A kid looks to see what all the fuss is about. Photo by Jonathan McNamara
By Sarah Fenske
That shocking topic is the subject of ASU photography professor Betsy Schneider's work. It was also the subject of New Times' profile of Schneider, which ran August 14. As writer Amy Silverman explained, Schneider's work engendered major controversy in a place no less cosmopolitan than London -- when Schneider mounted a show at that city's Spitz Gallery, the tabloids shriekingly accused her of peddling child porn and the cops were called.
Silverman's story didn't just outline the fracas. It showed some of the photos -- Schneider's photographed her 10-year-old daughter every day, and in the early years, the girl was totally nude. Clinical photos, yes, but also photos that show full frontal nudity. Silverman's story also explained that Schneider was about to open a show of her work, "That Enthralling Gallop," at the Kitchenette Photography Collective in downtown Phoenix.
Is anyone surprised to learn that Phoenix, like London, went a little bit crazy?
New Times' switchboard was flooded with angry calls. TV stations, naturally, decided that this was a controversy they had to weigh in on. And, according to the East Valley Tribune, the Phoenix police department sought advice from several agencies, including the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, on whether Schneider, or the New Times, had broken any laws by publishing the photographs.
Suffice to say, all the controversy didn't lead to a greater interest in art. My colleague Jonathan McNamara, who went to Schneider's opening two weeks ago, reports that no more than 12 people filled the gallery at any point during that night. The only protesters were a single family: a woman named Deborah Ward brought her husband, son, and son's girlfriend to enveigh against Schneider's work. "As a mother, if I did this with my children, I’d be in jail," Ward said. "So why does she get to do this just because she’s a photographer?"
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Fact is, the law is complicated. (Porn, apparently, is something that you know when you see it -- and we all see it differently.) But the cops clearly would have had a hard time coming after New Times or Schneider; Arizona law holds that it's only illegal to display images of naked children if the purpose is "sexual stimulation of the viewer." That certainly isn't true for Schneider -- her photos concern themselves with the passage of time -- and it isn't true for New Times. (Author Silverman was interested in a photography professor's new gallery show and the questions it raised.)
No one's been arrested; Schneider's show has not been shut down; police never did seize New Times from its racks around the Valley. Another day, another scandal.
But if you want to see what all the fuss was about, you should head to the Kitchenette tonight to see "That Enthralling Gallop." (The gallery is at 918 N. Sixth Street, Unit C, and open from 6 to 9 p.m.) Tonight is the last night to check it out for yourself.
And, if you want to see more of Schneider's work, check out the slideshow we've put together for you here.