Is this a good idea for kids?

A common and perfectly reasonable concern is: What is the effect of being photographed nude on children? Do they regret it? Are there any negative impacts? While such worries are well placed, there is empirical evidence which strongly suggests that it can be a very positive experience.

On a few occasions, I have re-photographed someone from one to ten or more years after the first time. While one may question whether an infant can cognitively understand what she is doing, many years later, her awareness will have grown considerably. Of all the girls whom I approached about being photographed again, only one said “No.” While she didn’t want to be re-photographed, she did not object to my using the picture we had made a few years before.
           
Another girl I photographed when she was 11 came to one of the project’s first exhibitions, at a women’s health center in Massachusetts. By then she was 16. The room, and hence the exhibition, was pretty small; as a result, this girl’s image was not included. Disappointed when she and her mom got there, she immediately volunteered to be photographed again, thinking that two chances were better than one!

I did get a request from the mother of one of the young girls to pull her picture from the series, which I did. Later, when the girl was in her 20s, our paths crossed again. She was then quite comfortable with being included. Her picture went back in.

Some have written their statement several years after the photo session—again an endorsement of their participation. I am unaware of any young girl I’ve ever photographed having any real misgivings about being in The Century Project. Why is this so?

The main reason may be that I am almost always approached first by a parent (usually Mom). Typically I meet with the girl’s mother and show her what the project is all about. She then goes home to talk it over with her daughter (and husband, if there is one). If it’s okay with the daughter (usually the case), the three of us then meet to look at pictures again. Finally, mother and daughter talk things over, notifying me of the decision later.

Parental support is the real key here. Although I often photograph the mother as well, sometimes Mom says “No” but her daughter says “Yes”!         

It is important to know that these children are not the average kids on the street—nor are the 40-, 50-, or 90-year-olds olds typical! My guess is that most kids would not want to be included in The Century Project.

An exception to the introduction through the mother involves girls who come to an exhibition with a parent and volunteer on the spot. This has happened twice. A third came by herself, volunteered, and announced that she was only 17. I told her to go get a parent. Her father was a professor at the school where I was exhibiting. A few minutes later Dad arrived; it turned out we had met at the exhibition the day before. He co-signed a release on the spot. I photographed his daughter a few days later.

Of course I have photo releases for everyone. In the case of minor children, it has been validated by a parent. The wording of the release specifically says that the photographs are to be nude, to avoid any confusion or misunderstanding about this. Under the proper circumstances, with parental permission and support, making legitimate nude pictures of kids is perfectly okay for them, and therefore totally acceptable.

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