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June 28, 2006

Photographer Jill Greenberg Controversy!.... Time to Buy?

Over the year I've used some stupid gimmicks hysterical Monkey face photos by Photographer Jill Greenberg to add a little levity to this site. Lord knows.. the art world can be all too serious enough.. and sometimes a little monkey business humor is badly needed!

Jillgreenberg_nucular But this week, some controversy has erupted over her newest show "End Times" at The Paul Kopeikin Gallery in LA, which is open till July 8th.

This show is a series of close up shots of distressed and crying children.  Many of these images are slick, large but also very powerful, almost everyone who sees them is bound to have an immediate reaction. 

But, the shit started to fly when first off, in April, blogger Thomas Hawk, A total Nut Case, posted a flat out condemnation of the work as sickening, and child abuse. Thomas has gone so far as suggesting the photographer should be arrested and charged with child abuse. Jill Greenberg has stated, no abuse to the children ever took place, and parents of the children were always monitoring the photo sessions.

Secondly the story was picked up by American Photo, in their story Cry Baby, and Thomas Hawk further commented a few days ago.

Today, the all self important website BoingBoing.net joined in, reporting that Jill Greenberg and her husband have threatened to sue Thomas Hawk for libel and contacted his employer to suppress his writing. Oh..such drama!  Plus Thomas Hawk, has yet another insane post on Jill Greenberg today. Too funny.. You couldn't make this stuff up to be any more amusing!

So, while the photo's are probably too filled with visual gimmicks and over dramatic lighting to be considered serious art. But given their "Implied Political" message, the work has an appeal with many photography collectors.  I just love, LUV, Loved her funny Monkey pictures!  But, as both Andrea Serrano, and Chris Ofili can both bank on a test.. nothing helps art sales like some good old fashion controversy!!  So the net of all this, Thomas Hawk, is probably the best thing to ever happen to Jill Greenberg's Art Career.

So after something like this .. it probably just increased the value of Jill's art work significantly!!  For anyone who'd like to buy her photography....The prices are still very reasonable...for now!  Both Brian Clamp and Paul Kopeikin are her art dealers. I believe ClampArt will have a show of Jill's work in the fall.

Here's a brief review of her new book, Jill Greenberg:End Times


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MAO, I think this work is total exploitation of little children, and should be stopped.

I think it's irresponsible for you to suggest the artist or collectors look to make a profit on this.. you should be ashamed of yourself.

You crack me up.

That Thomas Hawk blog is hilarious, especially the comments. All aboard!! The crazy train is leaving the station!

I'm not sure who's to blame (or who cares) now that war's erupted, but this bit from the review seems pretty criminal: "Overall, End Times succeeds at turning propagandistic strategies against themselves, creating incisive political commentary."

Slap a title on, and crying toddlers become political statements? No wonder Coulter and the rest of the fascist cheerleaders are so smug...

Check out Greenberg's website. She's a decent but typical commercial photographer normally seen in the pages of PDN. Call me a purist, but I feel an artist should not co-mingle art and commerce to the lengths she does. Be an artist or be an advertising/movie/celebrity photographer...but not both. For collecting, I'd rather have Ruff, Muniz, Struth over Liebovitz, Ritts or Newton. Basically I don't think she's a good choice to collect for price appreciation.

Now you done it, [...] "too filled with visual gimmicks and over dramatic lighting to be considered serious art," she may be calling your boss tomorrow.

I enjoyed the primate portraits too, but don't see them as 'art' either.

hello, all
this is my first ever time in a BLOG. not sure if this is gonna even work, or if i am following the rules of blog etiquette, but we shall give it a try. as an obsessive but cautious collector, i want to try and share some of my recent discoveries, for comment or advice or whatever else comes to mind.
this will be the first post, but i have a couple of other artists i have found who fall into the iffy/unreliable/inaccurate/suspicious consumerist pigeonhole of "emerging".

my personal preference is for paintings with a tactile, painterly feel, and for artists who are exploring visual language with originality and courage. most importantly, the work has to stand up to repeated, prolonged study ( by that i mean, sitting in front of it for a long time, over and over, and never getting a stale feeling).

so... here is my first:
sandy litchfield
shows at metaphor contemporary in bkln

i tried to paste a couple of images, but couldn't. here is the link to the gallery website:


Am i the only one who thinks the monkeys are funny cause they look like black people trying to do math?

I doubt it.

Rocco.. I'm so telling Tony you wrote that!! And this time he'll want to kick your white racist ass!!

this is the best post on the whole thing ever.

you've got to see the crap that andrew peterson, sorry i mean thomas hawk, posted on my site. he's threatened my children (and linked to their websites--subsequently we've had to take them offline)

anyway, appreciate the sense of humor and the cynicism. i've got to say jill and i are both horrified by the quality of human being that trolls on "hawk's" site and the quality of posters from "self important" boingboing. it's something.

anyway, i'm just trying to keep my perspective in all this, which is hard. there is a desire to stop andrew peterson mixed with a desire to keep my children's lives out of his crazy-ass mind.

and it's nice to see so many pieces selling--papa needs new shoes.

Mike Awesome post...Those monkey portraits are the best! I made one of them my desktop image at work and sent another to my sad friend to make him smile. But, I like it better on my desktop, so I'll save $4500. If one goes to her website, http://www.manipulator.com/ (the one not run by her gallery which downplays her commercial work) one sees an ad for Target, some corny fashion photos right out of America's Next Top Model, and among the celebrities she's worked with...wait for it...wait for it... both of the Coors Lite Twins. Now that's range...or maybe I'm just bitter because I don't have $4500 for a monkey picture to make me smile!

Spot the difference between Jill Greenberg and Click movie poster:

the sicko Robert Green said:
"you've got to see the crap that andrew peterson, sorry i mean thomas hawk, posted on my site. he's threatened my children (and linked to their websites--subsequently we've had to take them offline) "

Actually it was not Thomas, or Andrew who posted that on your childrens site. It was me. I see that you and wifey can dish out distress to other children but you can't take any of it being pushed back on you.

What a hypocrit you two are. You'll be getting my bag of shit sent thru the mail any day now. Stick your nose in and take a deep breath...you'll get an idea of what you are really worth as a human.

the sicko Robert Green also said:
"i've got to say jill and i are both horrified by the quality of human being..."

The feeling is mutual. The fact that you and wifey are even in the same society as decent people is beyond me. It is even sicker that you have no clue to her deplorable actions against these children. You are the bottom of the barrell of human society and are no better than pimps who terrorize others to make money off of.

the sicko Robert Green also said:
"with a desire to keep my children's lives out of his crazy-ass mind."

You should have thought about that before. They are fair game now, since you obviously don't mind inflicting pain and emotional distress on other children.


It's ironic that Robert Green, who has suggested that I have libeled his wife with my criticism of her methods, would make a public statement that I've posted "crap" to his blog, threatened his children, and linked to his children's websites. These are more direct lies from Robert Green. These are not even labeled as opinion but reported by him as fact.

For the record, I have never published anything to Robert Green's website. I have never threatened his children and I have never published the addresses to his children's website. And he has no evidence whatsoever that I have.

I did save a copy of Robert Green's deleted post prior to his deleting it and there is nothing in there written by or from me. If Robert Green would like me to though I could easily reproduce this post for him.

It is interesting that rather than address the criticism against Jill Greenberg's methods that the Green/Greenberg's would rather take an approach to try and tear me down as a credible critic using lies.

Similarly Jill Greenberg tried to use as a defense of her work in American Photo the statement that she thought that I did not even have kids. When in the blog post criticizing her I clearly state I am a father of four.

This strategy of outright lies reeks of desperation on their part. They would be better off attempting to defend their position that creating Jill's art was in fact a morally responsible thing to do rather than to try to make up outright lies to attack their critic and make up outright and direct lies.

While I can understand that Robert Green and Jill Greenberg would be upset with my characterizing Jill's work as child abuse (an opinion that I believe still is valid), resorting to a "smear your critic with lies" campaign is not a legitimate or responsible way to deal with this criticism.

No body said art couldn't be controversial! Heck it's because of the shock of imagery that photography can be so artistic. The question is what kind of reaction is this photographer looking for exactly?

Controversial is one thing. Resorting to bullying and terrorizing tactics, on 3 year old children, to inflict emotional distress for the sake of a photograph, that is sold for $4,500 ea. (and is the sole purpose for doing the photograph) is appalling and just plain wrong.

The National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information lists all the codes and descriptions of child abuse in every state, and for California it states: "“Willful harming or injuring of a child or the endangering of the person or health of a child means a situation in which any person willfully causes or permits any child to suffer, or inflicts thereon, unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or having the care or custody of any child, willfully causes or permits the person or health of the child to be placed in a situation in which his or her person or health is endanger.” WILLFULLY CAUSES ANY CHILD TO SUFFER, OR INFLICTS THEREON…MENTAL SUFFERING. That seems pretty clear that mental suffering, and these children are obviously experiencing that, inflicted on a child is abuse.

And the photographer is looking for the checkbook out kind of reaction. As the husband says above "and it's nice to see so many pieces selling--papa needs new shoes." its ALL about the money.

I don't know what everyone is complaining about? I love every little tear running over their soft naked bodies. I want to see more Jill!!!!

Yay!! The crazy train has made a stop at MAO!!!

"Posted by: John Hancock | July 07, 2006 at 05:38 PM

I don't know what everyone is complaining about? I love every little tear running over their soft naked bodies. I want to see more Jill!!!!"

That's pretty lame...using my name to say the opposite.

Bet you thought it was cute, huh? It is...2nd grade cute.


It's a tribute to how little there is to write about that bloggers and those that interact with them have wasted their time and energy to continue pushing a non-existant controversy started by a pathetic little blogger named Thomas Hawk. While it's difficult not to laugh at people's self-rightious indignation. Except, of course, that by calling Jill's work child abuse - which it isn't - they dilute the meaning of real child abuse. So damage is being done - by those fools, religious fanatics, and clearly misguided folks who think having your shirt off is being naked and crying is child abuse. How far can this thing possibly go? It hasn't stopped yet, stay tuned.

Right Paul, and you don’t have a vested interest in this, now do you? I’d say about $2,250.00 worth. More marketing for your client I see. Why don’t you call everyone who disagrees with you an idiot like you’ve done in the past. Oh wait, now you are calling Thomas a pathetic little blogger. I see you are expanding your insults. Even using "ools, religious fanatics, and clearly misguided folks". My, how much you hate it when someone disagrees with you and expresses their opinion using freedom of speech. Isn't that what you are saying Greenberg has, freedom of speech? So she has it but no one else does. And if they do, you, Greenbergs and husband Robert Green, will insult them, call them names, lie to media publications and call their employer to try and get them fired. Thanks for showing people the real you. You couldn't have help "this side" any more if you tried.

I feel sad for you that you don’t want to see this as abuse. And if you read the California statute on the matter, you’d find out that causing a child emotional distress is abuse. And these children are certainly in distress. They are a far cry from just crying, and as an example, image.google.com “crying children” and see what you get. It is nothing to the horror and anguish that these children are obviously in in Jill’s pictures. And abuse comes in many ways, Paul, and lesser amounts of abuse do not invalidate larger amounts of abuse. However, abuse is abuse. And purposefully inflicting emotional distress on an innocent 3 year old child, for money (or for any reason), is abuse.

And if Jill is so concerned with the abuses Bush is doing, why is she abusing children too? There are MANY different ways she could have expressed her displeasure and disgust with Bush rather than purposfully forcing 3 year old children into a state of emotional distress. Isn't she supposed to be creative? Hmmmm maybe she isn't so much after all, and has to resort to using innocent 3 year old children, and purposefully inflict emotional distress on them, to come up with anything. And even that misses the mark. The link between her images and titles to some feeling she has for the Bush Admin. is hardly there unless the concept is explained to you and you've read the "artist" statement. And even THEN, it is a stretch.

And why isn’t any, or all, of the money from these $4,500/ea. prints going to organizations that will help those children you and her seem so concerned about? And I’m not talking $.10 on the dollar. Lets see her put her money where her mouth is. That goes for you too.

What?!?!? That isn’t what she and you are going to do with the money?

Yeah, I thought so.

I am a loving mother of two. often told by friends and family that I'm one in a million. an I think that this is being blown way out of context. you show me a parent who hasn't sat back just once, and looked at the precious face of a crying child, and been in awwww. its unforgettable! its priceless! its moments like that, you will tell them about when they graduate high school. and if you ask me, that is all this photographer is doing. an if I'm not mistaken, in the photo word, she captured EMOTION, something ALL photographer's long for. she hit the jack pot. I take my hat off to her, for doing it in such a way that its priceless, but it has everyone around the globe talking about it. so that just makes it even more out there, in your face and for that matter, very successful. (way to go Jill Greenberg) its not like she spanked them, and then took a photo of it for gratification! the mom's and dad's of each child was sitting right there. one needs to stop an think. ask yourself, often times more then not in this country. people are too quick to judge before they know the situation. lets find out the facts before we brand someone, shell we? she sought out to make a huge glamour gallery, and in my opinion, a avid photographer myself, she did just that. an the fact that everyone who is anyone is talking about it. she nailed this one! my hats off to her! Signed the Proud, Mother of two, in Ohio!

Yeah this is art all right. I hope to god at least she didn't get to waste taxpayers money with a NEA grant.

Overreaction? Maybe.

Art? - really simple litmus test as far as I'm concerned the work sucks. Or is that considered libel, too?

Oh and I do think it's exploitive, boorish, lowbrow, and mean spirited. She needs to get a real job. Or is that libel? I can't keep up with all the squishy definitions thrown around these days.

To all of those interested in Jill Greenberg, I am selling one of her Monkey Portraits (Worried, Edition 4 of 10) on eBay:


If anyone is interested, please check it out. You can also just follow it to see if any of this controversy has had any impact on the price of her art.

(As an aside, I am not selling the work because of the controversy)

The outrage over the photographs, calling it child abuse is absolutely outrageous! The removal of a lolli-pop or a sucker is minimal, if it will be remembered at all, by the child compared to real abuse. Whether she donates any or all of the $$ she makes from the shoot is her perogative, not anyone elses. Maybe the folks calling this Photography session abuse should visit a home for abused children, to see what it really means. To be abused physically, mentally, or even sexually is a far cry from having someone take the lolli-pop away.... Please Get A Grip on reality here.

"The removal of a lolli-pop or a sucker is minimal, if it will be remembered at all, by the child compared to real abuse."

So... how many times a day or hour can she do this stunt to a kid before you would call it abuse? I mean, if it's not mildly abusive to do it once, or twice or so in a ten minute session... What is the limit on a stranger teasing a half naked kid and MAKING them cry? I assume here that the shirt being off (she admits herself that that in and of itself makes the kids uncomfortable) is a tactic she uses to increase the child’s vulnerability.

She, in my mind, is a beast and a brute plain and simple. The only real thing that will be done to force justice on this wantnabe nazi fra, is that when these children reach the correct age, their lawyers will strip little miss artist of all her worldly possessions in a beautiful class action lawsuit.

I have no doubt that there is a lawyer reading about this case and gathering evidence as I write this. Timing will be crucial... She must be worth millions, and they must take it all to make sure that it really hurts...and that she cries.

Rachel said: "To be abused physically, mentally, or even sexually is a far cry from having someone take the lolli-pop away.... Please Get A Grip on reality here."

It may be to you, as a "grownup" but its not to a 3 year old. Look deep into the faces, then tell me its a "far cry" from reality.

Teacher: "What does your mommy do?"
Greenberg kid: "My mommy makes me and other kids cry, for money."

I was appaled to see such imagery in The Sunday Times magazine 27 Aug. 2006. (UK) Apparently these images were created so that us lesser mortals can be made more aware of Jill Greenberg's view of political events withing the USA. If you want to change the politics of your country vote for a change, thats what we do in a civilized society. My fear is that such imagry will without doubt provoke sick people to copy or worse still produce thier own images of crying children and sell it to equally sick people. How many children were subjected to this cruelty before she got the right level of distress. Now ask yourself how many more children might be traumatised or abused in order to capture a similar image, but can you be sure it was because they took the lollipop away?

It strikes me as surprising that Mr Peterson (Hawks?) is the father of four children, and leads me to wonder how much time he actually spends in their presence on a daily basis. I myself am only the father of one child so far, but I've taught in a preschool and I know enough that A) young children cry a lot B) they can start crying very easily, and C) they can stop just as suddenly.
The face of a crying child is a feature of normal childhood to me, and doesn't immediately conjure thoughts of abuse!
As a photographer, Jill Greenberg intended to capture this very human expression and to my mind did it in the most humane and gentlest way she could think of - give them candy, have their mother take it away for a brief moment and then return it - tears over.
Does Mr Peterson seriously expect us to believe any of those kids might have become traumatised for life from this "ordeal"? Please! That this is the worst and most memorable experience they will suffer, far surpassing the countless painful bumps on the head all kids get as they topple over while struggling to gain the ability to walk and gain control of their bodies? You may not remember it, but it happened to every one of us!
As for the "nudity", I apologise for being forthright but I can find nothing offensive about it whatsoever. Sorry.
Does he think, I wonder, that Michelangelo's naked cherubim should be painted over with appropriately dated attire?
I will admit Greenberg could have still made a powerful impact if she had dressed all the kids in identical white T-shirts or something (so differing fashions wouldn't distract from the true subjects: the children), but in an aesthetic way this might detract from the natural and timeless quality of the images. Anyway, it's a moot point, and hardly a big deal.
As she said herself, the whole paedophilia angle never even crossed her mind and she was shocked when it came up. Any such notions apparently arose first in the eye of the beholder.
It baffles me that the image of a naked child could ever be offensive or disturbing, and does raise serious questions about whether the problem lies in front of or behind those beholders' eyes.
The way she put it was that perhaps the critics (mostly men, who - coincidentally - spend less time with small kids than women on average) may have been projecting uncomfortable feelings they had when they saw the images and blaming her. Freud would have a field day.
It's interesting that Peterson described her "stripping them of their clothes" when in the pictures we only see them from above the midriff. How could he know whether they had been stripped completely? Did he just imagine this? If so, why?... But enough!
All said, there may be no need for any "who's the real pervert" finger-pointing. Perhaps most of the talk of being offended is actually irrelevant.
A very significant point in this whole story is the politics behind it.
She conceived of this project initially as a criticism of the Bush administration by showing kids in despair with topical/satirical titles, and the massive backlash 'flip-flopped' her idea to show her as the demon since she put those kids through "despair" herself. The entire episode smacks of the typical immediate knee-jerk reactions either political side always have over any kind of criticism. It seemed so obvious to me even before I checked out the comments from objectors and confirmed my suspicions that a huge majority of the objectors are Bush supporters. It was then easy to picture them reading about the photo exhibition on perhaps some pro-Bush or right-wing website or getting a multiple-recipient e-mail from one of their buddies, all about this "evil, unpatriotic Democrat woman who tortures innocent kids - write now and complain!"
One has to wonder honestly, if the photographer had actually been a Bush supporter and her exact same exhibition was put out, but as a criticism of the Democratic Party, liberals, or whatever, would those same people have still written to complain? In all probability, no: they'd have said nothing (or maybe a load of Democrats would have complained instead). Just another example of the despicable hypocrisy all too present in bipartisan politics.
Which, when all is said and done, is more damaging in the long term and ought to be a lot more offensive to decent people than temporary lollipop confiscation.

After reading a number of reactions to this both for and against I note one thing. The people against this are reacting due to the glorification of childrens distress over why they have had a treat taken from them without good cause, that amounts to being bullied, bullying is a form of abuse, now, my point here is this, that all the arguements for the photos are ALL taking the lesser of two evils.

Those "for" are saying, "hey look, its just a kid crying over a lollipop, take a look at abuse where children are beaten or starved, neglected, etc." Well for them I can only say this, how DARE you put a standard or level on what is abuse. The role of any parent or adult is ensure that a their child of whatever age is kept within a safe, calm, happy and loving environment at all times within human ability.

Jill Greenberg failed to do this, those parents who submitted their children failed to do this, those people defending this outrage, are failing to do this.

There is absolutely no excuse whatsoever to make a child cry deliberately, it is the most disgusting manner to which parents can make a quick buck and for an artist to make herself known.

If a parent/guardian fails to do their duty to ensure the safe, caring and happy environment for their child to which they are entrusted, they are failures in their duty.

All those who argued "for" this disgusting exhibition have also failed. Even if some of these people are not yet parents, they have failed before they even got started.

The exhibition is tasteless, desperate and glorifies a child's distress, how on earth can anyone defend that?

Some of those arguing for are saying that the pictures are, and I quote "beauitful"

"Here look a photo of a child crying their eyes out because a photographer took their treat away without good cause causing the child momentary distress, to an extent that some suffered uncontrollable salivation isnt that just beautiful?"

Err what? Pardon? Sorry?

Beautiful? Please seek help!

On another note, all these children if you notice are disrobed, disrobed and crying, as anyone with any knowledge of child abuse, peadophiles have had images found on their computers of children, disrobed and crying.

So what exactly is this exhibition about then? Politics? Please do not bullshit me.

Jill Greenberg is sick, the people defending this are sick, the parents who submitted their children to this are sick.

My daughter started school today, she is 4, 5 next month, anytime she is distressed or upset I am there for her, anytime she is crying about something I am there to put it right, even if she be needing of just a hug, hence when she went through those school gates for the first time today, she was a happy smilling confident child, she was this way because she knows that when she isnt I am there, cant say the same for anyone involved the creation and defence for this exhibition.

The unfortunate sad thing is, is that with everyone reacting to this, its given Jill Greenberg exactly what she wanted, money and exposure.

She should be blacklisted!!

Good evening. Resolve to edge in a little reading every day, if it is but a single sentence. If you gain fifteen minutes a day, it will make itself felt at the end of the year.
I am from Montenegro and also now am reading in English, give true I wrote the following sentence: "Not, the season 1 tennis makes a park of energy riders in its email release, on which the rock of the song breaking local races noticed from the late bicycle is mangled."

Regards ;-) Hussein.

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