Photography Words

Jill Greenberg in the Sunday Times

Jill Greenberg’s infamous photos of children crying and upset are in today’s Sunday Times magazine in the article “Taking candy from a baby”. It’s unfortunate that such a reputable publication chose to publish the photos and I can only imagine the horrified response from parents as they sat down to breakfast with the newspaper this morning.

The article doesn’t say much, only summing up what we already know but the last paragraph disgusted me at the implication present in it for anyone who protests at her photography and methods.

Greenberg is appalled that some people even saw a sexual context to the pictures. “It didn’t even occur to me that people might think that. A lot of the people who’ve been upset are men. I don’t know if it’s because they project their own desires on these images and they don’t know what to do with them and blame me.”


Welcome everyone from Net Mums. I’m glad you found your way here!

By Donncha

Donncha Ó Caoimh is a software developer at Automattic and WordPress plugin developer. He posts photos at In Photos and can also be found on Twitter.

51 replies on “Jill Greenberg in the Sunday Times”

Maybe Jill is mixing up sexual abuse with ‘ornery abuse. I am pesonally revolted by the idea of abusing a kid’s feelings just to get a good photo, and it has nothing do so with sex. I have two kids, and I would not let her near them. In fact, I think it might be interesting to smash her cameras and burn her photos in front of her, to see how she takes it herself.

The fact that she mentally translates the complaints of abuse into complaints of sexual abuse says to me that she is trying to justify what she does, by incriminating all nay-sayers. If all complainers are sexual predators (in her eyes), then that makes what she is doing okay. It’s self-deluding.

Nicely put, Kae.

The only clever thing this woman has done is to attract an awful lot of attention. There’s really nothing very clever about the images themselves as such. The metaphor to George Bush is, I’m afraid, too vague to be valid. The images aren’t even slightly subtle, so it’s only natural that lots of people are going to see them for what they are – children who’ve been made to cry. And she’s the one that caused the tears. Who’s the pervert?

Art? I don’t think so. Would it be art to steal an elderly woman’s purse on the street just to capture HER reaction? Would it be art to deliberately knock shopping items out of her arms just to snap a photo of her reaction? Art and photography, in my opinion, are capturing the moment. Naturally. If this is art, then next thing you know, the photojournalists overseas will be rigging up car bombs themselves, just so THEY can capture the moment….the look of fear on the survivors, the look of death on the dead so they can possibly win whatever prize it is that they win for award-winning photography. I think it’s all perfectly sick and definitely abusive to the children to deliberately cause distress just to get ‘the shot’. Why don’t you go pick on someone your own size? And as far as the Bush reference, duhhhhh, I just don’t get it. And she says herself, that in that photo’s case, the boy was crying for no reason — key word being “NO REASON…..!!!!!”

Oh, and BTW…..I am not a man. These photos DO upset women as well.

I saw this and immediately thought that they PS’d the crap out of these photos, and made the babies look fake and shiny. Then I did wonder how they got all of these children to cry, and what is the point to getting SO MANY of these kids to cry and them making them all look the same? I mean, there are a grillion kids out there all sitting with their star-struck parents, waiting for modeling contracts, and they’re all crying, cause it has to suck to live that kind of life. Just go out and shoot those kids. (with a camera, of course)

personally.i think its beautiful!i dont think its abuse at all!!kids cry all the time..she has just made it art!the fact that she so called’steals’ from them well it only helps them learn..not everything in life can be all smiles.i would pay for a picture like this be taken of my daughter..its creative,unusual and different! its pure art..I LOVE IT

I think many people are blowing this way out of proportion and are just sheepishly doing what they think is the right thing to fallow the crowd. If taking candy from a child is child abuse to you then feel lucky you have no idea what real abuse is like. Many people out there who have been abuse would love to have only had candy taken from them. Yes it’s cruel and many of us have been raised that only mean people would take candy from a child. But I don’t view it as abuse just cruel and insinuative. So many of us get so use to are little personal worlds we live in we lose touch with what really goes on in the world and when a little drama starts so many just jump on the bandwagon just to make the boring little nobody life’s we live just a little bit more interesting… There is nothing you can do.. If you don’t like it ignore it don’t help her vision in anyway. Mentioning her only gets her name out more. In short you are helping her by posting about how you don’t like what she does. It’s people like you who make people like Marlin Mason, Ozzy Osborn, Slim Shady, I.C.P. ECT.. popular. People like them count on people like you. Don’t like it move on you have that choice you know.

Jeremy, I actually took what you said seriously until you starting talking about your musical tastes. I don’t like or I’ve never heard of most of the artists mentioned in your post yet I don’t like the pictures of the kids either. Where does that leave me?

Go on, mention Repulican/Democrat voting now, or even Hitler, go on, “People who don’t like these images would be the people who would have supported Hitler”. Pure silly.

I think is true art and i think it is idiotic people of whom choose to think of it as something other than art. of course she probabily has used some PhotoShop elements in order to make the children come across in more distress. But this is the point of it, its mean’t to provoke emotions. i think its truly fascinating and i dont think its abusing any child, peopl are blowing it too much out of proprtion it has nothing to do with paedophilia if it had then there would more likely have been full naked bodies of children.
Deary me what is the world coming too.

personally i think Greenberg’s pictures are extremely powerful if nothing else they attract attention, make you stop and think, they evoke emotions – one of the main intentions of Art.

Futhermore, the Children used we’re from a modeling agency- they agreed to it, or at least their parents did and their parents were at the shoot with them, greenberg gave the parents an opportunity to stop the shoot at any point to comfort their child.

Also, these images have been digitally altered and exagerated in oder to get her message across which probably means that the children seem to be in alot more distress than they really were.

And do you really think that this would have any significant long term effect on the children who took part? surely the majority will not even remeber the lady who took their lollypop.

u guys arent artists so u wont get it. as an artist myself im not bothered by this. im very open minded. i dont think the kids were too bothered by this. kids are more resilent than we think.

As long as the parent approve it…its ok. besides its only candy for crying out loud! Its only for a couple of minutes im pretty sure she gave them the candy right back. It is “ART”… the art of our emotions!

This so0o isnt abuse
Hello Peoples
There LiL children and everyone should know that kids at that age get reallyyyyyy emotional easily__!! If yo0h people had kids or lil brothers or sisters that when they take yo0r stuff like lipgloss or something like that and yo0h take it back.. yo0h know what there gunna do and thats cry.. it is art people.

Of course this is art, but what kind of art? I don’t know how they made those kids cry, but however, it is horrible. And for you Lauren, kids don’t cry all the time. They cry beacause they are so little and sensitive persons. I think the picture of those kids is awesome, but I can’t stand that someone make kids cry just because they need a picture of a crying child. Think about if you’re a little girl or boy and they make you to cry, and take a photo. Would you like? I guess you don’t.

Good Karma Jill and really sweet photoshoping. I would love to see one of Jill’s raw out of camera negatives in comparison to her final photo-paintings. This work is quite an example of our current era. Fabricated and Manipulated. Man is this some fine-art. To look at kids crying makes me feel bad. I don’t see how anyone can feel accomplished by making the point that kids will cry if you take their candy away. Wow- simply amazing. For the art community this is a real accomplishment and it’s always a pleasure to see other photographers create work that makes the general public cringe. Unbelievable that people could misunderstand this highly intellectual crap. Well done!!

well i think jill has done a great job. okay it may be a bit mean that she has made them cry just for photos but this may be how she wants the audience to respond to their emotions when looking at these images. having silly little fits about “no! this is wrong bla bla bla” isnt going to change anything. people may consider this cruel but unlike others such as me, i think its art. look at the way shes captured different facial expressions along with lighting and tone. its amazing and beautiful. children are so cute! thin all you want, but if you keep focusing on the negatives, whats that going to do? its already done and its brilliantly done! cheers!

all of you are ridiculous.
i bet if you went up to all those kids and asked them about the situation,
they probably wouldnt even remember what you were talking about.

abuse would be slapping the child to get the reaction of crying.
children are emotionally unstable and going up to one and whispering “boo” could possibly be enough to upset them.

get a life and appreciate someone for the great ideas they come up with.

Thanks Becci.
The comparison of Greenberg’s work with abuse is going much too far, indeed.
Some of you here seem not to have contact with kids. Or maybe you are simply much too moralistic. If so, please do not discuss art. Moral and art are different categories.
The photos of Jill Greenberg are art.
Thank you for your understanding.

Has anyone here considered why she did this? The Paul Kopeikin Galley published a catalog to go along with the show that she had there. In the preface of the catalog she has this to say about this body of work.

“Nothing is more pure than the anguish of a child. Pictures of children crying capture raw emotions: sputtering rage and profound loss. In many ways we’ve become desensitized to disturbing images. But the honesty of a child’s feelings is undeniable and it draws you in to the photograph. Perhaps because kids experience the kind of powerful emotions that we, as adults, have suppressed in ourselves.

The children I photographed were not harmed in any way. And, as a mother, I am quite aware of how easily toddlers can cry. Storms of grief sweep across their features without warning; a joyful smile can dissolve into a grimace of despair. The first little boy I shot, Liam, suddenly became hysterically upset. It reminded me of the helplessness and anger i feel about our current political and social situation. It made me think of my outrage at our false reasons for going to war in Iraq and the scandalous way in which the conflict was sold to the American people. I thought George W. Bush, then just sworn into his second term in office, and decided to call the image “Four More Years.”

As any new parent will tell you, the future suddenly becomes a very serious concern. As ecstatic as I was at the birth of my daughter, I felt selfish bringing her, and later my son into our screwed-up world. I seemed to become a mother exactly the moment things went awry. Of course, human beings have always been greedy, violent, and dishonest. But the rise of the Christian right as a political force in the country has made the situation dire. The most dangerous fundamentalists aren’t just waging war in Iraq; they’re attacking the evolution, blocking medical research and ignoring the environment. It’s as if they believe the apocalyptic End Time is near, therefore protecting the earth and the future of our children is futile.* As a parent I have to reckon with the knowledge that our children will suffer for the mistakes our government is making. Their pain is a precursor of what is to come.”

Written by: Jill Greenberg
From the preface of the Catalog “End Times” Published by Paul Kopeikin Gallery.

So when debating the work of art at hand you should consider the intent of the artist.
Now as a parent you have to realize that the reason that children can so suddenly brake-down into dramatic tantrums is because before they can speak, that is the only way that they can communicate. Children cry for many reasons and often the trauma that sweeps across that can seem so horrifying when captured in a photograph has no scale to be judged by.
A young child’s reaction to a minor frustration such as having a piece of candy taken from them,because the dog licked it would be totally indistinguishable from the sames child’s reaction to a sibling hitting them. The later, most would agree is some thing to concern your self over. The only people that might be able to really distinguish the two reactions would be the child’s parents and I doubt the could do it from a photo. Do you really think the child’s parents would let her harm their children.

When a (good) parent sees their child crying, they intervene and are there to comfort them, and wipe away their tears. To intentionally make a child cry, by whatever means, and call it art, is the thin end of a wedge which ends up with artistic images of concentration camp interns. High art indeed.

The intent is irrelevant, child abuse is child abuse.

Oh for godsakes people… I have 2 young children.. they steal toys or take stuff from eachother and cry, ALL the time.. are they abusing eachother? You child picks up something they shouldn’t be touching and you take it away.. they’re going to cry… is that abuse?? Toddlers cry VERY easily and have forgotten all about it 10 seconds later… Sure, beat a child repeatedly, that’s child abuse..that’s something that will stay with the child for life and scar them deeply… taking away a piece of candy for 30 seconds to get an amazing photo, and then giving it back, is NOT child abuse… anyone who has ever suffered real child abuse would laugh in your face…
and these children can look back on these photos later on in life and feel proud that they were part of such an important collection… people need to bloody relax… do you have nothing better to do with your time than to pick apart and chastise an extremely intelligent and talented human being? These images make people think… they open people eyes to the reality of the world we live in and the dim future that our children have to look forward to on this dying planet.
Those who scream child abuse are simply ignorant and uneducated and I feel sorry for them.

you can actually achieve this effect with lighting. yes, they have been photoshopped, but nos as much as some people may think.

as for child abuse, gosh people. this is not child abuse.

the problem I have with the series is that she blames the worlds problems on the christian worldview. If one is a Christian, it doesn’t mean they agree with George Bush, nor does it mean that they deserve to be blamed for the state the world is in. A true Christian is selfless, love-motivated and genuinely cares about other people. Jill Greenberg’s statement is an unappreciated generalisation.

We think that these photos are HORRIBLE.
We do not see this as abuse but it is very nasty to take candy off a child who is no more then three years of age.
We’re meant to be setting a good example for our children not teaching them to take things off of other people.
They may grow up thinking that it is okay to make other peoplee cry.
They are good photos but we strongly disagree of how she got the emotion out of the children. there has to of been another way.. natural emotions, instead of forced emotion.

I love her work!!! I can see how many people would make such a big deal out of this series because, well people love drama and making a big deal out of anything they possibly can. I don’t see it as abuse, kids cry—all the time. I think it was a clever way to get them to cry, its not like she is slapping them. I’m sure she gave them something sweet to relax them after the shoot, and honestly after that the kid guaranteed completely forgot about it all. I’m sure they are not scarred for life or anything. So maybe some of you people wouldn’t want your child to be in the shoot, and so what. No big deal- no one is knocking on your door harassing you to borrow your kid. I think you people are just annoying and maybe living a pretty sad life to let your biggest problems be somebody else’s art work. If its not your style- just don’t look at it. Don’t bash the artist. You want someone standing in your lame offices and what not holding billboards of peoples problems with you? You guys are lame!! haha

I love the vividness of her pictures. Don’t yo think that these children’s parents knew what she was going to do?! Im pretty sure she explained what she was going for and how she was going to accomplish it. They were probably friends of hers kids. It might be a little mean to take away a lollipop from a child and give it back five or so minuets later but I do not see how that comes even remotely close to child abuse or anything like it. Some of you people are absurd!

Oh my god! Get real people…it’s called ART! which is always open to interpretation. Child abuse ‘taking candy from a baby’??? Only an idiot would say so. That it teaches 3 yr olds that it is ok to make people cry? Yeah, like the kid will even remember in ten minutes, especially since the artist claims to have returned the friggin candy. They are gorgeous and unique photos. What a cute and rather ironic way to capture such a FREQUENT childhood expression;) LOVE IT! ps- I’m a mother of 4…I can certainly think of far worse reasons for a child to cry! My toddler is so manipulative with his fake tears he could probably produce that expression on command! 🙂

I can’t beleive that people would be in an uproar about this when you think about how many movies and t.v. shows have crying babies or children in them. how do you think they got those kids to cry? did those kids sign up for that acting gig themselves? no. their parents put them through that. it might be a certain form of “abuse,” yes, to be volunteered as a child actor, but the only thing worth noticing here is that her images are much more powerful than anything you’ve encountered in a similar vein.


I don’t think that it’s a such horrible thing to take a shoot of a kid crying, remenber: it’s JUST becouse of a candy!!
It’s art, you may don’t like it, but art is made to make you feel something, if it’s horrible to you, may be a cute scene to someone else.
I never cried that much becouse of a candy (if i did it, i don’t remenber), if my children ever do that, i’ll soooo take a pic to show them how silly the were when babies ;}
It’s cute, she does a real amazing job.


I’m brazilian, sorry any mistake, but i really wanted to know how to say “chilique” in english.. it’s like, when someone gets hurt of something really silly and makes noise and complains without any real reason for that.


The amount of people who see jill greenberg’s work as abuse is ridiculous & are over reacting on her work. Some of you are horrified by how shes ‘abusing there feelings’ …how’d she do that exactly?! i find that highly laughable! ..i bet most of you on here yourself have children .. & i bet youve teased your children & made them cry at some point probably even more so …so whats the difference? Her work is definatly not abuse ..but ART it is! I think you all just want to cause the drama just for the sheer sake of it!its pathetic!

Her photos are meant to make you feel something.. that they do yes, there very powerful & beautiful .. also by the way they are ps’d to make them really dramatic adding the effects grabing your attention more & they really make you feel something this is why her work is art! The children in her photographs were not abused in any way shape or form the children used were from modeling agencies ..the parents were with there children the whole time of the shoot & were the ones to take away the lollipop & then give it back to them! Even her own child was used for this shoot & the parents also had the right to stop if they felt the children needed corfort during the shoot, how is this abuse ??! her images are art & will always be!

Jill I am very open minded and do not believe in any type of censorship but I think you have pushed the envelope ‘ which ever way you look at it, it’s child abuse ‘

This art did nothing to harm children…children cry at the drop of a hat. The innocence and openness which children possess that we adults hide is shown in these photographs, which is what makes them beautiful. Yes, the artist made them a political statement…she feels the way these children feel when their candy has been taken away…her outlet is this art. I personally love it.

Give me a break!!!! it’s the art of emotion. people take things out of proportion. Her photographs are beautiful and she was able to get these kids, with parental permission, to cry for several minutes. i’m sure she didnt pinch or punch any of them to get them to cry. it’s harmless and people just love to make things bigger than what they are.

Oh my gosh you people are pathetic. Paranoid world we live in ey. I was abused as a child, physically. You people screaming child abuse at the taking of candy offend me.

Let’s just be real: Jill Greenberg is a fuckin’ cunt and so is anyone who defends snatching candy from babies in order to make them cry.

Jill I just wondered if you were Jewish by the sound of your surname, if so I wonder how many of these abused children in your pic’s are Jewish I would say not a single one? You do not know much about child psychology it would appear from your whole attitude to this subject? I hope when these children become adults they sue your ass off for this public ridicule and abuse. Your ‘Art’ is wrong and one day when you grow up and stop trying to be so ‘Arty and cool’ you will see it for what it really is.

I am a mother and I do not like this image. Anyone who loves their child hates to see them cry whether it is from sodomy or a loss candy…just in different extremes. I am not so much mad at the photographer (although I am) as I am the parents. Until your kids are grown and living on their own and supporting themselves, it is your job to ensure they are protected and feel loved. What message does that send that you will allow a stranger to be mean to them and hurt their feelings because Mommy and Daddy wanted to exploit for a paycheck. I support my kid not the other way around. And if anyone besides myself or an adult I authorize to care for my son (like a teacher or babysitter) ever willfully was mean to him and made him cry, she would have a lot more to deal with from me. She would wish I only made her cry and took her picture. I don’t expect my son to be happy all the time and obviously there are times he is upset and cries but not because I am making money or exploiting him…just the normal course of life. And it is my job as a parent, who chose to bring him into this world, to protect him from how cruel the world is until he is old enough and mature enough to handle it. Most loving parents do all in their power and sacrifice to make their children happy.

Shame on the people involved. It may not be the end of the world but it is not ok either. And by the way I am a woman and I am a rape survivor…so I know how bad abuse can be and I still try to not make my child cry over anything. It is called Love!

I dno if anyone actually read it properly…but it was the parents that took the candy away. the parents were in control n could stop it at any time. the children weren’t harmed. n one child even laughed at their own photograph afterwards…she did nothing wrong. it is a beautiful set of photographys.

yes it’s harsh , yes it may be wrong… for like 30 seconds. think of the messages behind it , the message is much more significant then takin candy from a baby in which they are most likely to forget in the next minute. yes it art and no she should not be called a child abuser. how dare u be outraged by this when we were all victims of a creul regime. u want creul…? go visit MR BUSH!

Wow Steph’- That’s some deep thinking right there. Along with the horrible control of our language, you are ready to lap it if Jill is handing it out. For Greenberg to make the association between children crying and the undeniably stupid administration, is just too convenient and simplistic. Greenberg isn’t an artist. She’s a commercial photographer that would very much like to be seen as an artist. Hence – the deep meaning behind this bullshit. The images are cool. The method is basically pathetic. Let’s just say – simple. Much like the people that just want to love it! I love it!!!

Jill Greenberg did not hurt these kids in any way. she had just taken a lollipop, or a toy that they had wanted away from them. After she had got the photos that she had wanted, she gave it right back. and in no way is this child abuse. Her photos are actually showing raw emotion that you as, adults seem to keep inside of you instead of letting it out, like these children do. Jill Greenberg is just showing us that the children that our being brought into this world in this economy, are going to feel sad, becuase as we all know this world today is not at its best times such as many three or four years ago; there is no better way to show us how she or others who agree feel about this other then through the eyes of our children…yet myself being sixteen not having any kids. I still know what she means i have nieces and nephews all around me all the time. and i knkow that the world is bad but its getting worst.

Oh…My….God! get a life people!
I have loved this series of photography ever since i started my major work this year. In fact jill these photos have inspired me with my work. i’m doing these large charcoal drawings of my 4 year old cousin, and after seeing these photographs…. i had to get a great typical toddler tantrum shot. i finally got a photo and its perfect…. and to get it, all i did was get the camera out when she had to leave her fantastic cousins (me) haha

However, my point is toddlers cry when they want, and where they want. They are experts at getting what they want, and in Jills case they wanted candy, so they chucked a tanty. Big woop! now how is that child abuse? Its just like a mother taking their child into a lolly shop, once they’ve seen it, they have to have it, so to get it they chuck a tantrum.

Even still they got their candy back. So please… how dare you all acuse her of child abuse, she doesnt deserve all this bullshit everyones giving her.i may not have children now but i have young cousins, and i looooove children!
This comment may be a little late but even still you have been fighting over this for 4 years. Give her a break already! They are absolutely amazing shots, and if you dont think soo then we dont want to hear it, cpiche!

p.s. ignore all those idiots, they dont understand art or child abuse! Make sure you look out for my charcoal drawings, when i get into artexpress 🙂 lol

Response to Princess : “p.s. ignore all those idiots, they don’t understand art or child abuse!” Sweetie it is you who does not understand either. You sound very young so we will forgive you for the moment.

Call it what you will. What it does say is that Jill Greenberg is not a very nice person.
Like many ‘artists’ who have a talent shortfall, she relies on the shock factor to gain notoriety. Pitiful really.

So many people missing the point… God, I hate the internet sometimes.

“Child abuse” is not the term I would use, because it conjures images of beaten or sexually abused children. However, I do have a problem with how these images were taken.

Fundamentally, these photos are wrong at the core. The fact that agencies even exist for “child models” is pretty sickening, because I guarantee you that the parents were 99% responsible for making their kids participate in such a thing. Greenberg says herself that the kids were fussy and didn’t want to be there… hmm, perhaps because their parents are making them do this? They’re KIDS, they have no say in the matter whatsoever.

Making them cry is obviously not the same as slapping them, but they are still in distress. Had she just taken pictures of naturally crying children out in the world I would have absolutely zero problem with it. But the fact that she posed models and then evoked enough stress to cause them grief makes these pictures very artificial… not to mention the heavy amount of Photoshopping done on them.

It’s exploitation. She could not have achieved this “art” without (a) volunteer children from agencies (b) a photographer’s studio or (c) genuinely stressing the kids. Her goal was to show “real” emotion, which she apparently could not do without having her assistants take candy away from babies. These poor kids are going to have very negative memories of photo studios for years to come.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: