A History Of Looking; Or, Why I Post Pictures Of My Children On The Internet

June 3, 2011

A couple of years ago, I received a very sweet e-mail from a self-professed ‘dedicated lurker’ who asked the following question: I wonder if you are ever concerned that your daughter’s (beautiful) image will remain in cyberspace, with no mechanism for you — or her — to reclaim it or her privacy?

She meant no disrespect by the question, she insisted; she just wanted to know. And she had been, she admitted, afraid to post the question as a public comment, because she was afraid of being misunderstood as judgmental. I understood her concern. The question makes a clear point: shouldn’t I have second thoughts about posting my daughter’s image, about sharing that image with strangers? Should I not be more protective? I have asked myself these questions many times. I have asked myself these questions countless times over the last few years.

I have not come up with any easy answers, but neither have I stopped posting pictures – and video – of Emilia and, now, her brother. Because even though, at the end of the day, I haven’t got an answer that fully responds all of the questions related to the ethics of posting pictures of one’s children online, I have come to the conclusion that I am acting within reasonable bounds of care when I post images of my kids. Those questions, and how I try to answer them for myself, would probably take two or three posts that I’m not up for writing about right now. What I am interested in writing about right now, however, is this question: why do I post pictures of my kids?

In his Camera Lucida (Reflections on Photography), Roland Barthes distinguishes between the studium of a photograph – that is, those elements of a photograph that provoke an interpretive (cultural, social, political) response – and the punctum of a photograph – that is, the element of a photograph that punctures, or wounds. The punctum, in other words, provokes an emotional response in the viewer by establishing a direct relationship between the viewer and the subject of the photograph. The punctum is, I think, the best argument for posting pictures of our families: I seek out photographs of other people’s children for the punctum; I post pictures of my children for the punctum.

I post pictures of my children, and I seek out pictures of other parents’ children, because these photographs establish a relationship. I seek out those relationships as photographer, and as mother: I seek the poignant moment of understanding, the punctum, in photographs of other mothers’ (and fathers’) children; I look at those pictures and imagine that I see what those other parents see. I admire the curve of a cheek, the ridiculous angle of a pigtail, and I imagine that that was the detail that moved the photographer, the parent, in the moment that they clicked the shutter. I imagine that I see, in your photographs, for an instant, your child, through your eyes, and I am punctured by that moment – that fleeting moment – of connection. In that moment, I feel that understand you, because I understand, viscerally, your love for your child. I recognize our shared experience of intense, inexpressible love. I want to share my own experience of that inexpressible love with you, with someone. So I post my own pictures.

I want you to see and feel the details that I cannot adequately put to words. I want you to smile, suddenly, involuntarily, at the expression of quiet joy on Emilia’s face as she races she tilts her head to balance the silly blue wig perched there. I want that single, damp strawberry curl at the crown’s edge of Jasper’s forehead to grab at your heart and squeeze it, hard. I want the detail of the droplets of water in every bath photo and every swim photo to call to mind for you every bath and every swim that you have ever taken with your own child. I want these photographs to puncture the distance between us as parents, different people with different children, different lives. I want you to see my children through my eyes, to know my love for them, to recognize it as your own love for your own children. I want you to be punctured. This is not what Barthes meant, exactly – for Barthes, the photographer is absent from consideration in the experience of punctum, such that the only relevant relationship is that between the subject of the photograph and the individual who beholds the photograph. But we parents-as-performance-artists cannot separate ourselves from those beings that form the very core of, the very reason for, our art: we hold them out to each other as mirrors-cum-camera lucidae can you see yourself in my child? Can you see me in my child? See how my child looks at me, and how I look at my child! See what I see! See how I love! See how we love!

My reader worried that I expose too much, that we expose too much. I continue to worry about this, too. But I also feel, deeply, that the exposure – the candor, intentional and accidental – is necessary to our connections, to the humanity of the communities that we build, across universes of difference. I feel, deeply, that I would lose something, that we would lose something, if we kept ourselves and our children (these unique beings who are also and always extensions of myself) behind our fences, safe as houses, concealed from view.

Do you post pictures of your kids, on a blog or on Facebook or through a social networking application like Instagram or through an open Flickr feed or, you know, in any manner? Do you worry about privacy issues? Or do you, like, shove these aside, sort of, the better to pursue the shared experience of storytelling that pictures offer?

(Also: if you are a photograph-poster, check this out: the good folks at Intel Canada are giving away a brand new i5 laptop for the best example of a Visual Life; all you have to do is post your photographs to show how you ‘live visually.’ Check it out here.)

(Also, also: this post reworks some ideas that I explored in a post a few years ago, on which my thinking has moved forward a bit, but also, in some ways, not moved forward at all. So if this chatter about Barthes sounds familiar, that’s why.)

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    Angela June 3, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Yes that. And also, because there is so much BAD reported out there. So much negativity, cruelty and evil. And I like to think my photos of happy, smiling, fussing, loving, normal children and family are kind of an oasis in the middle of it all. Pushback against the tide of ugly that is out there.

    Plus, damn they’re cute and the internet is a great way to show them off to friends and family so far removed. :)

    Kimberly Hosey (Arizona Writer) June 3, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    You know what? A pervert DID steal and use a photo of my son. On a pervert site, featured prominently in a pervert forum for perverts, wherein they discussed it in all kinds of perverted and detailed ways.

    I was pissed, way grossed out, and a little disturbed; but after the ick factor wore off, I figured, oh well. He lived (allegedly) across the country from me, his “name” was Fap23 or something, and we’d never encounter one another. I told him to quit stealing my photos, and take that one down while he was at it, or I’d get him for stealing my work.

    He took it down. I’ve shared approximately ten kazillion pictures of my kid since then. Amazingly, tragedy has never befallen us.

    …and that’s always been my argument against not posting pictures. But I love your argument FOR it. Yes, exactly. It’s why I share personal stories like this. I don’t really think people are preoccupied with my son. I want to tell our story, because it’s so great to see how it intersects and touches other people’s stories.

    Her Bad Mother June 5, 2011 at 10:23 am

    @Kimberly Hosey (Arizona Writer), oh, wow, ugh, ugh, ugh. It’s this, I think, that most of us are afraid of. But I love your philosophic response, mostly because it it accords with mine: ‘oh well.’ We live in a world in which images of children abound, and also a world in which our own childrens’ images can be and are captured regularly (is there any place any more that doesn’t have security cameras?), to say nothing of the fact that whenever our children are in public, anyone can look at them and think anything that they want.

    That doesn’t, of course, eliminate the UGH factor, but it does, I think point us to the conclusion that we shouldn’t, so far as is possible, let those fears shut us down.

    Julie Pippert June 3, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    I no longer do. My children have reached an age where they have claimed themselves, as individuals, including their images. They are distinctive, both in look and character, and have requested that their images and stories belong to them, and them alone. I have respected that. I miss sharing certain moments, but I also acknowledge that there is a boundary, and it is too easily crossed in the social web I’ve chosen to let grow broad and wide. Occasionally, I’ll do a back of the head, sort of shot. Your photos are beautiful, your moments amazing, and your children precious. In the same way I respect my kids’ request of no, I respect your choice of yes. It’s because I trust both come from a thoughtful place.

    Her Bad Mother June 5, 2011 at 10:24 am

    @Julie Pippert, when my children reach that place, I too will step back from posting their pictures. For all of the reasons you state.

    Devan @ Accustomed Chaos June 3, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    This is something that i have been struggling with for the past year and i really dont have an answer. I currently dont show full photos of the kids nor do i share their names but then i wonder if those who read my site feel disconnected because i dont ‘trust’ them with such a huge part of me.

    i worry more about what my kids will feel later in life – so for now i am not but i still dont know if that will change.

    Backpacking Dad June 3, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    I would never post pictures of my kids online. You never know what someone might do to those pictures. WON’T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE PICTURES! I take it one step further, though. I don’t allow light to reflect off my children and transmit visual information to anyone else’s eyeballs, because lord knows what could happen to that pattern of neural activation. It’s dangerous out there for a representation.

    Kristen June 3, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    @Backpacking Dad, Mwahahaha. Best comment evah!

    happykatie June 3, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    Hear hear :)

    Her Bad Mother June 5, 2011 at 10:25 am

    @Backpacking Dad, I love you for this comment. Brainlove. Brainlove you much.

    Ali June 3, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    This is a really great post because I think we all worry about this. For me, my answer is this. I love to write. I’ve done it all my life. HOWEVER, what really sets my family apart are the things that I cannot put into words. Those “you had to be there” moments. A camera helps you capture those. I also use their names. I have a harder time making a connection to the “character” in the post when they don’t have a real name.

    Her Bad Mother June 5, 2011 at 10:27 am

    @Ali, totally. I wrote a post a couple of years ago, just before Jasper was born, about why I was making the decision to use my childrens’ real names (prior to Jasper, I referred to Emilia as ‘Wonderbaby’ – that feels an eternity ago), and it was basically that – I wanted to be able facilitate that connection.

    Issa June 3, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    I do not. I used too, but my husband (now ex) had issue with it, so I stopped. I wish I could. I do. I can see how it adds to posts. I adore watching other peoples kids grow and change. I can see how amazing it would feel to show my kids to the world. Yet, as a co-parent, especially after a divorce, I have to respect his wishes.

    When I meet people in person, I gladly show off my kids. However, on my blog, my words have to be enough. They have to be able to tell enough of a story, without showing photos. I think, in general, I’m good enough at painting a picture with my words.

    That being said, I was told at BH09 that my blog isn’t real because I use fake kid names and no photos. So…maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m not a “real blogger” without it.

    M.T. June 3, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    @Issa, Well, that’s just crazy. A “real” blogger blogs. Words only, photos only, both together, video… Who cares?

    Issa June 3, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    @M.T., I am with you. Yet…it’s always sat wrong with me. It was a slap in the face that day. From someone who I admired.

    M.T. June 3, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    @Issa, I bet it was. I’m sure I would have sadly thought back on such a comment for years myself. :( . I’m even feeling a little bad just hearing the story from you, since I’m in the same position of no names/no face photos. I put a lot of effort into my blog and I love it! It hurts to think that is in someone’s mind meaningless just because I don’t want my kids identities too clearly tied to the personal stories I tell.

    Issa June 3, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    @M.T., I’ve never judged people for that stuff. I read blogs with photos, one without. I’ve spent years wondering what some people’s kids real names were… When I like someone, I like them for them. For their words.

    Her Bad Mother June 5, 2011 at 10:30 am

    @Issa, whoever told you that at BH09 was an ass. A blog is whatever you want it to be, and you communicate through it however you want. Pictures, no pictures; video, no video; words, no words. WHATEVER.

    Issa June 6, 2011 at 11:51 am

    @Her Bad Mother, Thank you Catherine. Thank you.

    Amy June 3, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    I think, most simply, that photographs are part of the story we tell online. You said something to me once about how I always manage to capture Nate’s image in a photograph in a way that shows ME around his eyes, and that made me smile. You DO see me in my child. I see you in yours.

    I will continue to post appropriate, story-telling images of Nate online, until he can either ask me not to, or it feels like it’s no longer up to me.

    Her Bad Mother June 5, 2011 at 10:31 am

    @Amy, that comment made me smile. Because, exactly.

    Tabatha June 3, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    I’ve thought a lot about this when it comes to my own kids and my own experiences. Admittedly, I’m fairly young for a mom (I’m 27 with a 2 year old & a 9 month old) but basically for me, it comes down to the speed of technology and how that shapes modern society.

    I was in fifth grade when AOL was huge. I got my first prepaid cell phone (that I paid for) in 9th grade. I started my first blog in 2003, my freshman year of college. My generation has grown up with lightning fast technological advances, and we generally adapt to them without much complaint. I’m fairly confident that by the time my kids are pre-teens or whatever and these concerns of publicly-lived lives on the Internet courtesy of their parents finally arise, it won’t be weird. We, Gen X’ers and my generation of Millennials, this is what we’re doing through Facebook and Flickr and Twitter and Tumblr — we’re living our lives in public, and that includes our kids. Our kids won’t be the only ones with their birth stories online or ridiculous baby photos easily Googled. I think the majority of kids will be like that to some degree.

    So when it comes to “reclaiming” their online identities, it’s not about that. It’s no different than any other way children become separate beings from their parents. It will be slow, but they will create and foster their own online narratives and what we’ve created in their babyhood stead will be nothing more than the new version of a baby book, just one a glass of water or a fire can’t erase.

    For my own ease of mind, I never post nude photos of my kids, and actually my Flickr sets of them are private — but the ones I post on my blog, watermark or no, they’re out there. And I really think all of this fuss about what our kids will think in the future is rooted in a completely different reality from the past. The internet isn’t going away, blogging isn’t going away, this isn’t just a flash in the pan. This is how things are now. Just be smart and slightly courteous and ten-fifteen-twenty years from now we’ll all laugh about how worried people got about baby photos online.

    Not very eloquent, but that’s my two cents.

    Her Bad Mother June 5, 2011 at 10:32 am

    @Tabatha, that was totally eloquent. And such an important point. And I totally agree – we’ll laugh about this someday. That doesn’t mean that our concerns are silly, just that they’re situational.

    Kristen June 3, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    I think instagram (and my complete addiction to it) really illustrates the power of photos in storytelling. It feels more intimate than twitter – the photos give a window into the daily life, the homes, and the broader narrative in a way that words alone cannot capture.

    I post photos on my blog as well. For me, as a transracial family, there is power in representing a family who looks different, doing normal, everyday things. If we can be a face to difference, I think it’s a good thing.

    But ultimately, Shawn’s satirical but astute point is the conclusion I have come to as well.

    Her Bad Mother June 5, 2011 at 10:35 am

    @Kristen, totally with you on the Instagram thing. TOTALLY.

    And yes, you DO contribute something important to the cultural discourse on what the North American family looks like because your photos of your family are both disruptive – in that they unsettle peoples’ expectations – and normalizing – in that they work to reshape those expectations. And I think that it would much more difficult for you to do that in words. The visual is everything here.

    Katy June 5, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    @Kristen, yes to this!

    I feel like this is the same reason that I post pictures although my family is not interracial. Rather, my son is disabled. I know people who have received a barrage of negative comments because they posted pictures of their disabled children online–comments to the effect of ,” I don’t want to look at THAT.” As if their children are sub-human or something. I hope that my images aren’t just a bonus, but parts of the larger story that I’m telling–the story of a regular family that maybe looks a little different than the average one. The day will come where Charlie will have to decide if he wants to be the poster child for disability–I will respect his decision when that day gets here.

    corasmom June 3, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    I would elide your sentences further to simply: See love!

    I do post my girl’s photo on my blog now and then – less now than at first, and we’ll see what she has to say as she grows. I post her photo a lot on Facebook, though with attention to which friends can see which photos. She had me take a photo of her the other night in her “super strong wrestling girl” pose – god I love this photo! Pigtails, muscles, “wrestling face” – a grinning grimace of gritted teeth, and that’s about it. Nearly naked photos are for family only now that she is 5.

    I’m making up the rules as I go along. Is there any other way? (Ha)

    Jessica June 3, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    I don’t post pictures of my kids unless you can’t see their faces. I originally thought that I would, because really, I take them out in public all the time. It’s not as though I would be posting anything that wouldn’t be visible to a stranger on the street anyway.

    I ended up deciding not to. Mostly because, as your commenter pointed out, there is no mechanism for me — or them — to reclaim an image or their privacy.

    I decided that since they’re not old enough to have a choice in the matter, I would just not do it. My husband was also just not comfortable with the idea of having images of them out there for anyone to use in ways that we haven’t got any control over.

    So, while I would sometimes love to post the pictures of my youngest dancing on the coffee table in her diaper and sparkly princess shoes, I’m just going to have to hope that I can describe it well enough to make people smile without seeing it.

    Her Bad Mother June 5, 2011 at 10:41 am

    @Jessica, I really believe that that kind of decision can actually do wonders for compelling a writer to write more effectively. Often, the freedom to use a picture to tell the story means that the writer just doesn’t have to work as hard with her words (which sometimes is, honestly, part of the appeal of posting pictures.)

    Columbiarose June 3, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    Context. It depends. My ex would take pics the kids hated, ridicule them, then post the pics, he said, to “toughen them up.” Those pics came down. There’s no more contact, but years later my kids still don’t like having their pics taken. So I don’t.

    alimartell June 3, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Yes. Yes. So much of this is YES for me.
    I do post my children’s photos online. I am okay with it and so are they.
    I don’t judge people who don’t. I don’t judge people who do. Whatever works, yanno? I don’t feel I could properly tell MY STORY without photos.

    muskrat June 3, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    I think most of us parental bloggers post pics of babies, etc. What I’d like to see you tackle next is when it’s appropriate to send pictures of our genitals to our twitter friends!

    Her Bad Mother June 5, 2011 at 10:42 am

    @muskrat, ah, yes. the all important nether-shots: to send or not to send. that IS the next question.

    M.T. June 3, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    I love this post and the comments. I’m one who doesn’t use our real names or post pictures of our faces to my blog. (I did post pictures of my daughter as a baby because babies just aren’t that identifiable.)

    I do often wish I could post some of the amazing pictures we get of our utterly adorable children, but I see it as a helpful challenge, usually. My words have to be more compelling. The pictures I use have to be interesting and convey motion without a face (yesterday was a good one). And sometimes I even think it *helps* people identify more with my stories, makes them more universal.

    I certainly don’t judge parents who do post pictures of their kids on blogs, though – I like seeing them for exactly the reasons you’ve discussed.

    M.T. June 3, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    “emotion without a face,” that should have been. Whoops :)

    Alison Golden - The Secret Life of a Warrior Woman June 3, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    Well. My son (11) read your post over my shoulder and has said he doesn’t want me to use his photo. He wants to retain his ‘confidentiality.’ He is old enough to say that, have his opinion and I must respect it. I am sad about it for the loss of connection and relationship using his image offers me and for the fact I am proud of him and want to share that pride through photos.

    Update: he read this comment before I posted it and has said if it is ‘really necessary’ I may use pictures of him.

    KeethInk June 3, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    I do post photos, but anonymously – the blog where I post photos of the kids (which is not KeethInk.com) does not mention our names. Not sure if that’s the best answer, but there it is.
    I love that you referenced Camera Lucida (and did a killer explanation of the punctum!). It’s totally relevant in the illusion of the collapse between viewer and subject—we think that viewing the image is the same as seeing (or perhaps possessing?) the subject of said photo, when the photo is not a person, but just color and light. Perhaps in this situation, where the photographer is mediator between viewer and subject, it feels “safer,” as in, “This is my mommy blog because it is a mommy blog (context) therefore I stand between you and my child, even as I place these images on display.” COntext & mediation change the image. The concern, I think, is that on the internet the image can be removed from that context and that mediation.

    Marlena June 3, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    I was very reluctant to post pictures of my daughter for a long time, and from time to time stop even posting photos on Facebook. But as someone who reads blogs and have even become friends with people whose blogs I’ve read, it’s because I can see a connection of mother and child, father and child, etc. So I started posting her photo, but don’t include her name. I don’t know, it’s a crazy world, but I think it’s ok until she asks me not to. I really appreciated Tabitha’s response from above – talking about it from the point of view as someone in her late 20s and growing up with images everywhere.

    Amy June 3, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    I am pretty sure its only my mom and a few friends that read my blog, so ya, they wont be doing weird things with those pictures. But if it (my blog) ever became popular I might be a little more concerned about it.
    I love reading blogs with photos, for a lot of the reasons you say… but I certainly wouldn’t judge someone either way.

    Andrea June 4, 2011 at 9:01 am

    A blog I read a lot just posted something about this. She posts pictures, and so do I. She got concerned because a search for naked boys sent someone to her blog. She doens’t post naked pictures, but – if you have kids, a lot of the times they are naked! :)

    You know that saying – photos are worth a thousand words. My blogs would be so much more empty without the pictures. So yes, I do post pictures, her real name and her face.

    But like many people have posted – Probably the majority of my readers are family, so I’m not too concerned. That’s why I started blogging, to keep all of my family up to date.

    And I also have to agree with the comment about seeing her in public- people see my daughter in Walmart. They see her at the grocery store. People stop me all the time when I’m shopping to look at my daughters beautiful blue eyes. Who knows if one of them is a creeper.

    Brie June 4, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the enormous amount of pics I post of my daughter on facebook–wondering if it’s appropriate. Should I have a blog instead? Is facebook the correct forum for this? Who is my audience? I’ve considered that since my family literally lives all over the world, and the only way I connect with them en masse each and every day is via facebook (even my grandfather!), and that my content is completely private to anyone not a “friend”, then facebook is the place *I* want to share my personal, favorite, adorable photos of my daughter, daily anecdotes, and general musings on politics, life, society, and culture. I guess since I’m not a blogger in the sense of the term that I have a dedicated publicly accessible page for me, my thoughts, life, and writings, you aren’t really talking about me, but it is something everyone needs to think about and decide for themselves.

    The bottom line is, however, that anyone who has access to my daughter’s (and future daughter’s, due in Sept) images are those who I know truly do see the beauty in her everyday moments that I love to capture. So, I do agree that this is why we love to share our photos in the online sphere.

    Julie {Angry Julie Monday} June 4, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    Duh, of course I exploit my son online to make myself look cooler….

    Honestly, I keep most of my life private, but pictures. I look back for photos of my childhood to reflect on the memories and special times. And you know what? I can’t find any. There are barely ANY photos of my childhood.

    It really saddens me. I want my son to be able to look through all the photos and see all of the events and things that have occurred in his life. I think the way society is now, with the Internet etc., this is what we are moving toward.

    And my son, well he is sorta a camera hog, and pretty cute too!

    Young Mum June 4, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    I just started blogging and I really struggle with the desicion to post pictures or not. So thank you, this article was insightful. Of course, I think my daughter is just the most wonderful thing in the world to photograph, and why would the whole world want to see her? haha… but part of me does worry about privacy issues, creepy lurkers, and also the fact that my blog serves as a place to keep a collection of my work that I submit to magazines and other publications. I worry that posting too many family photos appears unproffesional when viewed by editors?…

    Alexicographer June 4, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    I don’t blog, and I don’t post photos online in places where they are generally visible. But I realized pretty early on that unless I want to tell our extended family, etc., not to post photos that include our son (and I don’t want to tell them that) then his photos would be out there, and so, they are.

    Clueless But Hopeful Mama June 5, 2011 at 7:06 am

    Thank you for this post (and everyone for their comments!) The “punctum” – YES, THAT. PERFECT.

    I do post photos of my kids on Facebook and my blog for the punctum, because I too seek out that connection from others’ blogs, but I don’t post any naked photos of them anywhere. That is my (small) line in the sand, for now.

    I also try to imagine what I would feel comfortable with if these were pictures of me, posted for the world to see. What I might find cute as a parent, I sometimes see as embarrassing when I try to see it through their eyes. I hold back all stories and photos that would embarrass me, if I were them.

    But how can we tell where their line of comfort will be? Must we err on the side of caution? I don’t know.

    As my oldest (who’s now five) gets older, I will ask her what she wants shared, though I don’t know at what age “informed consent” really exists.

    Christine June 5, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    punctum is an awesome word. i think i’m in it for the punctum, too.

    Kimberly/Mom in the City June 6, 2011 at 12:31 am

    I think that everyone’s comfort lines regarding exposing their kids on the Internet are matters of personal choice (within legal limits, of course!)

    I often post photos of my two sons on my blog/Facebook/etc. However, I don’t show pictures of them without their chests and private areas covered with clothing. For instance, I recently took a cute photo of my youngest son playing at home in a box and posted it on Facebook. When I looked closer at the photo, I noticed that I could see a bit of his underwear showing (that I initially thought was covered by the box) so I immediately took it down. That’s my personal comfort zone…

    Minka June 6, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    I definitely have pondered this question often as I only began blogging a few months ago. But as I talk about in one of my posts, http://www.righteousventing.com/2011/04/in-interest-of-full-disclosure-there.html (sorry if that seems shamelessly self-promoting), privacy is a big issue for my husband. While he is very supportive of my need to express myself and engage others in conversation as they respond to my posts, he is a very private person, and to reveal our children (among other personal details) is to reveal him as well. Keeping myself anonymous has liberated me to be almost totally candid about almost any topic. In addition, my kids, though only 6 and 9, have already staked their claims over their own images and identities, and out of respect for them as well, I cannot share photos of them. Often, these days, I have a hard time getting my daughter to even agree to have her photo taken. Sigh. But as I’m much the same way, I really can’t argue with her (though I do anyway).

    To be honest, while I sometimes worry about the “ick” factor of the freaks out there, sometimes it’s also a desire that I have some control over who I share my children with, ie — you’re an asshole, so you don’t get to look at my fabulous, adorable kids; you don’t get that privilege. I know it’s weird, but… I certainly make no claim to normalcy.

    But overwhelmingly, my emotion is one of envy. I WISH I could share my kids, I LONG to freeze those moments and put them out there on the internet where they will live forever, where those moments can extend into infinity and touch the lives of untold numbers of people. These kids are so much of who I am and what my life is, that I can’t help but feel that, without THOSE pictures, it is impossible to give anyone a FULL picture of my life. Any story I tell (or at least many of them), are incomplete without these illustrations.

    However, clearly forms of writing exist that don’t require illustrations. But as a screenwriter, I understand utterly the power of combining words and images. And I know that, no matter how well I write my posts, something profound will be lacking without the accompanying images of my kids.

    amber June 6, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    I do. Often. And sometimes I am conflicted – particularly after I hear some sort of horror story, or am confronted by a relative…

    The last time we were home, my FIL cornered me for 20 minutes telling me how sexual predators are “hunting” children on the Internet, so they can come steal them. Yeah. Really. How do you tell your FIL he’s full of shit?

    Anyway, the reasons I post them are much like yours. And also? Way back when, I started this blog to record my family’s evolution. And at the end of the day, that’s still why I do it. Sure, hundreds of people read it every day (okay, month), but really, it’s there for my family. So they have something to remember me by when I’m gone.

    Mitch June 6, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    I have a blog that includes my stories about parenting. I can’t write about parenting without including my son. I can’t write about the extreme joy of parenting without including my son which I do proudly. I can’t worry about the negativity, that is pervasive everywhere, anyway. I just keep it tasteful.

    Jendi June 7, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    I do worry about it. I try to compromise by showing just the side or back of my children and not their full faces; but sometimes it slips in – especially because I love to share video, and my kids love to be in videos. I can’t count how many times I’ve said, “Don’t look at the camera!” Even when I take still pictures I take a “smile for Grandma” picture and a “look at your toy” picture.

    I don’t know an answer that will fit everyone’s situation. I’ve also heard this discussion at every. single. blog. conference I’ve been to. I see nothing wrong with people sharing their children’s beautiful pictures online. What I do works for me and I am comfortable with it.

    Val June 10, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    You inspired my latest blog entry and I have shared this with several friends. Thank you for introducing me to “punctum”. It is perfect.

    Val June 10, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    You inspired my latest blog entry and I have shared this with several friends. Thank you for introducing me to “punctum”. It is perfect. Http://mentalchew.blogspot.com

    Rufus June 11, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    I love this … Good old Roland. It’s all about the punctum, isn’t it, whether of the photo, the sentence, the song. I have always felt that in writing we attempt to erect a rope bridge, however frail, from one skull to another. Indelllible pictures also have a way of informing our relationship with our children and our childhoods — I have heard it said that some early childhood early memories are created, sometimes invented, around photographs … I have seen it in my own life. I guess that would be a self-punctumization.

    vancouver portrait photographer June 13, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    What a fantastic post. Thought-provoking and well written… As a professional photographer who often takes pictures of families and/or children, I too have struggled with the ethics of posting those images online.

    For me, in order to generate work, I need to have an online portfolio of images. Including those of children. And I’ve really questioned whether or not it’s OK to do so.

    The conclusion I reached, was that – with the permission of the parents – I would indeed use the images of children I’ve photographed in my online portfolios.

    With a few precautions in place: Flash slideshows as an image capturing preventative. (Not 100% fool-proof but it helps.) Never using the names of the children or even full names of their parents in any of my online postings, facebook galleries, blogs, twitter, etc.

    I made this decision to post images of the children I photograph professionally not just because it’s an important part of the service I offer, but also because it seems wrong to allow fear of potential negativity to inform our decisions.

    Yes, there are many predatory creeps lurking in our world and yes, the internet is their candy store. But I choose to believe that those people are largely outnumbered by people who simply enjoy a beautiful photograph.

    Comments on this entry are closed.

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