Tender or distasteful?


Heather Whitten posted this photograph on facebook and opened herself up to a tirade of objections. Some thought that the image was inappropriate and even disgusting. The photo shows a devoted father holding his son in a shower. The situation came about because the boy was ill with suspected salmonella poisoning. Whilst the Facebook Community Standards make much mention of nudity it is clear that this image does not break any of their rules. So why was it taken down twice? Was it because of the heated backlash from commentators? The photographer herself gives us more context …..

“Thomas had spent hours in the shower with him, trying to keep his fever down and letting the vomit and diarrhea rinse off of them both as it came, he was so patient and so loving and so strong with our tiny son in his lap… I stepped out and grabbed my camera and came back to snap a few images of it and, of course shared them.”

The key questions here are to do with the boundary between what images are acceptable and unacceptable and what is the difference? Where is that line and how do we decide? Also even if certain images provoke and/or disgust, is it right to legislate that which can and that which cannot be published? There is friction between the level of ‘intimacy’ (faux or otherwise) that social networking sites allow and the  jurisdiction the site controllers  seem to have in allowing or disallowing certain kinds of posts.

Also what makes this image different from the super-popular pin up poster from the 1980s called “L’Enfant” by Spencer Rowell?


The British company Athena Posters claimed that the  image sold over 5 million copies, making it among the best-selling posters ever. The photograph was said to herald the “sensitive but sexy New Man”and there was no debate about whether it was inappropriate. So where is the line?

It is interesting to note that informal rules about what images are publishable or inherently ‘wrong’ change over time and from place to place. But what are the variables which affect this?


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