French Vogue caused some controvesy earlier this year when  these images of a 10 year old child, who has clearly been made-up and dressed to look like an alluring young woman, were published. They communicate an illusion  of idealised beauty and sexuality.I love taking photographs of children and  I took many of mine as they grew up in the 1970's and 80's , and continue to do so of my grand-children , but am very aware of what is now considered acceptable , or even safe, to share . Sadly many of mine taken in the seventies would be considred unacceptable now.But whilst my analogue snaps were seen by only a few family members and friends digital imagery is easily distributed and then viewed  around the globe. But is sexualisation of children a new phenomenon in photography unique to the  21st Century or has it always existed? All imagery needs  to be looked at in the context it was taken and to carefully consider the   photographer's intent . Social mores change , what is acceptable for one  generation is not for the next.

Shocking ? 
French Vogue January 2011
With this in mind I wanted to look in closer detail at the images of children taken by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, during the  1870's and 80's and decide for myself if he was not only a gifted photographer of children but (in the words of one reviewer) "a dirt-bag" !!!

Xie Kitchen , July 1873

Alice Liddell as a beggar girl, 1858

Lewis Carroll  (Photofile) by Colin Ford.

Paperback: 144 pages Publisher: Thames & Hudson (6 July 2009) . Many of the  images to modern eyes may look suggestive. I find the photographs very carefully  considered and posed, the exposure times ran to minutes , how he managed to persuade his younger subjects to remain so still I have no idea. Unlike his compatriot Julia Margaret Cameron, whose images were often deliberately out of  focus, his are technically good. The work of the  Pre-Raphaelites inspired him , his images are beautiful and I feel show a  passionate quality. Although some are quite innocent the subjects rarely smile and have an intensity that still manages to disturb me. Why is this I wonder , would I feel so uncomfortable if I knew a woman had taken them? The images were never ntended for public consumption , but does that somehow make his pastime of photographing young girls (often nude) even more dubious? What I need to consider before labelling him a pervert are the circumstances at the time the images were taken, the context. The book suggests the provocative pose of Alice Liddell posing as a beggar girl is the result of his model needing to steady herself during the long exposure. Viewing them well over a century later I have no idea if his motives were salacious or not ,how can I  possible judge him by today's standards ? 


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