Notes       [Article]

This essay came out of a seminar I taught at Wellesley College in the spring of 1995 called "Imagined Children, Desired Images," and I owe an intellectual debt to all its members. I am grateful to James D. Herbert for giving me the opportunity to try out an account of Knox at the 1995 CAA meeting, as well as for his comments. Harold Koh and Henry Hansmann gave legal advice. Andrew McClellan's invitation allowed me to test an initial version of this paper at Tufts on an exceptionally responsive audience. A lunch with Sarah Winter put the paper in its current form. Thanks also to Wayne Koestenbaum and Laura Wexler for their excellent editorial suggestions.

1. As all photography critics know, responses to these questions have been many and various, as well as powerfully argued. Among the most famous is Roland Barthes's Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1981) [La chambre claire. (Paris: Seuil, 1980)]. Barthes clings, however vestigially, to photography's indexicality, though he reduces that indexicality to a "punctum," and inflects his argument with a recognition that his investments in meaning in photographs are very personal.

Whereas someone like Umberto Eco argues that a belief in indexical photographs is only the most tenacious of illusory beliefs in what (after Pierce) he calls "iconic signs": "The theory of the photo as an analogue of reality has been abandoned, even by those who once upheld it--we know that it is necessary to be trained to recognise the photographic image. We know that the image which takes shape on celluloid is analogous to the retinal image but not to that which we perceive.

We know that sensory phenomena are transcribed, in the photographic emulsion, in such a way that even if there is a causal link with real phenomena, the graphic images formed can be considered as wholly arbitrary with respect to these phenomena. Of course, there are various grades of arbitrariness and motivation, and this point will have to be dealt with at greater length. But it is still true that, to differing degrees, every image is born of a series of successive transcriptions" ("Critique of the Image," in Victor Burgin, ed., Thinking Photography [London: MacMillan, 1982], 32-38]).

2. Title 18, sections 2241-53, of the United States Code, amended by the Child Sexual Abuse and Pornography Act of 1986; Chapter 110, Sexual Exploitation of Children, and later by the 1988 Child Protection and Obscenity Act, which was revised in October, 1990. Enforcement of these laws was carried out by the National Obscenity Enforcement Unit created in 1986 by then Attorney General Edwin Meese, and now by the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section.

3. Ronald Dworkin, "Women and Pornography," The New York Review of Books (October 21, 1993); Ronald Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon, "Pornography: An Exchange," The New York Review of Books (Mar. 3, 1994): 47-49.

4. Andrew Vachss, "Age of Innocence," The London Observer (April 17, 1994): 14.

5. Sexual Exploitation of Children. A Report to the Illinois General Assembly. Illinois Legislative Investigating Commission, 1980, 27.

6. 1980 Illinois Report, 30.

7. 1980 Illinois Report, 59-61.

8. Doreen Carvajal, "Pornography Meets Paranoia," New York Times (Sunday, Feb. 19, 1995).

9. David Johnston, "Use of Computer Network For Child Sex Sets off Raids," New York Times (Thursday, Sept. 14, 1995): A1, A18.

10. Stephen Labaton, "As Pornography Arrests Grow, So Do Plans for Computer Stings," New York Times (Saturday, Sept. 16, 1995): A1, A8. Repeated written queries to two FBI offices about the results and costs of their child pornography investigations have gone unanswered.

11. To some Europeans, an intense preoccupation with child abuse seems particularly American. Jean Baudrillard, for example: "The latest obsession of American public opinion: the sexual abuse of children. There is now a law that two people must be present when very young children are being handled for fear of unverifiable sexual abuse. At the same time, supermarket carrier bags are adorned with the portraits of missing children.

Protect everything, detect everything, contain everything--obsessional society" (America, trans. Chris Turner [London, New York: Verso, 1988]).

Other Europeans, however, now share American obsessions. In late December 1995, Germany demanded that Compuserve, a Network software provider, censor sexual web sites, particularly those dealing in child porn. Britain also, in the fall of 1995, began to experience child porn scares.

12. Sara O'Meara, quoted in "Childhelp Strongly Disagrees with Justice Department, Applauds Senate's Unanimous Condemnation," PR Newswire (Nov. 5, 1993). O'Meara was reacting to Knox.

13. Of course a related issue would be what kinds of depicted actions are considered criminal. Should all child nudity, for instance, be considered equally pornographic?

14. Anyone who thinks this is an overstatement should consider the amendment Senator Orrin Hatch proposed to Congress on Sept. 13, 1995. Explaining that current federal law does not allow prosecution of "visual depictions" unless they actually involved real children in their making, Hatch moved that any image which "depicts, or appears to depict, a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct" be considered pornographic, whether children had been involved or not, specifically targeting computer-generated images. "Second, this bill amends the existing statutory definition of sexually explicit conduct contained at section 2256 to include the lascivious exhibition of the buttocks of any minor or the breast of any female minor" (Congressional Record--Senate, S13542 [Sept. 13, 1995]).

15. Interview with Harold Koh, Yale Law School Professor, Dec. 1994.

16. Implicitly recognizing Days's argument, however, the court of appeals also maintained for the first time in Knox's history that the movements of the children in the tapes seemed to be directed by someone outside the image frame, movements which might therefore be termed "unnatural."

17. Linda Greenhouse, "U.S. Changes Stance in Case on Obscenity," New York Times (Nov. 11, 1994).

18. Wendy Cole, "The Marquis de Cyberspace," Time (July 3, 1995): 43.

I would like to concede here that Sen. Hatch's Sept. 1995 child pornography amendment proposal does deal with this problem. "Visual depictions," Hatch proposes, "will be classified as child pornography if . . . (c) it is promoted or advertised as depicting a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct." Congressional Record--Senate, S13542.

19. At least nine negatives were made in 1925. Of these, six were printed. In 1977, all six were published in a portfolio titled Six Nudes of Neil. Two, including the one discussed here, were printed by Brett Weston as "Project Prints," a collection of what Edward Weston considered his finest work. See Amy Conger, Edward Weston--Photographs: From the Collection of the Center for Creative Photography (Tucson: Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, 1992), 43, figs. 170-175/1925.

20. Douglas Crimp, "The Boys in My Bedroom," Art in America, 78.2 (Feb. 1990): 47-49.

21. Stephanie Dolgoff, "Eros Explored," American Photo, 4.6 (Nov.-Dec. 1993): 15-16.

22. Edward Weston, The Daybooks of Edward Weston. I. Mexico, ed. Nancy Newhall (New York: Aperture, 1990), 146.

23. Weston, The Daybooks of Edward Weston. I., 147.

24. Conger, Edward Weston, 7.

25. Nancy Newhall, "Edward Weston and the Nude," from Modern Photography, 16 (June 1952), in Edward Weston Omnibus: A Critical Anthology, eds. Beaumont Newhall and Amy Conger (Salt Lake City: Gibbs M. Smith, 1984), 103.

26. Weston, The Daybooks of Edward Weston. I., pls. 20, 21.

27. Douglas Crimp, "The Photographic Activity of Postmodernism," October 15 (Winter 1980): 98-99. Crimp's position was expanded by Rosalind Krauss in "The Originality of the Avant- Garde: A Postmodernist Repetition," October 18 (Fall 1981): 47-66. It has recently been again taken up by Howard Singerman in "Seeing Sherrie Levine," October 67 (Winter 1994): 78-107.

28. Abigail Solomon-Godeau, "Living with Contradictions: Critical Practices in the Age of Supply-Side Aesthetics," Screen (Summer 1987), in The Critical Image: Essays on Contemporary Photography, ed. Carol Squiers (Seattle: Bay Press, 1990).

29. Andrew Vachss, "Age of Innocence," The London Observer (Apr. 17, 1994): 14.

30. Crimp, "The Boys in My Bedroom," 47-49. The original Art in America article used a Neil showing no genitals; when "The Boys in My Bedroom" was reprinted several years later in a gay anthology, it was illustrated by two Neils, one showing the boy's buttocks, and another his penis.

31. Weston, The Daybooks of Edward Weston. I., 118-19.

32. Edward Weston, "Photographing Children in the Studio," American Photography 6.2 (Feb. 1912), in Edward Weston on Photography, ed. Peter C. Bunnell (Salt Lake City: Gibbs M. Smith, 1983), 4.

33. Weston, "Photographing Children," 4.

34. Now in the collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum. See also: Theodore Stebbins, Weston's Westons: Portraits and Nudes (Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, 1989), 11-12. Stebbins sees a direct connection between Weston's early family album photographs, including some ambitious works such as the c.1913 nude of Chandler, I Do Believe in Fairies, and Weston's modernist nudes.

35. Among them: Patti Ambrogi, Judy Black, Charlee Brodsky, Vance Gellert, Nancy Honey, Joanne Leonard, Wendy Snyder MacNeill, Robert Mapplethorpe, Denise Marika, Sheila Metzner, Andrea Modica, Nicholas Nixon, and Jock Sturges. And why limit the list to fine art photography? Rock imagery by groups such as Babes in Toyland, Bikini Kill, Hole, Nirvana, and Van Halen are also radically revising our vision of adult relationships to children.

36. Emily Apter is also now writing, in a more psychoanalytic mode, about Mann's maternal marking of images. Her paper is not yet published.

37. Sally Mann, Immediate Family (New York: Aperture, 1992), n.p.