Co-incidentally I found myself having to answer this question twice this week. The first time was in a note from my son’s school about having his photo taken for something to do with the MS Read-a-thon.
The second time was when I took Coco to a music/dance class at a local community hall and the teacher was asking all the mothers to sign a release form because she had a photographer there taking some shots for her music class website. Immediately, I felt uncomfortable. The words “photo” “children” and “website” have instant ALERT implications, don’t they? Well, they do for me.
I finally got around to reading David Marr’s fantastic book about the Bill Henson controversy recently and one of the most salient points he makes is that in past decade, with the proliferation of the internet into our lives, as a society we have become so suspicious about the photography of children. A cloud of suspicion and fear hangs over the whole IDEA of photographing children.
As I stood there with the other mothers (some of whom were happily signing while others wanted to check that no names would be used) my gut instinct was to say no. Then an argument broke out inside my head.
Me: “Come on, just sign. You’re being ridiculous and paranoid.”
Me: “You don’t know what these shots can be used for. Don’t do it.”
Me: “But it’s a MUSIC class. And her name isn’t going to be anywhere attached to them.”
Me: “It’s not just about her name. It’s her image. Once it’s in cyber space, you have no way of knowing what it’s going to be used for or who is going to see it.”
Me: “But can shots of some kids playing with musical instruments and dancing around waving scarves possibly be used for unsavoury purposes?”
Me: “There are weirdos out there. You never know. Besides, even if it’s not a weirdo, you don’t know where the shots could end up. Coco could be used to advertise something in another country! You’ll never even know!”
Me: “But if I don’t know, does it matter?”
Me: “Of course it matters! As her mother, aren’t you responsible for protecting her? Doesn’t that also mean protecting her image from potential exploitation?”
Me: “I have a headache.”
In the end, I somehow managed to stay for the class without signing anything. I’m sure the photographer was a lovely man but I was instinctively suspicious and wary and tried to block Coco whenever I could. The amusing part is that Remy, who was also with me, got hungry so I had to breast-feed him while I sat on the floor with the other mothers. So in actual fact my boob could end up on the Internet. Lucky Internet.
How do you feel about this issue? Is it just me? Have we become too paranoid or are we right to be suspicious and protective of our children and their images?