To the editors:
I am writing in response to the reproduction of the photograph Honey by Robert Mapplethorpe which appeared in your Hot Type column November 9, and to Mr. Michael Miner’s reply to letters to your editor from Mr. Nelson Borelli, M.D. and Mr. Jerry Crimmins appearing on November 30.
The issue here is not a simple debate over “qualms” and “propriety.” We are discussing the photographing of a child with exposed genitalia and the mass circulation of that photograph.
Mr. Miner writes, “artists feel no obligation to halt at mores, . . . ” He is indulging himself when he attempts to speak for all artists or to their exercise of restraint.
I wonder if Mr. Miner would consent to the photographing of his child with genitalia exposed and to the mass circulation of that photograph. I wonder if his child would consent. I wonder if the child depicted in Honey consented. If so, did she understand what she consented to? Did Mr. Miner attempt to find out? If not, how can he not feel “derelict as a journalist”?
Admit it or not, we are social animals. We live in a community. Our actions are accountable in as much as they affect and influence that community. We must have social, moral and ethical responsibilities if we are to survive as a community. We can debate the scope of those responsibilities. We can limit, define and write them into law. But the final judge of what is responsible is the individual’s sense of what is civilized and fair.
Through all of this consideration for the community we must also retain the freedom to express ourselves as individuals. Mr. Miner has the right to publish the photograph in the Reader. I have the right not to read the Reader. But, freedom of expression, even the freedom from “visual ignorance” must be weighed against individual rights to privacy.
“Artistic merit” that “forces us” is just as fanatical as the Jesse Helms of the world forcing us.
The fact that Honey had previously “appeared on museum walls, in catalogs, and as state’s evidence” is as empty a justification to reprint it as “I was only following orders” was justification at Nuremberg.
Like a common child molester, Mr. Miner and the Reader chose to exploit the photograph of a child with exposed genitalia giving consideration only to their own agenda. They did not consider the child. That the photograph was taken fourteen years ago is irrelevant.
Mr. Miner is “in considerable sympathy with the letters from Jerry Crimmins and Dr. Borelli.” He and the Reader are also, in my opinion, child abusers and pornographers.