Artist Betsy Schneider takes pictures of her children naked and shows them to the world

These days, a mom can scrapbook the remnants of her baby's umbilical cord or blog about her teenager's period, and no one will bat an eye. But there's still one place where maternal (or paternal) documentation is sometimes considered an over-share: nude photos of the kids.

Particularly when they're hanging on the walls of a gallery.

From the day her daughter Madeleine was born, Betsy Schneider has performed a ritual that would inspire jealousy in any mom who lost the baby book when her own kid was 3 months old. Schneider's taken what she calls a "Photo of the Day." Two, actually: a headshot and a full-body image.

Betsy Schneider
Betsy Schneider

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When Madeleine was an infant, Schneider would get the baby up in the morning, take off her diaper, and snap the photos. She meant to do it only for a year, but the project continued as Madeleine got older (she's now 10), and it came to include her younger brother Viktor, now 6.

The images are almost clinical, certainly documentary-style, marking time on the face and body. Schneider insists the head shots are more personal, but it's the full-frontals, of course, that have gotten so much attention — particularly in 2004, when Schneider showed three huge posters filled with tiny shots of Madeleine at birth, 2, and 5 at a London gallery.

The images came down the day they went up, only to be strewn — along with Schneider's reputation — across the front pages of that city's nasty tabloids, amidst accusations of child pornography.

The depiction of nude children in art is obviously nothing new. The Greeks did it. So did Leonardo da Vinci. But apparently, frescoes on ceilings don't worry cops as much as photographs on the Internet, and today, magazines like Popular Photography devote entire articles to the task of warning shutterbugs not to take film containing that proverbial bearskin rug shot to the local Walgreens to be developed.

Schneider is no mere shutterbug. She graduated from two of the best art schools in the country and apprenticed with Sally Mann, arguably the most famous modern photographer to take pictures of her own naked kids.

The questions raised in the 1992 New York Times Magazine article that first introduced her to Mann's work could as easily be posed today about Schneider's own images:

Mann's work has raised worrying personal concerns. The shield of motherhood can quickly become a sword when turned against her. If it is her solemn responsibility, as she says, "to protect my children from all harm," has she knowingly put them at risk by releasing these pictures into a world where pedophilia exists? Can young children freely give their consent for controversial portraits, even if — especially if — the artist is their parent?

Schneider's taught photography at Arizona State University since 2002, but while the university supported her work, officials kept quiet (and kept her quiet) about the controversy abroad. Schneider's never shown her "Photo of the Day" work in town.

This spring she got tenure, and she got bolder. She's got two local shows planned this year. The first, opening August 15 at The Kitchenette, a photography collective on Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix, features 120 images — one a month of Madeleine, from birth to age 10. (Two of Schneider's former students, Desiree Edkins and Jose Sosa, will also be showing their photographs.)

The show's title is "That Enthralling Gallop," from a poem by Emily Dickinson:

Sweet is the swamp with its secrets
Until we meet a snake;
'Tis then we sigh for houses,
And our departure take

At that enthralling gallop
That only childhood knows.
A snake is summer's treason,
And guile is where it goes.


One year, Schneider recalls, her mother got a roll of film developed, and it came back with snapshots from two Christmases. That's how seldom she took photographs.

Neither of Betsy's two younger sisters took pictures, either; they drew. But Betsy couldn't sit still long enough. The photo gene came from her dad and his father. That side of the family "obsessively" photographed family events, she says.

Their parents are both psychologists and raised the girls in Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and Michigan. Betsy got her first camera at 8, but it wasn't 'til she was picked for yearbook in junior high that the photo bug bit.

"I was kind of a runty, weird, uncomfortable, boyish sixth-grader," she says. "I remember feeling like it was something I did a little bit better."

But she was sloppy in the darkroom and screwed up a couple of rolls of film and lost her confidence. She ran track and cross-country in high school and majored in English literature at the University of Michigan.

She thought about becoming a writer or a lawyer, explaining, "I wanted to argue." But a good photography class reminded her of her old love, and Schneider went back for another undergraduate degree, this time at the Art Institute of Chicago. She was uncomfortable there — it was her first time in a big city; she didn't feel like she fit in or wore the right clothes. But she'd chosen her career.

"Deep down, I knew this was it."

It was the late 1980s, and as Schneider recalls, her classmates — particularly the female ones — were big into the way women were represented in art. The mantra was, "We're reclaiming the female body from the male gaze," but Schneider thought that was BS, particularly because, for her fellow students, it resulted in nothing more than a lot of beautiful, self-conscious self-portraits.

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28 comments
Donald
Donald

This is far from being ART; she wanted to get reactions. I would never take a photo like this one which is personal to the child himself, and this woman lacked the respect to her son and dignity. She definitely has a big problem!

Calebreverie
Calebreverie

There is a HUGE difference between child porn and art. Child porn is the way of destroying the innocence in a child, nude child art is showing people how pure and innocent a child really is. You see children don't think of nudity as being perveted, they just think of it as part of the body that should be respected. At a certain point that purity is lost through things we see and do. Nude art is a way of preserving this, it's a way of saying "My body is a temple of beauty". I feel and pray for those of you who shun the expression of body and soul through the purity of a child.

Pop in Pomfret
Pop in Pomfret

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." That's a well-accepted, if trite, statement. Equally true is that prurient interest is almost everywhere for those determined to find it. (Prurience, by the way, is one of the cornerstones of defining pornography - nudity has nothing whatsoever to do with it.) What I read here is disheartening - that there can be so many perverts passing themselves off as moral watchdogs. Get a grip, people - a picture of a nude child engaged in non-sexual activity will not bring pedophiles beating a path to her/his doorstep. There are kids in every neighborhood; why should the fact that a mother sees her daughter naked make anyone think that the daughter is available? The United States is a sad country in its approach to the human body - God's gift to us. We continue to see nudity as perversion, to the point where the decades-old Coppertone suntan lotion ad with the dog is baring the bottom of a topless 3-year old had to be redrawn (relatively recently) to show less skin! (The girl was the daughter of the artist...sound familiar?)

A little reality: --nudity is NOT obscene, pornographic, or perverted - it is the natural state of the human being, no matter what the age. --pornography does not increase sex crimes (actually the opposite) - witness Scandinavian statistics.--except in obvious hard-core images, 99% of prurience is in the mind of the viewer - NOT inherent in the image.

When (and if) we grow up, perhaps we will be able to reduce the number of pedophiles in our society, reduce the number of teenage pregnancies (many because of no knowledge of sexual practices), and increase the self-confidence of people who are not ashamed of their bodies yet today are made to feel that they should be.

Most of all, perhaps we can eliminate the so-called Moral Majority (who are neither) and let rational thought rule our lives.

Danette Saxey
Danette Saxey

To Mary K.

You are responsible for the safety of your kids. How other people think is up to them? That statement is absurd! Any pedophile could look up her name, find her address and then go target her children. It is that easy on the internet! You obviously don't have children. If you do, I feel sorry for them! Your an idiot!

A Nonymonster
A Nonymonster

and I suppose the child having clothes stops the pedophile being able to find her address?

ddb
ddb

For those of you who see a problem with this work, chances are you know very little about art. I don't care if you are a professional photographer or a mother or whatever. You still clearly do not understand the intentions of this artist if you continue to call it pornography. Since when did taking a picture of your child each day to document growth and time become a crime? If anything you people should be arguing over whether or not this is art vs. science. Not art vs. porn. Notice that the police are not interested in this. Only the media and ignorant people like those of you who see this as some sort of pornography seem to care. And guess what! You're opinion doesn't matter anyway, because it's not like you go to gallery shows and actually take part in the art world today. Find something better to do than slander an influential photographer and ASU teacher.

Equity Court Services of Arizo
Equity Court Services of Arizo

THE FOLLOWING ARE THE OPINIONS BASED ON KNOWN FACTS OF EQUITY COURT SERVICES OF ARIZONA.

We respect the opinions of ERINN and All, and some here agree, BUT you must understand that the police and prosecuters are threatening New Times and the photographer with PROSECUTION and POSSIBLE JAIL or PRISON, in that they apparently are trying to trump up a Class 2 felony.

So, we move from a MORAL issue to a LEGAL one, where malicious, retaliatory, selective prosecutions are ILLEGAL and ACTIONABLE by New Times, Amy, and the photographer/artist.

Looking further, sometimes corrupt politicos order their "goons," the prosecuters, cops, and others, to pursue their political agendas in an illegal criminal prosecution or slander campaign.

Regarding Mayor Goober, we have submitted the following to the biggest and most well-respected law schools in this Nation. We also want your opinions, so comment here and write: equityct@gmail.com.

We commented in Sarah's blog also:

"THE FOLLOWING AND ALL OTHER BLOG POSTS AND COMMENTARY HEREIN AND ELSEWHERE ARE THE OPINIONS BASED ON KNOWN FACTS OF EQUITY COURT SERVICES OF ARIZONA.

Thanks again, Sarah, for the valuable information. As suspected, these dirtbag politicos are not representing the people. Nothing new, but the intentional and malicious STIFLING of popular sentiment is SCARY.

The courts, as bad as they are, appear to be the only place to turn. Therefore, we are "fine-tuning" our investigation of possible DIRECT involvement of City of Phoenix officials in the subjugation of the people's voice. Again, scary stuff.

The following is being analyzed by some Legal Clinics at some of this Nation's BIGGEST and MOST WELL-RESPECTED law schools. We emphasize that we HAVE NOT AND WILL NOT bother sending this to ASU Law. We actually like ASU, even ASU Law, but isn't it funny that many of these local corrupt, lying thugs attended ASU and/or ASU Law School.

Remember that convicted first degree murderer and dope-dealing punk HAMM, the bum who had the nerve to try to get admitted to the Arizona Bar AFTER he did 20 years and graduated from ASU Law? Fortunately, the Arizona Supreme Court told him to take a hike.

Here's what's being analyzed and we ask, "Should Goober aka "Mayor Chickenshit," aka "Front Porch Bench" be charged criminally, named as defendant civilly, recalled, impeached, or even praised?" We leave the praise option for those of you who favor this type of government and mayor. hey, it's a free country.

Our letter to the Law Clinics:

"Dr. Rooney, Esq.

Here's a pertinent timeline of events leading up to this mess:

1. Mid-November, 2007 - due to serious violent crimes committed against innocent peopleby DOCUMENTED illegals (whether they were/are Hispanic, Irish, or from Jupiter - it's IMMATERIAL), EQUITY COURT SERVICES OF ARIZONA files a series of complaints with the US Attorney and ICE (see attached).

2. After these complaints were filed, telephone harassment and threats of prosecution ESCALATE against Bill Stoller by a self-identified "Police Cadet" named JAMES SMOKE and Police Assistant VICKI ROLLINGER. Their behavior amounted criminal behavior as defined by the applicable Arizona Revised Statutes, Title 13.

Of course, our complaints to the Phoenix PD were ignored. Further, Phoenix Gang Unit Detective MALDONADO continues to harass EQUITY and Mr. Stoller and unduly delays and censors alleged "police reports" filed against them by ROLLINGER, SMOKE, et. al.

3. On January 28, 2008, Mr. Stoller files a Title 42, 1983 and action to enjoin an illegal State prosecution against The Phoenix City Prosecuters, Vicki Rollin, and The State of Arizona.

4. In early April, 2008, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon writes a very weak and mostly undocumented complaint to the US Attorney seeking an investigation into alleged "racial profiling" by Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Note that we specifcally had mentioned calling Arpaio's hotline in November due to the Phoenix PD's and Mayor Gordon's complete inaction and negligence, even after a deported illegal killed Phoenix police Officer Erkle and after we had repeatedly reported serious, violent crimes committed by people we absolutely KNEW were illegal. Again, it doesn't matter whether they were Irish, italian, Hispanic, or whatever.

5. May, 2008 - Attorney Michael Manning files Title 42,1983, gross negligence and other claims against the City of Phoenix, Police Chief Jack Harris, and other defendants, on behalf of the Gotbaum kids and Carol Gotbaum's estate.

6. July, 2008 - JESSIKA (JESSICA) RODRIGUEZ, former "right hand woman" to Gordon, files what we maintain is a frivolous, retaliatory, malicious, and baseless Civil Rights complaint in US District Court Phoenix. Note that back in November/December Mr. Stoller and others had informally noticed Rodriguez and the Mayor that they planned to file a civil rights complaint(s).

7. January, 2008, et. seq. - EQUITY COURT SERVICES OF ARIZONA was trying to assist distraught American citizens, some homeless Veterans, who complained to EQUITY about illegally being denied menial jobs at McDonald's, North 7th Avenue and West Van Buren, Phoenix and elsewhere (see attached). EQUITY then joined the AFL-CIO as an associate to gain available assistance from the unions.

We are starting to see a disturbing pattern of what we feel is retribution by a desperate and scared Mayor Gordon and the City of Phoenix when they know they're on the verge of being held accountable. Please investigate.

Thank you for your assistance.

Sincerely,

/s/

Staff and Associates of

EQUITY COURT SERVICES OF ARIZONAWORLD WITHOUT WIRES

All commentary to: equityct@gmail.com - cited documents will be E-mailed to you. "Hard copies" sent at cost, no profit to us.

Vaya con Dios, amigos!

Erinn
Erinn

I do not see the art in this work at all. It is exploitation of these innocent children. Sure, every mother has a few pictures where the kids have ripped off their clothes and decided to run around, but those are kept away as a memory and can be pulled out for a good chuckle later on in life. However, posing your child routinely and MAKING them undress with little to no regard as to how they feel about advertising their bodies infront of the WORLD is wrong. Nudity does not automatically mean pornography, however, there are certain guidelines you have to stay within to keep it tasteful and artistic. Regardless of her intent there are too many sick, disturbed people out there that will consider this pornographic and get their jollies off of this.

Even the child does not seemed pleased about it...almost brainwashed. When asked if she liked what her mother was doing her response was "I don't know [...] it's routine." The entire thing is incredibly disheartening and Ms. Schneider should truly reevaluate her work and her intentions. As an artist there are always boundaries to be pushed but this has entirely crossed the line.

Orange Cat
Orange Cat

For those of you who are calling it pornography, I issue a challenge: go see it for yourself. Then go purchase two magazines: one fashion and one pornographic. CRITICALLY examine the images and compare them to Betsy's photographs of her daughter. I think you'll find that it is nothing at all similar to what the uninformed persons of the Panic Culture are calling it. Also, ask yourself why the images make you feel uncomfortable - and then question the influences that cause you to think that way. Don't be a bleating sheep and screaming BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?!? These kids are probably far more well adjusted than the typical child that's so full of anti-depressants and adderall that America seems to be producing.

equity Court Services of Arizo
equity Court Services of Arizo

THE FOLLOWING AND ALL OTHER BLOG POSTS AND COMMENTARY ARE THE OPINIONS OF EQUITY COURT SERVICES OF ARIZONA BASED ON KNOWN FACTS.

We are standing moot on the issue of whether it's MORALLY CORRECT for a mother to publish photos of her children in the media.

But we're not talking about morals here. We're talking about the Police Department with a "Police Chief" named as one of the many Defendants in a Federal wrongful death and negligence lawsuit. And allegedly corrupt cops that can be easily exposed in the press, whether it's New Times of The New York Times.

I'd say we have some ulterior motives for BOTH Candy and Phoenix to file false, malicious, politically-motived, and baseless charges. Feedback welcome to equityct@gmail.com

Let's thank New Times for protecting our cherished First Amendment rights. If the wannabe Phoenix City Prosecuters or any "Candy" men out there try to file BOGUS, RETALIATORY, FALSE, and MALICIOUS charges against New Times and others, fight it by sending an AMICUS CURIAE brief to the presiding judge(s).

Learn about your RIGHT to file an amicus curiae brief. See

http://topics.law.cornell.edu/... . Of course, your legal points have to be "on point," so do your homework.

We have given New Times, Amy Silverman, Ms. Schneider our full support. Here's part of a recent letter to the NEW TIMES FREEDOM FIGHTERS:

"We all were cracking up when we read about the further DESPERATE attempts by the wannabe prosecuters to charge New Times, et. al. with child pornography. We will assist and mention that in our lawsuits and complaints to the Bar. Consider yourselves exonerated New Times and Amy Silverman.

We'll get the name of any lying Phoenix prosecuters who file a malicious complaint in that and proceed accordingly.

This is turning out to be a comedy routine that truly makes Phoenix and Maricopa County look like "Gooberville, RFD!"

Wish John Dougherty were here! "

See if you can find a law firm that will take a class action against these corrupt thugs in office (or is that orifice in their cases?). Sorry - they bring out the vulgarity in us.

For starters, the City University of New York Law Clinic does pro bono work and is already looking at some Phoenix issues related to the corrupt abuse of poer in BOTH the City of phoenix and maricopa County. Call V. Hill 1-718-340-4300 or E-mail: msls@mail.law.cuny.edu.

In and For Justice.

Respectfully,

Staff and Associates of

EQUITY COURT SERVICES OF ARIZONAWORLD WITHOUT WIRES

www.equityphx.com

drlove
drlove

"but officer, it wasnt my intent to use the 500lbs of pot for anything other then art."

jj
jj

"There is a reason photographs depicting full frontal nudity of minors is illegal."

Except it's not. Child pornography is illegal. Nudity is not pornography.

"The fact is, every pervert in the country knows where to go find naked pics of kids for the next few weeks."

I'm sure every pervert in the country knows where to go to find naked pics of kids on the internet, 24/7, without having to go to an art gallery. And they can view them in the privacy of their own home too, without having to live anywhere near the museum. Please, think about your argument before you make it.

ck
ck

It doesn't matter what I think about the piece. It doesn'tmatter if I like or dislike it. The fact is, every pervert in the country knows where to go find naked pics of kids for the next few weeks. There is a reason photographs depicting full frontal nudity of minors is illegal. Again the artist failed to achieve her intent because she did not take into account the societal view of this depiction. No matter how much you want these images to be nothing more then fine art, society says otherwise."cognitive disassociation," look it up. Every artist who claims to apply meaning to their art should be familiar with this trap. I would hope that the Board of Regents is exploring possible diciplinary action. No matter how you look at this it is foolish to even play with this. Take a look at the woman in texas who was charged and prosecuted for images of her breast feeding. http://www.reviewjournal.com/l... kind of an old case, but it tells the story.

Ed Millar
Ed Millar

Whilst I agree with the writer that The Sun newspaper is a nasty little tabloid, it still made a very good point.

But sadly, yet again, Arizona shows itself to be the kiddy-porn capital of the USA.

jj
jj

Dear stupid people,Nudity is not pornography. Her pictures are not pornographic. Just because you find a sexual element in them doesn't mean they are sexual. And personally, you're the perverted ones for finding sex where there is none.

CK
CK

This has to be one of the most offensive shows I have seen. While the child porn is offensive in and of itself, (if a man did this and put it on the wall he would already be in jail.) The lack of creativity from a tenured professor is even more so. This is 2008 not 1988. Shock art is so pass e. Meaning can not be removed from the context in which it is presented. That includes the perspective of the viewer. What were you thinking? �cognitive disassociation?�

Rose
Rose

Arrest her! This is porn, plain and simple. The children have a right to privacy and are too young to choose. How many pedophiles are now searching for prey!She needs to register as a sex offender also. Nor does the little girl look to happy. This family needs to be investigated.

Tabby Cat
Tabby Cat

Firstly, pornography is defined as "any pictures, writings, drawings or similar media which contains sexual material for viewing". How can you post that girl on the cover of your magazine. Child pornography is something that should be punished to the fullest extent of the law, no matter what she claims. She claims that it's "art" and the "photo of the day". It's still porn. I don't understand what she could be thinking when she does this. Maybe it is "art" however posting it on the internet is a whole other story. She should first research it to make sure it's not going to get her into legal trouble. Then if she wants to open an exhibit or something, be my guest however she DID happen to get in trouble with the police not once but TWICE. That's a lack of planning and research. I think she shouldn't be taking nude photos of her children. If she deems it appropriate, so be it. I'll let the police figure that out for themselves, however, posting on the internet of these children is completely inappropriate and she deserves whatever she gets! but seriously, WHY post on the magazine cover that picture of the girl? That alone made me turn away in disgst but out of pure curiosity, i read the article and then immmediately trashed the magazine (after reading the bird and booze pig, of course. didnt see ask a mexican, though. odd). anyways, that's just uncalled for to print all those pictures in the magazine. it burns the eyes of those that don't care to see it.

respectfully,Tabby Cat

Stephen
Stephen

How sad that some people still see nudity equated with sex. It's likely that many of these people would be still burning books and banning some of our greatest artists if they had their way.We should not judge our writers or artists on what some degenerate reader or viewer may make of a work of literature or art. Do we really wish to live in a society that only allows things to be produced which are acceptable to every taste, culture, religion and personal value system?I have three children of my own and based on the photos shown I would have trouble understanding how anyone, other than someone pre-disposed to seeing all photos of children as sexual, could find these pictures obscene by any rational definition.

Megan
Megan

You should have NEVER published these photo's. This women is sick. Children are beautiful and innocent. She is taking that innocence and taking advantage of it. It is disgusting. These kids had NO SAY in their images being published for all the world to see. Sick. New Times, I have been a long time reader and supporter, but this was horrible judgment on your part.

Courtney
Courtney

Your publication is just as sick and twisted as this stupid lady who calls this art. You should have NEVER published these pictures in your magazine! Your publication crossed the line big time! and I pray that someway, somehow, your shut down!

Established 1979
Established 1979

Does she not understand that some people might find this a different type of art? or am I getting to old and didn't know when this became art?

is this the only type of art she could come up with her kids.....nude?

c'mon kids take off your clothes i need to take a few pictures...SICKO!!!

Tonny
Tonny

If a man were the one taking the pictures, he would be in jail. This woman is wrong. Plain wrong. Thanks for exposing this crazy.

Hank356
Hank356

To say I was shocked by both the content and how much paper was wasted in this whole article is an understatement. This is child porn pure and simple. And what's with the spread leg shots? How could this be called art in any fashion? Being a pro photographer by trade I really see no art content in these pictures at all. They are exploitation and hide themselves in freedom of speech. And to learn she is a teacher shocks me even more. A child is innocent and should be kept that way for as long as possible. I am sure her daughter did not come up with the idea. It is artists such as this that hide behind the constitution that give a bad flavor to really good artists. She has crossed the line and deserves to face the facts. She is aiding and abetting child porn. Seeing these images has made me sick to my stomach, and I feel nothing but pity for her children, who have to grow up with their naked images in every pedophiles collection. I am liberal and most things do not bother me. But I think I will go throw up to help with this sickened feeling I have.

Fredrick
Fredrick

how does she stay not locked up? That is asking a sick bastard to seek her out because of those photos........

Lissette
Lissette

I think if the world was innocent it would be fine but there are to many pedophiles who look at this stuff and get off on it. These pictures are the same as child pornography and I don�t care how beautiful they are I wouldn�t expose my child like that. I think they should be kept to yourself if you want to take those kinds of pictures of your kids. I think they should have never been issued in a public magazine. TOO MANY SICKOS!!!!

MaryK Croft
MaryK Croft

As a creative person, I believe that my motive is all-important. This artist's motive is to create art... a pornographer's motive is to create prurient interest.

We as artists are not responsible for other people's reactions. --MaryK

 
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