I just stumbled across this series of photos on Slate and the premise is that the photographer wanted to use children crying in an effort to express some emotions about the Bush era. I find them aesthetically beautiful and somewhat cute. I agree with the photographer's statement here:
"Crying is not evidence of pain or any real suffering. It’s really just the way children communicate.”
However, she and the mothers of the children did things to provoke crying. They weren't terrible things - and while I don't believe they count as child abuse, they are abusive in nature; doing a power play with a child to get the reaction that you want, whilst playing with the emotions of a child.
“The moms would hand them a lollipop in some cases, or they would offer them their cellphone—and then just sort of ask for it back. And basically the child was throwing a tantrum to try to get this candy or toy back, sort of putting on a show in a way,” Greenberg said.
I am the eldest of four children, and two of my siblings are much younger. If I antagonized them when they were toddlers (and so easily antagonized, as they are now in their teens), I would get in trouble for being mean to my brother and sister.
I could be too sensitive.
My next issue with the series is on an artistic level. Children are not angry about George Bush Jr., and I think it's shallow to equate a child's temper tantrum with the very real and true pain the world has felt and will continue to feel after his reign. Ok: crying = sad = we're sad about the Republicans ruining everything. I get it. However, provoking the children to cry out of being teased by their mothers, and then slapping this label on it doesn't sit well with me.
I realize that the children are models and are representing "the future" and George Bush Jr. has ruined the future. Again, I get it. I just think it trivializes real human emotion. There is something so raw and sweet and beautiful in these photos - but they are not about George Bush. Why capture something so REAL and, instead of appreciating it for what it is, force it into being something it's not?
I love these photos and I have never seen anything quite like them. This second meaning detracts from them, though. You only know about it if you speak to the photographer or read the titles of the photos. I feel that is a failure of expression.