Phoenix New Times Under Fire for Kiddie Pics

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Contrary to the normal dynamic of alternative weeklies antagonizing cops, the Phoenix New Times is defending its decision—in the face of another police investigation—to run nude pictures of staff photographer Betsy Schneider's kids:

The Phoenix Police Department is looking into whether it should open a criminal child pornography investigation into photographs shot by a Tempe artist and published last week by a Valley newspaper.

Experts in the department's sex crimes unit have asked for the opinions of city, county and state prosecutors on whether artist Betsy Schneider or the Phoenix New Times newspaper violated any laws by showing artistic, nude photographs of Schneider's children in print and online, Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Andy Hill said Monday.

The photographs accompanied a story written by New Times editor Amy Silverman about how Schneider's work pushes the envelope of cultural acceptance.

The artist's work includes numerous photographs of Schneider's children in various states of dress. In some, the children are wearing no clothes at all….

Barnett Lotstein, a spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, acknowledged that the office has been contacted by Phoenix police and is looking at the issue closely.

"It concerned me," Lotstein said. "It concerned people in this office that maybe there was some exploitation of children going on."…

Lotstein, who called the photographs published last week "very disturbing," emphasized that there was no investigation on his office's end.

However, Lotstein added, "There's not a blank slate on free speech."

Overkill? Unquestionably. Broadening the definition of child pornography to include artistic nude photographs of one's children is itself an act of perversion. The PPD is wasting its own resources as well as the wellspring of public outrage—both of which serve a purpose in cases of genuine child pornography—in its quest to bully an artist, who is also a parent, into compartmentalizing her two identities for the sake of propriety. (Not to mention that Schneider's photography is hardly cause for worry—unless of course, you find contortionists distasteful.)

A successful case against the Phoenix New Times, or Schneider, would likely resonate with alternative weeklies everywhere, as no publication pushes the obscenity envelope quite like my favorite hometown, sex-worker-accomodatin' rag, the Orlando Weekly. If the New Times has anything going for it (besides, you know, the First Amendment, artistic integrity, and clear evidence that Phoenix cops are out for revenge) it's that the paper knows its way through the Arizona court system. My guess/hope is that the investigation will end with no more than a staunch finger wag. 

Radley Balko blogged about the ongoing battle between the forces of light (Phoenix New Times) and darkness (Sheriff Joe Arpaio) here.

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  1. Is taking a picture of your ten year old running naked on a beach any worse than letting your ten year old wear shorts that have “juicy” written across the ass?

    I am at work so I can’t see the pictures. The girl in the picture doens’t look very happy to be there. I am not sure about this to be honest. One thing I am sure about is that this society has some really screwed up views about kids and sex.

  2. How can I get back issues of the Phoenix New Times?

    That, and some lotion.

  3. Scorpions approve.

  4. I’m kinda with John on this one.

    On the one hand, nudity is a really silly line to draw given what parents are socially expected to let their kids wear (prostitot gear, etc.).

    On the other hand, consent is a touchy thing with young minors. Attempting to carve out an artistic exception is akin to Potter Stewarting an area of the law already rife with subjective judgement calls.

  5. She shouldn’t be prosecuted for sure.
    That said, I find it disgusting. I didn’t see the pictures and I’m sure there is nothing even slightly sexual about them, but that’s not the whole point. Those kids are going to remember the time their mother asked them to strip naked to be photographed. They are old enough to learn from that, while not old enough to understand the distinction between tasteful art and nudity for the sake of nudity. She’s fucking up her kids and that’s the disgusting part.

  6. The “pornography” question aside, where does Mama Schneider get off (NPI) releasing those prints to public eyes without her kids’ consent? Are people going to try to make the case that children that young are capapble o such informed consent? I’m pretty damned sure that if my parentals had tried to enter naked picture of infant-me in a “cutest baby picture” contest I would have forbidden it on the grounds that it would have embarrassed me to death.

    After the Schnedierkins reach the age of majority, will they be able to sue Mom for malpractice in parrenting?

    Kevin

  7. The girl in the picture doens’t look very happy to be there

    John, you should have seen my face when I had to go clothes shopping with my mom. It was a hell of lot more “unhappy” than that picture.

    This woman is clearly not “abusing” her children in any meaningful sense of the word. The cops are just trying to fuck her.

  8. The minute adults get “weird” about child nudity, child nudity gets weird.

    Kids could care less. My mother has stacks of photos of me running around as a bare-ass baby, and she tears up when she looks at them.

    I love America, but seriously, this country is descending into self-parody. There is going to come a point where foreigners will just burst out laughing at us (except that this is no laughing matter).

    Child “porn” raids. Drug raids. Drinking age at 21. Light bulb and bottled water bans.

    This is driving me crazy.

  9. If I found out that my mother had taken a bunch of nude pictures of me when I was 10 and 11 and those pictures are now on the internet where any number of gay pedophiles were jerking off to them, I am not sure I would be happy about that. Can you really consent to such a thing at that age? Once the pictures are there, they are out there forever. Is there really much artistic value to be gained from the pictures? I don’t think this woman is a criminal, but I think she is pretty stupid and careless about her kids.

  10. Tim, these aren’t pictures of them playing and running around naked. They were clearly set up shots. Maybe I am being weird because it’s naked kids. But that girl looks to be about ten and mom asked her to strip naked and pose for some photographs. Ten year olds don’t run around bare- ass.
    for the record, I still don’t think this merits any prosecution.

  11. I have always derived great amusement from the fact that “alternative” papers derive much of the funding for their sanctimonious, crypto-socialist twaddle from ads for “personal escort services”.

    “Arousing” is not a word I would use to describe the photos, but I’m suppose somebody out there will look at those pictures and become aroused, just as some people become aroused by scenes of wartime death and mayhem. If one of those somebodies tries to contact Ms Schneider or her children, she has my permission to shoot his balls off.

  12. There is a point at which you become self aware and don’t want to be naked in front of strangers. That point is probably somewhere after entering school. Clearly these kids have hit that point. This is different than taking naked pictures babies who are clueless.

  13. Those kids are going to remember the time their mother asked them to strip naked to be photographed. They are old enough to learn from that, while not old enough to understand the distinction between tasteful art and nudity for the sake of nudity.

    The kids are old enough to know the difference between this and “Don’t tell anyone what we’re doing.” Art appreciation can come later.

    She’s fucking up her kids and that’s the disgusting part.

    The “everybody has to be covered up all the time” folks are much worse.

    Well, up to the point when the kids grow up, and Mom shows these cute baby pics to their prospective spouse. That’s abuse.

  14. ps-

    This comes nowhere near the revolting creepiness of Jon-Benet Ramsey’s (and the rest of the victims of the child beauty porno pageant) exploitation.

  15. Start this nonsense about consent. Kids don’t get to decide their fate. It’s true. I was forced to go church when I was a kid, even though I hated it. If it’s legal to force kids to go to church against their will, then it can only fairly be legal for parents to take nude pictures of their children. Embarrassment about nudity is just a cultural artifact, and having everyone see you naked doesn’t physically hurt, even if your way ugly. So enforcing a no nudity without consent law while not enforcing a no eating vegetables without consent law is just forcing your cultural norms on everyone. I mean, do you think some kids raised in a nudist camp are going to care if their photos leak out?

  16. “Well, up to the point when the kids grow up, and Mom shows these cute baby pics to their prospective spouse. That’s abuse.”

    But they are not “baby pictures”. These kids, or at least the one in the picture, are older. Maybe it is the way that they camera caught her, but that girl looks miserable and I find it hard to beleive she really consented to this or thought it was a good idea. Instead of “cover up all the time”, how about people just leave their kids alone and not talk them into doing soft core porn for “artistic” purposes. It is not like the kid doesn’t have the rest of her life to run around naked if she should chose to do so.

  17. Check out the slideshow linked to in the post. There’s a shot of a british tabloid that puts a side-by-side comparison of an actual child porn shot and one of the art shots by Schneider. Seeing it changed my mind about what’s going on. Schneider has, at the very least, made a poor judgment call.

  18. Junter —

    If it’s legal to force kids to go to church against their will, then it can only fairly be legal for parents to take nude pictures of their children.

    Doesn’t follow at all, unless children are *merely* chattel, which they are not.

    Personally I don’t think this case crosses the line until they were publicly publishing photos of the kid without the kid’s consent. But it can easily go bad before that.

    And, neither these kids nor their parents live in a nudist colony, so there goes that argument.

  19. The pics seem more creepy than porn. But this one made an interesting point.

    http://media.phoenixnewtimes.com/2437994.47.jpg

  20. I’d have to agree forced religioius indoctrination has a lot more long term hamful effects than being photographed nude in a non-sexual context.

    Nudity is a “big deal” because we make it one. Kids don’t automatically at a certain age develope body shame. It’s TAUGHT to them.

    These photos (the ones in question) remind me some of the photos from that Australian exhibit. Clearly not sexual in nature.

  21. I haven’t seen the pictures, and I don’t want to, even if they are art.

    I have some pictures of my daughter when she was 2 or 3ish. But I would never consider taking pictures of her for the purpose of showing them off as art or for any other reason.

    I am with John on the point that I find it disturbing seeing the prepubescent girls with shorts that say Juicy, Hottie, etc., on the ass.
    There outta be a law….. just kidding…. but I wish parents would not sexualize their children at such an early age.

  22. I don’t give a rat’s ass how many peds are jerking off to my childhood photos. There must be tens of thousands of them. I’m sure more than a few feature me in the buff. Most of them are stuffed somewhere in my mother’s closet I’m sure, but not all. I was a male model and featured in the 1967 Montgomery Ward Christmas Wishbook.

    You know what childhood experience traumatized me? Being woken up and dragged off to church every Sunday. Every time I think of all the hours wasted that could have been spent sleeping or masturbating, it still pisses me off.

  23. Child porn is rightly illegal because it depicts an illegal activity – child molestation.

    Nudity is not illegal.

    The prurience of viewer is irrelevant – someone should tell the fundie-nuts who want that illegal.

  24. Are they coming to get my Houses of the Holy album next?

  25. shrike, what if watching COPS gets me off?

    (Stealing this argument from Doug Stanhope.)

  26. What about the children?

  27. “I am with John on the point that I find it disturbing seeing the prepubescent girls with shorts that say Juicy, Hottie, etc., on the ass.”

    Agreed.

  28. Are they coming to get my Houses of the Holy album next?

    Yes, and the Blind Faith album too.

  29. [Sgt. Hatred slyly clicks “bookmark” when Princess TinyFeet isn’t looking]

  30. shrike, what if watching COPS gets me off?

    Go for it. I like Stanhope but this point lost me. I think we are agreeing.

    I question why the POSSESSION of child porn is illegal, but since – if it went entirely away I would be very happy it doesn’t matter to me at all. But the PRODUCTION of it should be a high felony with penalties in accordance.

    btw – Warren, good shit. You remind me of one of my heroes – Mencken. He is why I am a humanist – but NOT a humanitarian.

  31. “I am with John on the point that I find it disturbing seeing the prepubescent girls with shorts that say Juicy, Hottie, etc., on the ass.”

    And holy crap – has anyone walked by a Abercrombie and Fitch kids store recently? Who wants to look at a half-naked 14 year old boy while taking their younger children clothes shopping?

    I share the sentiment that I have no interest in seeing the linked pictures, and that there are a lot of horrible things that you can do to screw up you children psychologically, but that does not mean that the pictures in question should be considered pornography.

  32. In the order that I despise our “institutions” based on the lies and propaganda they feed us 24/7 –

    Church 100%
    Military 98%
    Government 90%
    Corporations 75%

    In a Social Contract, some of the latter three is necessary. (This is in the spirit of Mencken)….

    This topic and all of the Saddleback/Warren crap Obama and McCain had to wade through makes one despair for our lost Jeffersonian Republic.

  33. Some typical gasbag said:
    That said, I find it disgusting. I didn’t see the pictures

    Yeah, I mean why look before opening your fucking mouth, you jackass? You are right — your uninformed opinion is worth writing, even before you know what the fuck you’re talking about.

  34. I looked at the pictures and saw nothing pornographic about them. But hey, on my night table I’ve got a picture of Little Bit at 10 months old sitting, training panties around ankles, on a potty.

  35. heck out the slideshow linked to in the post. There’s a shot of a british tabloid that puts a side-by-side comparison of an actual child porn shot and one of the art shots by Schneider. Seeing it changed my mind about what’s going on.

    That’s not a “child porn shot”, that’s (allegedly) a photo on a child porn website. Doesn’t it seem likely that a child porn website would contain at least a few photos of naked kids that would not be considered lewd in a non-CHILDPORNWEBSITE context? I bet they would even resort to pictures of clothed kids if they had enough trouble finding racier stuff. Would that then be child porn?

  36. “But hey, on my night table I’ve got a picture of Little Bit at 10 months old sitting, training panties around ankles, on a potty.”

    That is just bad taste.

  37. Are they coming to get my Houses of the Holy album next?

    They wouldn’t be able to release that album with that cover now. Wal-mart wouldn’t carry it.

  38. There’s a shot of a british tabloid that puts a side-by-side comparison of an actual child porn shot and one of the art shots by Schneider.

    The “child porn” picture was, if anything, more innocent, less crafted and posed than Schneider’s picture. So what can you do?

    There are lots of pictures of half-clothed kids on child-porn sites, pictures of kids in bathing suits, in the bathtub, etc. Any one of those pictures could have been put next to a common picture of a kid in a bathing suit or in the tub. It’s a shock technique designed to get you be disgusted by a picture of a naked kid because, somewhere, a pervert could be jacking off to it. And you can be sure that a pervert or two jacked off to that copy of The Sun.

    Perverts have been jacking off to pictures of the pre-teen Olsen twins for over ten years. Again, what can you do?

  39. That is just bad taste.

    Actually, it’s quite cute and it’s displayed in a lovely Tiffany frame. And get this, Little Bit, at 17, isn’t the least bit ashamed of it.

  40. “Actually, it’s quite cute and it’s displayed in a lovely Tiffany frame. And get this, Little Bit, at 17, isn’t the least bit ashamed of it.”

    I am sure your daughter is and was adorable, but I can’t imagine wanting to see her taking a dump.

  41. Nobody said she was taking a dump. She was 10 months old and potty training. Jeez. I leave shit pics to New York artists.

  42. I’m totally with this whole overkill concept, but frankly, I’m keeping nude pictures of my kids out of the public– artistic or no.

  43. The Joke:

    A patient is seeing his psychiatrist for the first time and is undergoing the Rorschach test. After each ink blot the patient exclaims it is a couple copulating. The psychiatrist stops the test and excliams, “You appear to have a preoccupation with sex.” And the patient replies, “You’re the one showing the dirty pictures.”

    Here again, we have people wanting to ban things because other people might find them sexually arrousing, but the about the only who seem to find anything sexual about them, are the very people who want to do the banning. So, who then has the real dirty minds here?

  44. There are lots of pictures of half-clothed kids on child-porn sites, pictures of kids in bathing suits, in the bathtub, etc.

    I’m not sure I want to know how you know this to be a fact.

  45. Miche,

    There’s a big difference between 10 month old nudity and 10 year old nudity–which is why you probably don’t have a picture of your daughter on the toilet at 10 years old.

  46. I’m not sure I want to know how you know this to be a fact.

    Don’t worry, I don’t know it to be a fact. But I think it’s fair to assume based on what most adult porn sites look like and the fact most pictures of naked kids are not posed and more difficult to come by than pictures of naked adults. The “child porn” picture in The Sun is exactly the kind of picture families take of their children all the time and all over the world.

    And since adult porn sites have pictures of half-clothed women and bathing women, it’s fair to assume that child-porn sites have the same kind of pictures. If non-pedophiles jack off to pictures of half-clothed women, it’s fair to assume that pedophiles jack off to pictures of half-clothed children.

  47. anon: As made famous in What About Bob?

    The joke aside, there are real issues of consent and whether kids can even give it.

  48. I never knew that the covers of Blind Fatih and HOTH were sexual, but now that the new morality has shown the errors of my ways I know that child nudity is dirty, dirty, dirty!

    I find little girls, and I mean toddlers, wearing two piece swim suits more disturbing than these photographs. I mean a four y/o girl in a bikini top? It’s almost prostitotish. Because it is absolutely not needed in the first place. I hope that makes sense.

    I don’t like the photos Schneider took, but for other reasons..none of them prurient.

    And that’s the word..prurient.

    I’ve come across burka/chador porn pics on the web…there’s nothing that isn’t sexual anymore.

  49. Reason should do a piece on the antics of Andrew Thomas the prosecutor. The man is absolutely loonytunes. He is a far Right fundamentalist Christian who has been pushing high profile morality campaigns as part of the re-election campaign. His office just did a big sweep prostitution bust. He is the prosecutor who tried to put a teenage boy in prison for life for “child porn” even through the evidence showed the handful of images were put on the computer from an outside computer that had taken control of the family computer through their internet connection. (Forensices showed the family’s computer was actually under the control of others using it as storage and to send messages.)

    Thomas had refused to allow the defense team to inspect the hard drive and was taken to the Supreme Court twice before he finally relented in releasing what proved to be exculpatory evidence. Then when forced to drop the charges he tried to force the boy to register as a sex offender for life because of his crime of showing a Playboy to a schoolmate! After the judge overturned that outrage his assistant (also a fundamentalist) then penned an article for Fox News smearing the boy as a child pornographer, in spite of them being unable to secure a conviction because the evidence didn’t hold up.

    This is only the beginning of some of his antics to impose biblical morality on the local residents. He is worthy of a expose.

    Finally, one commentator above bitches about “half-naked” photos of boys at a clothing store. Why do people use emotive, but meaningless phrases as “half naked”. I assume the major issue there is: Which half? I think I know. Are pictures of boys without shirts now consider pornographic or offensive. Apparently some Reason site readers have the mentality of Mr. Thomas. The phrase “half-naked” migh also mean a photo of someone in a swimming suit. Using it is almost as dumb, but not quite, as saying “partially naked”. Every person I have seen is partially naked. If not they be dressed like a Klanner wearing gloves and sunglass over the eye slots. What a silly term.

  50. him:

    A little googling yields these.

    Kevin

  51. Americans in general are insane about naked bodies. Case in point: In my wife’s mind, Playboy is pornography and therefore, not something she wants in the house. However, my books of Eric Kroll’s photographs are acceptable. Uh, WTF?

    Naked people does not equal porn. It’s not a hard concept, but we as a country can’t seem to grasp it.

  52. There’s a big difference between 10 month old nudity and 10 year old nudity–which is why you probably don’t have a picture of your daughter on the toilet at 10 years old.

    The photo was mentioned at all when I left the original comment explaining that I also had no issue with the photos in question.

    Guess one needs to travel around the world a bit to get over thinking the nude body is a thing to be covered in all situations. Some of you would positively flip seeing a little 10 year old girl on a beach in a brazilian bottom and no top.

  53. The “pornography” question aside, where does Mama Schneider get off (NPI) releasing those prints to public eyes without her kids’ consent? Are people going to try to make the case that children that young are capapble o such informed consent?

    I gotta to agree to some extent. I seen some of the photos, and they’re extremely tame. However, I’m not sure how much genuine consent these children gave for this. The photos ARE exploitive, in that they’re exploiting society’s taboos.

    It’s one thing to take pictures of your kids running naked at the beach. It’s another to tell you kid “take off your clothes so I can make a political statement with your naked pictures”.

  54. Brandybuck…should we just get it over with and ban ALL photos of children being published?

    Were ANY photos of children done with their consent? Child models, actors, and poltical props (the proverbial kissed baby)?

    Would it be any less poltical if the kids weren’t naked but held up a sign saying vote for________.? Did the child consent then?

    If you expect consent from little kids, you have to throw the baby out with the bathwater..so to speak.

    Here’s a NZ photography site with great photos (of course New Zealand is not insane):

    http://www.angelascott.co.nz/babies.htm

  55. I forgot to add that many of the photos on that site would probably be considered child pornography in parts of this country.

  56. I’m really not trying to moralize about child porn or anything, but this isn’t the first time this issue has popped up. I believe there was a nice, young couple who got nailed for flaunting artistic nude pictures of their kids back in the eighties.

    I’m not sure how I can say this without being typcast as something I’m not here but… what is the fascination with some people pushing ‘artistic’ nude pictures of their own kids? I have kids… well, one kid. I have no desire whatsoever to have nude pictures of her plastered on our nations newspapers. It doesn’t matter how black and white and artsy they are. If Annie fucking Leibowitz knocked on my door and said “Hey, I’d like to take some nude pictures of your kid for Rolling Stone”, I’d pass. I just don’t want pervs looking at my 6-year-old and saying “oh, yeah, baby”.

    I’m sure this prosecutor is a dickhead in the extreme, and I’m convinced this woman has a reputation beyond reproach, but why do people keep doing this, and then acting all surprised when other people raise an eyebrow? The fact of the matter is, there are pervs in this world who like to look at half-clothed kids– even artistic pictures of half-clothed kids. Why subject your children to that scrutiny?

    Yes, I know your kids bodies are all beautiful in a ‘natural’ granola-ey kind of way and you just don’t see what the big deal is. Can we just stop?

  57. Brandybuck…should we just get it over with and ban ALL photos of children being published?

    Get real. Children are not able to give fully informed consent, but neither are they are property we can do with as we wish. We have to strike a balance, and exploitive nude photos of your kids sounds like a good candidate to put over on that side of the line.

  58. “Kids don’t automatically at a certain age develope body shame. It’s TAUGHT to them.”

    Kids also don’t automatically develop a sense of politeness and manners. Most things that have to do with functioning in a civilized society are taught to children. In most social settings, running around without your clothes on is tasteless. What is your point?

  59. “Kids don’t automatically at a certain age develope body shame. It’s TAUGHT to them.”

    Not true. We were always casual about nudity at home and we had a problem keeping clothes on our daughter, especially if there was water to get in. I’m not sure what age it hit, probably between 10 and 12, when she developed a desire for personal privacy and preferred us to cover up too. Not to the extent that walking in on someone changing became a big deal. She started to wear “girl” swimsuits then too where before trunks were hard to keep on.

  60. Yes, I know your kids bodies are all beautiful in a ‘natural’ granola-ey kind of way and you just don’t see what the big deal is. Can we just stop?

    QFT. There are just some bad parents, I guess. The parents’ job is to protect their children. If you’re exposing your children to the prying eyes of so many perverts in public, I think it’s safe to say you’re failing as a parent in some respects. To claim that people who find photographs like these objectionable are the ones with the problems is facetious, and moreover it is ignoring the fact that there are people who really do get off on this type of stuff and who would do harm or imposition to minors. It’s just…weird, for lack of a better word.

  61. “Delusional” would be a better word.

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