> Someone should defend Sturges and Hamilton legally. Esthetically,
>they're on their own.
Thrown in almost as an afterthought the article makes a weak qualified
defence of Sturges' and Hamilton's right to expression. Note the "someone",
not the author of the NYT piece, but just "someone." Not "we" or "I."
This sort of thing happened during the Cleveland Art Institute Mapplethorpe
affair. Everyone took the censorship issue at hand to debate whether his
gay sado-masochistic images were good art, bad art, good taste or bad
taste. It is a mixing of apples and oranges and quite dangerous to our
freedom of expression. I have withheld any opinion of Sturges or Hamilton's
artistic merit precisely because it is not the issue and people who attempt
to mix this in are only creating a very dangerous fog.
The whole article reeks of "but he is not that good of an artist so blah
blah blah"... "women with small breasts......" Wow, she should review the
This article also smells of "if this goes down, good riddance." Remember
that is wasn't until the 40's that one could by a copy of James Joyce's
Ulysses in the United States, and when I read it for my "World Literature"
honors class in High School in 1958, Dr Kauffman, my teacher, advised me to
cover my Modern Library Edition with a book cover if I brought it to
school. It wasn't until I was much older that I realized what a risk he was
taking in that period of time. To some on the list those days might seem
like ancient history but for me it was just yesterday.
At 10:44 PM 3/4/98 -0500, NMValla wrote:
> Seen in the New York Times today :
>Critic's Notebook: Arresting Images of Innocence (or Perhaps Guilt)
>By SARAH BOXER
> The people who need defending on principle are not always the ones you
>actually want to defend. They may not be the worthiest people or the
>the wittiest. Often they are mediocre or gross or self-aggrandizing. Think of
>Larry Flynt, the publisher of Hustler. Or Karen Finley, the performance
>best known for smearing her body with chocolate. Just because they are under
>siege legally doesn't mean they are worth the trouble of defending on other
> Consider two photographers who have recently been called child
>pornographers. There is David Hamilton, whose book "Age of Innocence" (Arum
>Press) is full of simpering, soft-focus pictures of naked girls with budding
>breasts, paired with quotations about their forthcoming deflowering.
> And there is Jock Sturges, who posed nude, blond, teen-age girls and
>"Radiant Identities" and "The Last Days of Summer" (Aperture). After Sturges'
>studio was raided seven years ago by federal agents, a grand jury declined to
>indict him on charges of child pornography. He's back.
> Hamilton and Sturges are on the public's mind these days thanks to Randall
>Terry, the conservative radio talk-show host and founder of the anti-abortion
>group Operation Rescue, who prodded his followers to locate prosecutors
>interested in pressing a case against Barnes & Noble for selling books by
>Hamilton and Sturges. The plan worked.
> Last month, an Alabama grand jury indicted the company on 32 charges of
>child pornography for selling "obscene material containing visual
>of persons under 17 years of age involved in obscene acts." Three months
>earlier, a Tennessee grand jury indicted Barnes & Noble on similar charges
>displaying the two men's books without their plastic wrapping on shelves low
>enough for children to reach.
> In a related incident, the British police have seized one of Robert
>Mapplethorpe's books, which contains pictures of bondage and sadism, from the
>library of the University of Central England, in Birmingham. Calling it
>obscene, the police said they wanted to destroy the book, which survived an
>obscenity trial in Cincinnati 10 years ago.
> This is great advertising for Hamilton and Sturges. Without the
>there wouldn't be much cause for writing about them now or much reason,
>esthetic or moral, for defending them. These two men are legal footnotes.
>doesn't make them wonderful photographers.
> You wouldn't know it from the shelves at Barnes & Noble. Last week, only
>days after the Alabama action was announced, the chain's store at Astor Place
>in the East Village neighborhood in Manhattan was out of both Sturges'
>"Radiant Identities" and Hamilton's "Age of Innocence." The store had one
>well-thumbed copy of Sturges' "Last Days of Summer." There were a few golf
>books by another David Hamilton, however. The shelves were disheveled. A
>suggested that there might be some copies of Sturges' and Hamilton's books on
>the tables of the men who regularly steal books from Barnes & Noble and sell
>them on the street.
> The next stop was the bookstore at the International Center of Photography,
>on West 43d Street in Manhattan. There was "Radiant Identities" in a plastic
>wrapper. Finding Hamilton was still a problem, though. Three more bookstores
>were sold out. Finally a Barnes & Noble in the Chelsea neighborhood had two
>copies, both wrapped. (By the way, the plastic serves two purposes: It stops
>the prying eyes of curious children and keeps the potential purchaser from
>discovering what trash it is.)
> "The Age of Innocence" is the essence of icky. The author could
>considered a dirty old man. (He has a Web site offering peeks of pubescent
>bodies under the headings "Fantasies of Girls" and "Dreams of a Young Girl,"
>and he has made soft-core flicks with titles like "First Desires" and "Tender
>Cousins.") "The Age of Innocence" is full of photographs of girls in bed,
>looking dreamy and spent, with their fingers in their mouths or in their
>underpants. All look willing, and almost all have exactly the same small
> In the final pages of the book, Hamilton writes, fantasizing: "In her
>daydreams she thinks about this man who will one day come to her in answer to
>her questions. Perhaps he is a prince, a knight on a white stallion, a man in
>military uniform. ... She is lovely, our nymph, and her potential is
>Heaven grant her the man who is worthy of her, and who comes to her bringing
>sex with tenderness. She has her virginity and her innocence; she will,
>is fortunate, trade them in due course for experience and love."
> The words are accompanied by pictures of a teen-age girl being carried
>around by a teen-age boy, who, on the final page, is bending over her.
> Sturges is not nearly as nauseating. In fact, museums and galleries seem to
>like him. Many of his models are "naturists," nudists he knows in France. All
>of them, Sturges says, have given their consent, and most of them happen
>blond-haired, blue-eyed girls with small breasts.
> He likes to photograph them sprawling on towels with sand stuck to their
>bottoms, or showering together. Some look straight at the photographer, and
>some shut their eyes. They are ornaments for the beach and the blanket.
> His photographs, though often vacant, invite gushing interpretation. In the
>introduction to "Radiant Identities," the photography critic A.D. Coleman
>argues that Sturges' photographs of bodies "poised on the cusp of change" are
>"metaphors of metamorphosis."
> In "The Last Days of Summer," Jayne Anne Phillips writes about one of
>Sturges' subjects, a nude girl lying across the couch: "she is an image of
>Christ, of crucifixion, of conscious sacrifice and sorrow ... a child offered
>up as Christ was offered."
> Then again, maybe she is just a J. Crew model with no clothes to sell.
> Not all photographers of exposed children have wasted their time on such
>bland shots. Sally Mann, the author of "Immediate Family," is known for
>photographing her own children with insect bites on their arms and Popsicle
>juice running over their genitals. Mann took a picture of her youngest child,
>Virginia, sleeping on a wet spot on the mattress. It's slyly disturbing, but
> Lewis Carroll photographed lots of rakish and waifish children with their
>clothes memorably ripped and a look of defiance on their faces. Despite his
>trespasses, the children appear to have some existence beyond his fantasy.
>pictures are intriguing and complex, the kind you might actually want to
> Someone should defend Sturges and Hamilton legally. Esthetically,
>Wednesday, March 4, 1998
>Copyright 1998 The New York Times