So what’s the proper moral stance to take in regard to deliberately tormenting children so you can photograph their torment? Not child pornography, but deliberately making children cry to take close-up shots of their tear-streaked little faces.
There are some who consider it acceptable so long as the children aren’t actually being hurt. Besides, it’s in the name of Art. This piece in Slate talks about Jill Greenberg, an LA-based photographer who currently has a show:
The show is titled End Times, and it consists of a few dozen large photographs of infants and toddlers throwing tantrums: sobbing, red-faced, staring furiously. Fair enough. But they're not meant to be read as mere baby pictures; they're meant to be a statement. As Greenberg herself explains in the gallery's press release, "The first little boy I shot, Liam, suddenly became hysterically upset. It reminded me of helplessness and anger I feel about our current political and social situation." "As a parent," she continues, "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."
Oh, bleah. And here’s what she does in her quest to be a politically relevant Anne Geddes:
It turns out that Greenberg doesn't just hang around her studio waiting for one of her toddler subjects to melt down: She induces the tantrum, by, say, giving the child a lollipop, and then suddenly taking it away. . . . On the other hand, Greenberg isn't Leni Riefenstahl, either. Small children, as she points out in the PopPhoto interview, often have tantrums, and they usually blow over quickly, and are just as quickly forgotten.
Certainly what Greenberg did wasn’t as bad as beating a child. But consider the various underlying assumptions of Greenberg’s justification: suffering doesn’t really count if it’s only fleeting and minor. Since children will have tantrums anyway, provoking them isn’t so bad.
I say it doesn’t matter how minor it is. You have no right to inflict distress on someone for a situation which is entirely to your gain, and none at all to theirs.