtis Faville said...

Barry:

I'm not sure your post is a real response to my entry.

Are you familiar with Sturges's books? Do you have an interest in serious art photography?

Context is everything. Obviously the only meanings which objects (and people) have are what we give them. What meanings does Sturges wish to impart about the images of little girls he photographs? He's spent the better part of his adult life primarily photographing them, as if nothing else mattered.

Psychologists would say this points to something in his nature. He's obsessed.

That does not suggest that the girls are troubled, or that you or I have some prurient interest in the images. But it does say something about Sturges. It isn't nudity per se that's at issue, but what's done with it.

Adult women aren't prurient, or any less "innocent" from a purely objective viewpoint, either. It's "how" they are seen that matters. Nudes, for instance, done the way Ruth Bernhard does them, are much different than those done, for instance, by a photographer working for a porn magazine (boudoir).

I don't really think attitudes about returning soldiers are relevant to my post.

I think we can agree that nudity is not, from a purely objective viewpoint, wrong or prurient. But photographing young girls in European nudist beaches, and then publishing those images in books intended for the sophisticated art audience, in America, is peculiar, to say the least. A handful of images, part of a larger body of work on the human form, might make sense. But a single-minded obsessive concentration on just this one subject is weird, and troubling. Unless, of course, you're one of those who has an inordinate interest in the images.

Ed Baker said...

"speaking" of/to photogs/art/nudes
well I got a couple of books here you understand for med
icinal purposes only:
and
through their various "eyes/lenses"
I peruse the shapes and shadows..
-William Ewing's (huge)
The Body (Photography of the Human Form)
-Jakubowski's and Lewis' (also huge)
The Mamoth Book of Erotica

- Speliotis' (skinny)
Asia Bondage

(which me and "what's-her-face" saw some of his/these at and opening of his work in The City in 2001 abot a week or so before The Towers came down..

all I say ALL of the photos in above books are via Black and White

etc.

pee est: what is in viewer's/reader's mind/heart/experiences determines how (any) thing is inter=per-rated!

now, let's see... see where my Collected Balthus is...

and,

I tell yuh: I look at lots of "stuff" with my "eyes" shut tight!

Cellini said...

It is strange that when any other kind of artist has a particular muse, and returns to it to the point of neglecting any other -- B. B King and the Blues, for instance (who has ever heard him play anything else more than a time or two?) or Arlen Ness and motorcycles -- well, I could go on, but the number of examples is exhaustive and apparent -- it is perceived as a passion, a life-work and perfectly natural and right. But when Sturges finds a particular beauty -- an artistic muse, if you will -- in the young female form, there is a much different reaction.

For me, the question is -- who is there who can argue with his aesthetic acumen? The images he has shared with us are many, many-faceted, sure, but above all they are beautiful to behold. The children caught in his lens are inspiring on a purely aesthetic level of appreciation. Whoever says that the human body is simply a collection of functions might say the same thing about a 1964 Corvette, too -- all that shows me is some missing element of appreciation. Which is fine. Not everyone sees the beauty in automobiles -- many see only a machine made for driving. So, there are those for whom the image of a naked female (of any age, probably) only evokes utilitarian thoughts of sex. So it follows that if the female is under the accepted age of consent, the image must be perceived as prurient and a violation of the child's innocence -- and the creator of the image a monster.

If a Martian landed on our planet tomorrow and asked for a reasonable explanation of our species, how could we possibly defend the fact that -- even though we have been living together for several hundred thousand years -- we still have not gotten used to the sight of each other without artificial coverings, and indeed find the image of each other without them to be offensive, even criminal? And yet, as has been pointed out in these comments, we find the fictional -- and even factual -- depiction of bloody murder to be a form of entertainment to which children are regularly invited.

At the heart of this disagreement is the difference between intrinsic and utilitarian values, not only in the world of Art but in all human endeavors and relationships. If you do not find children to be intrinsically beautiful, at least have the honesty to say so at the outset before mounting your attack on Mr. Sturges.

Curtis Faville said...

Cellini:

Thank you for commenting. I welcome comment, and disagreement, and am happy to engage with you.

Let me address your points one by one, working from your points in quotation:

"It is strange that when any other kind of artist has a particular muse, and returns to it to the point of neglecting any other -- B. B King and the Blues, for instance (who has ever heard him play anything else more than a time or two?) or Arlen Ness and motorcycles -- well, I could go on, but the number of examples is exhaustive and apparent -- it is perceived as a passion, a life-work and perfectly natural and right. But when Sturges finds a particular beauty -- an artistic muse, if you will -- in the young female form, there is a much different reaction."

No one is saying that Mr. Sturges can't have his muses. I have mine. You, perhaps, have yours. These are mental states and conditions, which all humanity shares. The question arises when someone decides objectify one's muse by making art out of it. Picasso made many paintings and sketches and so forth,--representations in one form or another--of young women. But there is a classical purity in them--they are not specific individuals, but idealized versions of young women. One might seize the opportunity to suggest that Picasso shared something of Sturges's fascination with pre-pubescent girls, but that's another argument.

Photography is a "mirror" to reality. In it, identity and personality are captured, specifically--not generalized, not made into classic, generic ideals or ideals forms or bodies--but specifically, referring to certain individuals, unique personalities. When a photograph of an individual is taken (made), the meaning and purpose to which that image refers, arises as a right and a privilege. In photojournalism, "model releases" are typically secured, to guard against claims of unwarranted invasion or illegitimate use. A photograph of anyone--nude or otherwise--raises questions of right of reproduction, of permitted use. When anyone takes a picture of anyone, nude, there is a legal issue of use and application. In the plastic arts, legal use and application aren't at issue, because there's no specificity of identity. Which is what obviates this matter for Picasso, for instance, whilst Sturges must deal with it in every instance.

Curtis Faville said...

Part II

"For me, the question is -- who is there who can argue with his aesthetic acumen? The images he has shared with us are many, many-faceted, sure, but above all they are beautiful to behold."

The question of aesthetic justification is a matter of taste. My point about Sturges is that the question of the suitability of the images must be viewed from two vantages: One, legal; Two, aesthetic. I would not be against the making of a permitted picture of pre-pubescent children, provided the circumstance and the occasion were clearly non-pornographic in nature. What one feels about the "beauty" of pre-pubescent children is entirely irrelevant to this part of the discussion, given that they are not shown engaging in bestial or gross acts.

"The children caught in his lens are inspiring on a purely aesthetic level of appreciation."

Who is qualified to make this distinction? Are you? Wouldn't that require that we get inside Sturges's head to find out exactly what HE thinks about this stuff? My point, which I have expressed several times, is that Sturges's approach is obsessive and single-minded: It isn't as if he liked to take pictures of women, or nudes, or people, or all kinds of subject-matter; he focuses solely on nude pre-pubescent girls, to the exclusion of almost every other kind of subject-matter. This narrow, fanatical attention is proof of the unnatural, over-weighted, unbalanced quality of his regard.

"Whoever says that the human body is simply a collection of functions might say the same thing about a 1964 Corvette...."

My point is that from a purely scientific or objective point of view (which is in any case, impossible for any human being, in the end), children are NOT sexual objects. It's only when they ARE seen as sexual objects, that such pictures become the means of an exploitation of their individual personalities and presences.

Curtis Faville said...

Part III

"...too -- all that shows me is some missing element of appreciation. Which is fine. Not everyone sees the beauty in automobiles -- many see only a machine made for driving. So, there are those for whom the image of a naked female (of any age, probably) only evokes utilitarian thoughts of sex."

No. Regarding pre-pubescent girls as sexual objects isn't rational. It isn't like finding a Corvette or an Alpha Romeo "sexy". Pre-pubescent girls can't conceive, are not yet "ready" to procreate. Conceiving of them as having a sexual nature, even in an immature state, denies the meaning of their personalities. It's only a misguided personality which views them as sexual objects per se, as if their function (as fully sexual beings) were somehow separable from their immature bodies.

"So it follows that if the female is under the accepted age of consent, the image must be perceived as prurient and a violation of the child's innocence -- and the creator of the image a monster."

No. The point about Sturges isn't that he just happened to wander onto a nude beach in Holland one day, and started snapping. His whole career has been devoted to the image of the immature female--the pre-pubescent girl. His obsessive concentration on this one aspect, shows that, for him, this isn't just one casual expression of his aesthetic nature, but an abnormal diversion of the aesthetic impulse, into a single-minded pursuit of specific, innocent, vulnerable children. Their innocence and immaturity fascinate him--he's helpless to control to channel his reaction to them, to keep a sense of equal measure.

"If a Martian landed on our planet tomorrow and asked for a reasonable explanation of our species, how could we possibly defend the fact that -- even though we have been living together for several hundred thousand years -- we still have not gotten used to the sight of each other without artificial coverings, and indeed find the image of each other without them to be offensive, even criminal?"

The difference is in how we go about it. Approach matters. For human beings, there's no such thing as a totally inert, unexpressive naked body. Nature didn't intend that we should respond with neutral disinterest to others--whether male or female. Our difference is the basis of the mating game.

Curtis Faville said...

Part IV

" And yet, as has been pointed out in these comments, we find the fictional -- and even factual -- depiction of bloody murder to be a form of entertainment to which children are regularly invited."

The existence of violence, and our over-exploitation of visualized violent behavior--does not vacate the power of the sexual in our natures. The fact that we can tolerate the depiction of torture or suffering or violence does not even suggest that the depiction of sex is either good or bad, or a matter of indifference. We could argue about whether showing armies in battle is good or bad; but that's a completely different question from whether we should allow ourselves to study and consider images of pre-pubescent children, at length, and with concentrated interest. What are the motives for doing so?

"At the heart of this disagreement is the difference between intrinsic and utilitarian values, not only in the world of Art but in all human endeavors and relationships. If you do not find children to be intrinsically beautiful, at least have the honesty to say so at the outset before mounting your attack on Mr. Sturges."

My post was not an "attack" on Mr. Sturges. I was attempting to consider his work from a purely aesthetic point of view. I found his images to be repetitive, and lacking in formal interest. Most of the poses, and the expressions and moods of his subjects, seemed to me to be strained, and uncomfortable, even, at times, embarrassed. It suggested to me that this discomfort was a necessary component of Sturges's approach, with "clinical" overtones, which I found disturbing and not in the least aesthetic in their implications.

Alex said...

I find it laughable that anyone asked you to take this down as you can jog on over to amazon and see a very small sample of his disgusting, deplorable, and exploitative child pornography.

Sara said...

People are so brainwashed the human body is beautiful and its just warped thinking that makes it phonographic.

Anonymous said...

I am a life-long nudist who also happens to be interested in art.Whenever an "artist" marches forward and declares an interest in the nude form,I'm always the first to look for an ulterior motive or a hidden agenda. It's not art just because you say it is,in other words. Spencer Tunick,for example,is just a photographer who snaps nudes,NOT an artist. His photos are sometimes very nice,and his mass photoshoots are wonderful public events that the World could use more of,but the resulting images are NOT fine art by any measure.

I've examined Sturges' work with a jaundiced eye,and I think he's brilliant. His photos convey action,emotion and feeling,his 'subjects' aren't just subjects,they're people. I might venture that the fact that his subjects are so often girls of a certain age might be reflective of the fact that it's the MOST unexplored territory that there is. MANY people who take pics of nudes will put the camera AWAY if a "minor" drifts into the lens,ESPECIALLY a female. Even if there's no bad intention,there's a general sense of being on "dangerous ground".

Sturges,like mant artists in many fields,probably sensed at one point that there was a subject matter that was unexplored. SO,he simply discovers and presents what others don't dare to,for reasons that border on paranoia. People are so afraid of being branded as a pedo(and with good reason,those deviates have no place in a true society)that they simply 'don't go there'. Sturges dares to 'go there',and he has ENDLESS ground to cover. He does it with artistry and style. EVERY aspect of humanity should be documented by someone artistically inclined,and Jock Sturges documents the phase that NOBODY else dares. Bravo.

Curtis Faville said...

It is possible that an artist may be skilled and talented AND also somewhat perverted. The intersection of art and perversion may or may not be a matter of concern, aesthetically. It's possible to look through Sturges's eyes and see these things as compositions and expressions of complex regard, but mixed with that--and integrated onto it--is the preoccupation with pubescent or pre-pubescent girls.

As I tried to make clear, this fascination has pre-historical roots. But we (at least in the West) haven't lived in tribes under conditions of primitive indoctrination for thousands of years. In our culture, a focus upon young girls is defined as abnormal.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe the amount of time Curtis devotes to spouting about things he knows little or nothing about. I have know Jock for years, am a friend of his and have sat in his pictures, as have my children and the children of many dear friends of mine. we all love Jock, trust Jock, eat with him, work with him and rest with him at the end of a hard day making photographs memories and yes, art. I have never seen a child uncomfortable while sitting for Jock. In fact they are all proud and pleased to be part of this life-long project. We live in peace, free of clothing, when it's convenient. We are free of the oversexualized hyper-moral craziness we see here illustrated so eloquently by you. You represent what we avoid. Thanks for confirming that how we choose to live is the right decision after all.

eM said...

pedo-photography

Horace said...

I thought there is a certain level which a nude photo would be conceded as pedo pics

Curtis Faville said...

I don't wish to be evasive.

I'm not a lawyer, so if you have legal questions or issues, you should consult one, or study the question yourself.

My point is that the context determines how one views these images. How we "feel" about them isn't a matter of a single, one-size-fits-all, case. You can't plug an image into a magic meter and determine whether it crosses the line, or not. "I know it when I see it" seems a poor yardstick for applying any kind of censorship. However, we all probably do agree that there is a line, and when it's crossed, we have a problem.

From a purely aesthetic point of view, Sturges's images don't move me much. Since I'm not a pedefile, I can't offer any opinion on their value as pornography. I do impute an "obsessive" focus on the subject matter, which suggests to me that, for the photographer, it transcends art as an expression of something personally driven. That may be where he crosses the line. A disinterested regard for the nude, wouldn't be expressed as a maniacal insistence on young girls.

Thomas Robertson said...

Hello, Curtis Faville!

>>>> No one who so single-mindedly, and determinedly, labored so hard to expose a forbidden subject as Sturges has done, can claim not to have some very powerful person (and ulterior) motives.

I agree, and Sturges seems to agree too. On page 85 of The Last Day of Summer, Sturges admits that his motives are not altogether artistic. He grew up with brothers only, which rendered girls' bodies a mystery to him.

Juvenile flesh could serve as a symbol for escape from urbanized society. American photographer Clarence H. White (1871-1925) often visited a friend at his summer home in Maine. At that friend's home, he posed his own children in their natural state for mythological scenes.
In his book Alfred Stieglitz and the Photo-Secession, W. I. Homer suggests that this was an effort to escape the life of the city, where he spent most of the year. This is quite possible, because White later bought a summer home of his own.

Or the photographer could be searching for sexual liberation. According to an anonymous reviewer for Reprint Bulletin in 1979, the photographs by Wilhelm von Gloeden were "an attempt to recreate the permissive atmosphere of the culture of ancient Greece free from what the photographer considered to be burdensome modern sexual convention."

Thomas Robertson said...

Hello, J!

>>>>Nabokov's Lolita presents slightly idfferent issues. For one, it's a novel, not merely photos.

I have a lot to say about Lolita.
To read what I have to say, click right here:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/richpub/syltguides/fullview/3CJLVCD0SVNV1/ref=cm_sylt_byauthor_title_full_10

Thomas Robertson said...

Hello again, Curtis Faville!

>>>> I think we can agree that nudity is not, form a purely objective viewpoint, wrong or prurient. But photographing young girls in European nudist beaches, and ten publishing those images in books intended for the sophisticated art audience, in America, is peculiar, to say the least. A handful of images, part of a larger body of work on the human form, might make sense. But a single-minded obsessive concentration on just this one subject is weird, and troubling. Unless, of course, you're on of those who has an inordinate interest in the images.

I agree. In my opinion, it is permissible to photograph nude girls OR nude boys OR nude women OR nude men if you photograph nude girls AND nude boys AND nude women AND nude men. The message which I get from photographers like Sturges is that "these subjects are beautiful but you're not." On the other hand, the message that I get from undiscriminating photographers like Joyce Tenneson, Starr Ockenga, John Benson, and Robert Mapplethorpe is that "these subjects are beautiful and you are too."

I could name a few more unfavorable photographers besides Sturges. Sally Mann made numerous full-length frontal nude portraits of her two daughters, but none of her son. In a 1994 interview with Woman's Art Magazine, she said, "I don't find men as interesting as women. In fact I don't like men very much. I'm sorry."

Sheila Metzner is also on my list. She took several nude portraits of girls and young women, including her two daughters. Yet she only paid an occasional grudging tribute to the male gender by photographing a bare chest. The only photographs of her son Louie were fully clothed portraits.

Other such offenders are David Hamilton and Graham Ovenden for photographing only girls, and Wilhelm von Gloeden and Baron Corvo for photographing only boys.

Charles du Bois Hodges photographed children of both genders, but still, he only photographed children. His reason was that "immature forms often have a vivid truthfulness lost in the fully developed body." I don't know what that meant, but it probably meant "stripping children and showing them off gives me a buzz."

Don't get me wrong, I am not taking issue with those photographers' gender or age preferences. A person's gender or age preference is something which is determined by the age of puberty. I am only saying that a photographer of any proclivity could develop a healthy pansexuality by branching out. Mapplethorpe was a homosexual, but that didn't stop him from admiring people of all ages and both genders.

Incidentally, S. Tallman critized Sturges in a 1991 issue of Arts Magazine, and for the same reason that you did.

Curtis Faville said...

Mr. Robertson:

Thank you for commenting on this essay.

I am not laying down any rules for free speech--quite the contrary.

My point is an aesthetic one, and secondarily a statement about risk.

Your point about the possible therapeutic values of artistic exploration is well-taken. The problem comes when such exploration crosses a line, between private, personal documentation, and public display and claims of aesthetic function. One man's "liberation" may be another man's confinement. It certainly is possible to surmise that 8-14 year old girls are not fully cognizant of the consequences of their actions in this regard, and must depend upon parents (or others) to judge the appropriateness of certain choices for them. A girl whose naked image is displayed of her at age 10, may indeed eventually come to regret and resent the purposes to which her gullible or credulous "permission" were put, before she was mature enough to understand the consequences.

"Juvenile flesh could serve as a symbol for escape from urbanized society."

It certainly could. But w'ere not speaking of behavior here. It seems well-established that in primitive society, sexual behavior of the "Lolita"-kind was very common--indeed it is still practiced in primitive cultures to this day. Whether one regards the girls as victims or not depends on one's sexual politics. My point is that our civilization has come to define sexual behavior and maturity in ways that normalize some behaviors, while defining others as eccentric or "abnormal." It's folly to pretend that our society doesn't have such attitudes, or believe that challenging them through "transgressive" acts like displaying forbidden photos will not generate a reaction.

Sturges willfully and deliberately offends our morés, by displaying detailed photographs of young girls. As an artist, he shows an obsessive concentration upon them as subject-matter. This single-minded obsession is aesthetically barren, and brings into question is real intention. If he's truly interested in the body as art, his images would show more variety and elaboration. On the contrary, they're unimaginative and bland. The subjects rarely look comfortable. This "discomfort" I would argue wors against any possible "artistic" interpretation of his program.

Curtis Faville said...

Robertson:

"The message which I get from photographers like Sturges is that "these subjects are beautiful but you're not." On the other hand, the message that I get from undiscriminating photographers like Joyce Tenneson, Starr Ockenga, John Benson, and Robert Mapplethorpe is that "these subjects are beautiful and you are too."

I don't think I can agree with this part. The definition of any portrait art can't be simply that it celebrates all human form, regardless of discrimination. There ARE beautiful people, of both genders, and the fashion world recognizes this. "Model" bodies aren't common throughout the population, and I wouldn't require that any portrait make ME feel good, as a criteria for the quality or permission. Maria Berenson is more beautiful than most women, and Brad Pitt is more beautiful than most men. But I don't demand that pictures of people like this make ME feel more beautiful, as a criteria for legitimacy.

I can be made to feel better generally about humanity, from photographs (or any art), but I can't relinquish my discrimination amongst individuals as a pre-condition to appreciation of imagery. That simply doesn't hold water.

I don't think we can rationally reconcile the contradiction between primitive regard originating in an "uncivilized" culture (actually there's no such thing as an uncivilized culture, from a scientific point of view) and that "tempered" by civilizing traditions and prohibitions. We can only mediate amongst alternatives within our present context. Context is everything in culture.

Ed Baker said...

My grandmother had my father in 1916
when she was just beyond age 13...


the "age of maturity" then in most especially agrarian
(farming) cultures.

as soon as they could "make" farm workers
the better for the family... Pops had a chicken farm outside of Riga and his dad
had a chicken farm somewhere in Northern Russia

then chicken farm and grocery stores in Baltimore around 1893 or so...

most cultures even today consider a 13-16 year old girl who has not married and had children by then
"failures" (or worse)


Ed

Anonymous said...

It is possible to show nude babies, little children of age 3 to 8, here is a blank part, and adults from age 18 up to 100. THIS blank part is not normal. All can be beautiful: objects, plants, animals and humans. It can be beautiful the baby, the child, the young teen, adult and the elderly - in accordance with its age. Why not to show their beauty by the art? It's like, the nudity is crime for a teen, or they have no body, or yes, they have body, but must be kept secret from the world.. this is not normal. I don't talk about sex or porno, I talk about beauty and art! People should be able to distinguish. Hope you understand what I wrote. Sorry about my english - I never learned. I just know a few words.

tyler said...

so if you want to stick more on go ahead nobody is stopping you its not illegal the human body should be free not caged in clothes all the time as a nudest i think it is perfectly healthy for the preteens in the itch above to be nude


but please remember being nude at 0 to 18 is okay but doing it in a sex appealing way becuse we are all nude and wye would we whant to hide it we was made in god image so we should stay like it.

and do you no the amount of people that take pitchers of there kids nude and stick it on the web
the law has cadged us in we need to be free like a bird to flap our wings no matter how old.

JD said...

I know this is an old post, I only recently started to read your blog and found it looked through the archives. I feel compelled to comment, however, as I have thought a great deal about Jock Sturges' work since first seeing an exhibition of it at a gallery in New Orleans a few years ago.

First, I will say that unlike yourself, the photographs did not make my uncomfortable, and I was struck by the profound beauty of them. The particular series that was being shown mostly involved girls who appeared to be in their late teens and twenties, rather than prepubescent, and were set in beautiful landscapes as well; but I have since looked into his other work, such as the examples you posted, and they do not make me particularly uncomfortable either.

I think that speculating about Mr. Sturges' psychology is an exercise in futility and fundamentally misses the point. The minds of others, especially those we do not know personally, are impenetrable to us (though, given that, as another commenter pointed out, he has long-term friendships with his subjects, I cannot imagine there is truly any kind of abuse involved). More than worry about the nature of Sturges' fixation on the young female body, we should be asking what his works does as it is put out into the world. A private obsession becomes art precisely because it is disseminated into a cultural context and takes on a life of its own, outside of authorial intention.

As an anthropologist, I have to constantly question my own preconceptions, the assumptions that I take for granted but which I often discover are not universal. In a certain society in New Guinea (the name escapes me at the moment) there is a yearly ritual in which the young boys perform oral sex on the older men in a religious context. They believe that this process imbues the younger men with fertility and allows them to grow into manhood. It has gone on, generation to generation, for thousands of years. To us, this may seem shocking, disgusting, and perverted. But for them it is a totally normal and accepted aspect of existence, which makes perfect logical sense within their understanding of the relationship between the natural and spiritual worlds.

So if seeing the work of Jock Sturges makes you somewhat uncomfortable, then perhaps it is doing just what it is supposed to do. In my view, Mr. Sturges' works forces us to question WHY that uncomfortable sensation arises when we see a young, naked girl.

In America, and much of the world, we live in a "rape culture", in which abused people are blamed, directly or indirectly, for that abuse. We live in a world in which young people, but particularly young women, are taught to be ashamed of their bodies; are taught that experiencing the bodies sensations, including sexuality, is morally wrong, while simultaneously being confronted with a hypersexualized, hyperidealized version of femininity to which they must aspire or face social ostracization. This is why eating disorders are so sickeningly common, and in my opinion, it has a lot to do with why 25% of American women take psychiatric medication but only 15% of American men do. And this is not universal. Anthropological and psychological research has shown that eating disorders being to appear in societies not long after American media shows up.

I would suggest that it is these sickening realities, and the moral and cultural fabrics that underlie them, which make one feel uncomfortable when seeing young female bodies presented in a shameless, beautiful way. It plays on the intertwining of sexual shame and hypersexualization that runs through American culture. As such, I think that Sturges' work is powerful and courageous, and that it confronts realities through the use of beauty and art that few are willing to confront

Curtis Faville said...

JD:

Part I -

You are late to the discussion, and unfortunately many of the commentators raised these same issues previously, and I've responded to them.

My reaction to Sturges's images was not that they were "shocking" and should be banned. It was on behalf of the subjects' own lives. I don't happen to believe that young women of this age have a comprehensive understanding of the meaning of this kind of submission. The rare exception certainly exists, but to presume that a typical 10 year old girl understands the consequences of being the subject of an edgy art nude photograph is beyond the odds.

It may be folly to imagine what the artist is thinking, but we have the work to judge it by. If I only took pictures of the rear ends of horses, for instance, one might reasonably deduce that I had an obsession with horses' asses. Sturges's failure to foreground any other kind of subject-matter suggests that his focus is out of balance. No one who didn't have some underlying obsession with pre-pubescent girls would go to such lengths to objectify them in this way. The "prurient" content derives from the specific manner of his regard, which we deduce from the images themselves, not from his explanation of them.

Sturges is free to call his pictures whatever he wants, but that doesn't free the viewers of their cultural contexts. In primitive societies, men see young girls in a different way. They don't experience them "pornographically"--actually we don't have a language to describe how they really do feel, but suffice it to say they don't see them in terms of a masturbatory fetishization.

Sturges's work exists and functions within the context of contemporary art photography, which means that these young girls can't simply be seen, or interpreted, as bland, or liberating, or sweet. We can't vacate our cultural associations and preconceptions--can't suspend them consciously--and focus on them as some kind of "pure" or neutral state of primitive grace.

Sturges's work does not function as a counterpoint to the hypersexualized modern cultural paradigm of women as an exploited class. His work is every bit as exploitative and deliberate as any "fashion" nudity, or boudoir nudity, or soft- or hard-core pornography. It can't be "separated" intellectually to suit the case.

If Sturges were interested in de-mystifying the girls (women), he wouldn't photograph them in this way. If he had a balanced point of view with respect to a probable range of subject matters, he wouldn't focus on this one aspect to the exclusion of all others. In a professional sense, it's been his ticket to notoriety. In an aesthetic sense, the obsession is tiresome and unsettling--not for "personal" or prejudicial reasons.

You mention anorexia and shame and hybridization of the feminine form, but there's nothing in Sturges's images--or his approach to them--which would suggest that these girls, or those who appreciate them, wouldn't suffer from the very same kinds of problems. In fact, the images would reinforce the very kind of obsessive pedaphilic regard which you imply is part of the problem. You condemn those who indulge in "pornographic" imagery of the feminine form, but seem unable to comprehend that seeing little girls as sexual objects is really no different, except that they're not only immature sexual bodies, but immature psychologically as well. "Adult pornography" may be revolting and unnatural, but at least it involves the application of a "natural" fantasy--the desire for sublimated adult sexual engagement.

Curtis Faville said...

Part II

In a naturally permissive, psychologically healthy society, no one would think to construct a body of work like this. Nudists generally aren't interested in making art monographs of themselves. For one thing, few of them would be "inspiring" subjects for that. It's those young girls, thin and tanned and free as young birds, who inspire Sturges: They're his little models, and he's utterly obsessed with them.

What amazes me is how commentators will use the very same arguments to defend Sturges, as purveyors of openly pornographic imagery do. "It may be abnormal for you, but it's normal for us!" or "you're just hung up, you can't see how tortured and prurient you've become." As if defending one kind of sexuality against another was simply a pointless dialectic, ungrounded in context.

One could, indeed, construct a very convincing argument around the proposition that Sturges is the very embodiment of the reaction against puritanical values which you pretend to abhor--that he really wants us to see little girls as sexual objects, and that this is the crux of his program--to legitimate his own obsession.

The notion that Sturges is to be regarded as some kind of crusader against inhibition or prurience is equally fallacious. If people were as "healthy" and ethically mature as you think they should be, Sturges's work would be of absolutely not interest whatsoever; it is exactly that "unashamed beauty" which draws you to it. The minute the hypersexual "pressure" is removed, the entire program dissolves into irrelevance.

Powerful artists inevitably seek to convince us of their vision, even if (or when) it's grounded in a repugnant theme. Balthus, Joel Peter Witkin, Judy Chicago, etc.,--there is nothing ethically "redeeming" about their work unless you're willing to judge it as a purely formal proposition, unrelated to the moral implications from which it springs.

Balthus is a masterful painter, but this in no obviates its pediphilic content. We can't see Balthus's obsession over little girls as somehow "justified" by his art. Sturges may be a fine professional photographer, but this doesn't vacate his obsession, which is front and center in his aesthetic. Whether or not one sees the resulting imagery as a "crusade" against repression, or a liberating record of "beauty" as posterior to the work itself. Sturges has violated the modesty of immature children, for purely selfish ends. That is not what art is about.

Anonymous said...

Sturges has violated the modesty of immature children, for purely selfish ends.

Oh man, I could practically feel the arrogance dripping from this comment. Tell me, who is qualified to judge his intentions? Are you? Wouldn't that require that we get inside Sturges's head to find out exactly what HE thinks about this stuff?

Curtis Faville said...

Anon:

If you read the other comments, you should have seen that your remark was addressed already.

In the context of Sturges's own comments about his work, it's clear that his moral cover is just an excuse for personal obsession. Whether having a personal obsession which you turn into "art" constitutes a meaningful creative act is the question. Personally, I find his work dull, repetitive and bland. Its point seems to be about the embarrassment which the subjects feel. But the disclosures aren't interesting, unless you have a maniacal obsession with them. Exploitation occurs when the subjects of a medium can't take responsibility for the degree of their own vulnerability, and that's exactly what turns Sturges on. It isn't the nudity, per se, which is offensive. It's how Sturges feels about that (and them)--and he makes no secret about that.