Saturday, September 22, 2012

Jill Greenberg: Cry Baby


From kids smiling and playing in their rooms to toddlers crying their eyes out, it's time to close this week's feature on children. The images here aren't anything new, but their impact is so far reaching that it's worth dedicating a post here. These are the controversial portraits of crying babies from Jill Greenberg's "End Times".


Jill Greenberg's passion for photography started at an early age, and she pursued this passion through her photography degree later in her college years. She then worked for different publications in New York and Los Angeles, focusing mostly on portraiture work. As her career developed, she began to use more of the  photographic style she's now known for: strong (almost harsh) direct lighting and heavy post-processing. This style of lighting is most evident in her project, "End Times".

In "End Times", Greenberg gathered dozens of different children and had them pose in extremely distressing moments. These digitally enhanced images show the toddlers crying and wailing, many teary-eyed or screaming, or in many cases, both.


In order to get these kids into to show the strong emotions in the images, Greenberg enticed them by showing them their toys or offering candy, and then taking these treats away. This "baiting" method obviously worked as these images show the rawest possible emotions capable of a child. On one hand, Greenberg managed to bring out the real and primal feelings of children, but on the other hand, her methods have been questioned as to whether or not they're ethical.

The photographer's method of enticing her subjects with candy and then taking them away might not be such a big deal if her subjects were adults, but because they were children, a lot of controversy arose when these images were first exhibited. In order to get dozens of the same effect, Greenberg had to do the same thing over and over again. It's bad enough to have to make one child cry, but to have to make a whole group of toddlers break down in tears might be comparable to child abuse or torture.


As with Jonathan Hobin's child reenactments of tragic events, the medium in Greenberg's case has overshadowed the message. In "End Times", she wanted to show her disdain for then President G. Bush and his administration. Greenberg felt that the powerfully dramatic tantrums that toddlers make would be the perfect medium for her message. She even titled her images in the spirit of her intent, with names such as "Shock" and "Grand Old Party" and "Four More Years", as if to show how these kids would react to these names.

The controversial nature of Greenberg's project might not be as far reaching as Hollywood photographer Terry Richardson's or visual artist Richard Prince's, or even the previously featured work of Jonathan Hobin, but they call for a moment of reflection on what passes for ethical both in terms of the photographic results and the way in which they were made. Still, while the pain and suffering of these children were only momentary, the remarkable images, and more importantly the message behind them are preserved for posterity.


This is Jill Greenberg's website with the "End Times" project also on the site. For a more lighthearted, but equally controversial photography series featuring children, check out Jonathan Hobin's "In The Playroom". For something that's sure to provoke no controversy, have a look at Anne Geddes' uber cute Babies wallpapers. The End Times project is available as a hardcopy Jill Greenberg: End Times, with her previous works available as Monkey Portraits and Bear Portraits.

19 comments:

D4 said...

Of course I've seen these. I had no idea HOW they came about being done though. I don't know how she had it in her to keep doing it.

Alex said...

google "menino da lagrima" most known painting of a crying boy in some countries

Bart said...

buncha babies being pussies. :P

MRanthrope said...

damn this images are powerful, and creepy. If it's one thing I can't stand it's hearing babies/children/women cry. Looking at these photos makes me feel like im there with them and I can damn near hear their screams in my head. I guess that means she did a good job...but wow a total head trip to see these.

Beau Thompson said...

I wonder how much it's photoshopped to have that surreal look.

A Heel in Mint said...

Interesting. My first one used to cry a lot so this reminds me of his baby/toddler years. I love Anne Geddes's work. :)

T. Roger Thomas said...

I've got the tag line for this collection:

Straight from the airplane seat right behind you.

Anonymous said...

Child torture? Seriously? Kids cry at the drop of a hat.
Get real. She offered candy and took it away. If that's the worst thing that ever happens to these kids, then it is clear they live in a dreamland governed by magical happy fairies.

Anonymous said...

She sucks... These photos are terrible, and gross. She is an awful and perverted person. Haate her.

Ray Tat said...

Tim and Eric

Andrea Kane said...

this is crazy, the second photo is IDENTICAL to my daughter. like, her twin.......it it a little weird lol!

Baby Trend Stroller said...

Wow! This is one of a kind but controversial photography. I just don't know if it has violated the children's rights.

Anonymous said...

To make a child cry for profit is disturbing.

Marcia cardoso said...

Don't crying baby!!!

Jules said...

When I look at these images, I know that they are not crying out of a sense of loss and disappointment about the toy or candy being taken away by Jill Greenberg, but rather out of a sense of confusion and fear at her conduct in giving it to them merely to take it away again. What she did was small-scale evil doing and that's what they sensed and what shattered them. They would likely be wondering at the same time why their parent would expose them to such mean game with no apparent purpose than to evoke distress. I'd say it would be highly traumatic for young children. They may expect such meanness from other children, but not adults, and if you can't trust adults, who can you trust? These photographs capture the raw human response to totally unexpected evil-doing. I'm glad they let it out. Some children are punished for displaying such emotion and keep it in, and dissociate. The best thing that can happen to children is interactions that build trust and lead to faith in self and others. Interactions that destroy trust are THE WORST THING. We are looking at the emotions we all feel in response to abuse (mis-use). Jill did not punish them for displaying such. Instead she photographed away. Most abusers quickly stamp out such loud, visible distress reaction by hitting or threatening the child, in order to conceal the effect of the actions. The child subject to such will appear normal (quiet, calm) except for a barely discernible blank, glazed-over and occasionally slightly cross-eyed expression to their eyes. I'm glad she didn't go to the next level!

צילום ילדים said...

Even tears can't take away their sweetness. All of them so adorable, cute. Thanks for sharing them with us.

hey welcome I love care bears I'm Hailey said...

I did go around in my underwear when I was luttle

Anonymous said...

I went around in my underwear when I was 3

Anonymous said...

I went around in my underwear when I was 3

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