Sunday, September 14, 2008

Jill Greenberg: True Evil

I don't have a lot of time to blog these days. I don't even have enough time to keep up with the blogs of my friends who do. I will, again, eventually. But this transitional time is busy, sleepless, crucial, overwhelming, exhilarating, and terrifying all at once.

Still, now and then I have a second to peruse my old haunts. And tonight over at Lex's place, I hit a thread I almost wish I hadn't. Lex ran a post about Jill Greenberg's portrait of John McCain for the October Atlantic. That led me to a post in American Digest that contained the outtakes causing all the hubbub. Even this didn't get my ire up. Politics is ugly. What she did is unacceptable, base, unprofessional, etc, but not necessarily evil.

Then, somehow, I found my way to a site about Greenberg's End Times. I learn there that this is a woman who intentionally invoked anguish in children.

Photographer Jill Greenberg has whipped up a storm of controversy with her new exhibition, End Times. The pictures in the show, for which she deliberately provoked tearful outbursts from children by taking away lollipops she had just given them, have been described by some as tantamount to child abuse.

Greenberg herself insists that the children had the sweets returned within 30 seconds, that no lasting harm has been done, and that her concern was to depict what she says reminded her of the "helplessness and anger I feel about our current political and social situation."
I'm sure this issue has been covered to death already. But I'd not heard of it, and maybe some of you hadn't either.

I'd like to know, just for the record, Ms. Greenberg's position on the interrogation technique known as waterboarding. And I'd like to ask her about those photos again, just as soon as her panic subsided with no lasting harm done, say, 30 seconds after the towel was removed from her face.

Interesting difference here between me and her, I guess. There are complicated reasons, that, though I'm not in favor of the practice, I wouldn't consider waterboarding a terror suspect "evil." Yet, deliberately inducing anguish in children, even temporarily, I do think of as deserving that label pure and simple. For her, I guess, it's the other way around. There's room for both of us to be wrong, but I sleep just fine on my side of that line. I wonder about Ms. Greenberg's slumbers.