Lewis Carroll's Photographs

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by cliveh, Feb 21, 2012.

  1. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    The photographs of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson often depict pictures of little girls and in particular we know of his fondness for Alice Liddell. In conversations with fellow photographers/public, I sometimes hear the comments that he had leanings to pedophilia. As far as I know there is no evidence to support this and I would like to think he just had the slightly naive innocence of a somewhat deranged mathematics lecturer. Any thoughts?
     
  2. tomalophicon

    tomalophicon Member

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    I can see why hysterical 21st century people, mentally damaged by constant negative media bombardment, would think he would be a pedo.

    His photos are brilliant; I love the fantastical romanticism most of them seem to convey.
     
  3. tomalophicon

    tomalophicon Member

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    Someone is out to prove us wrong though :smile: - Maybe Carroll himself!
    Not a bad job if it was pre-digital. Hint: look at the girl on the right.
     

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  4. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    There is no evidence of him being deranged. Shy, for sure, and perhaps a bit immature (sexually and relationship-wise)... but a proven genius in mathematics and story telling.
     
  5. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    ... add a little tongue action and you've got a real nasty image!
     
  6. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    Sorry, I meant slightly deranged in the genius sense of the word.
     
  7. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    OK, in that sense of the word I'd agree. "Deranged" is a word narrowly interpreted (as I just did) like the word "ignorant" -- which simply means uninformed.
     
  8. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    BTW, have you seen his nudes? There are only 3 remaining. The rest were destroyed (by him, I believe) because of paedophilic accusations (or implications).
     
  9. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    The question I ask myself is, if I had a female child would I let him anywhere near her, and the answer is an emphatic no.
     
  10. John Austin

    John Austin Member

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    We were not there, we did not know him personally, so I would urge caution on conjecture on this thread as it could show more about the person posting the comment than upon the subject itself
     
  11. Jesper

    Jesper Subscriber

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    He is very clear about about his interests in his letters (booys are ugly, girls over 12 are not interesting but young girls are) but there is no recorded evidence that he ever turned thoughts into actions.

    There are more than three of his nudes preserved but I don't remember the exact number. He destroyed a lot of them himself as stated above.

    A creepy guy without a doubt and he was forbidden to see Alice Liddel for unknown reasons (probably just for being creepy and visiting a lot).
    His letters are interesting reading, and you can try some Sylvie and Bruno if you want to know what he wrote apart from the books about Alice (don't be surprised if you don't finish it, it's crap)
     
  12. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    If you ever get a chance to see any of his photographs, they are worth seeing. There was a Dodgson exhibition at Dimbola Lodge a couple of years ago which I went to see.

    I agree. There was a time when people were given the benefit of the doubt. Now the standard practice is to assume the worst!


    Steve.
     
  13. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    While doing my MA in Photography we discussed these issues with Roger Taylor (then a visiting lecturer):

    Roger Taylor the Photo historian edited and wrote text for a definitive book on the work of Charles Dodgson around 2002/3, published by Princeton University Press. The research was extremely thorough based on the Dodgson archives held at Princeton and for the first time photographs/negatives were cross matched to the entries in Dodgsons diaries and other papers.

    The images of Alice Liddell were made over a short period of time and her mother was always present, every sitting was deatiled in the diaries. What hadn't been realised was at that point there was craze in Britain for cards of paintings of young girls similarly posed, and Dodgson is thought to have seen the commercial possibilities. We think of the Victorian era in Britain as being moral and puritanical but that wasn't always the case.

    So Dodgson may well have been stupid in his actions in hind-sight but there was no evidence of anything else, his meticulous cataloguing of his negatives and his diaries showed clearly these images were only made in a few sessions and not over an extensive period of time.

    That's well put in light of what researchers found.

    Ian
     
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  15. steven_e007

    steven_e007 Member

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    One of the problems with Charles Dodgsen is that he was a very successful writer and quite famous even during his lifetime - yet he was very private and reserved. He gave few interviews, most of his letters and diaries were destroyed. Biographers and journalists have had little to go on. Consequently, they have had a pretty big vacuum to fill - and some of them seem to have had fun filling it.

    Karoline Leach wrote a book about Dodgsen where she argues his life story has been misrepresented and distorted over the years and she asserts that many of the things some people believe to be true about him are without foundation. This includes the allegations of paedophilia.

    As for the pictures - he apparently took over 3000 plates and about half of then survive. Out of these five of them were of nude girls (allegedly there was a sixth, which did not survive). As a percentage of his work it doesn't seem so unusual. Julia Margaret Cameron photographed a lot more children, including nudes, as did most contemporary photographers of this period. It appears to have just been an accepted style of 'art' photograph at the time.

    Frank Meadow Sutcliffe not only photographed little boys naked - but he was ex-communicated for it.
    Without knowing the full story the gut reaction from someone used to reading headlines in today's tabloids may be to assume he was a paedophile with a liking for little boys.

    The reality is the photographs were of boys in Whitby harbour swimming (The picture is called 'The Water Rats', 1886). The kids swam naked (no swimming costumes in those days and living in families that might be well over a dozen members, in perhaps two rooms, probably had a very difference sense of modesty and privacy anyway). The local clergy objected to the photograph because they believed it was inappropriate to allow ladies to see male nudity! The images fit in with Sutcliffes body of work of documenting life around Whitby in the late 19th century and no one has ever accused him of paedophilia, to my knowledge.

    Many other photographers have included child nudes in their work right up until fairly recently. Wynn Bullock took quite a few (usually his own daughters) as part of his landscapes ('Innocent child in wild landscape' type things).

    I doubt whether many would want to do it now, for fear of finger pointing :blink:

    I think we can make a big mistake by retrospectively applying current anti-paedophilia hysteria to the past.
     
  16. darkosaric

    darkosaric Subscriber

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    HCB was one of them too.
     
  17. edp

    edp Member

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  18. tomalophicon

    tomalophicon Member

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    And no-one ever accused E. Weston of being a pedo
    edward_weston_02.jpg
     
  19. Two23

    Two23 Member

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    I once worked as a therapist in a state mental hospital (think--"guilty by reason of insanity.") I've personally met and interacted with dozens of pedophiles. This guy's behavior is setting off my alarm bells.


    Kent in SD
     
  20. CGW

    CGW Member

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    Trailing your coat a bit again? What about the $hit storm Sally Mann's family pix stirred up?
     
  21. Wayne

    Wayne Subscriber

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    A popular modern armchair sport is diagnosing historical figures with modern psychiatric disorders based on their writings, photographs, reclusiveness, etc, without any first hand experience of the person. Why not add posthumous criminal conviction to the sport?
     
  22. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    Yes, I got that wrong. Memory fade at time of original posting. There are six (6) per Morton's book.
     
  23. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    On the other gender, there's Thomas Eakin's swimming hole photo, which by itself is apt to be a common enough rural scene, but assumptions are quickly made because of the volume of young males photographed (who were also chaperoned). I see F Holland Day as re-interpreting the same material in a B&W pictorialist style. Male teens and crucifixion scenes are common to both of them.

    Today we have Sally Mann. I have zero problem with photographers making photos with their own kids naked. It's part of who the kids are; documenting their matter-o-fact innocense and unrehearsed little life with artful photos. Using your photos of your naked kids for self promotion or selling your kids naked photos is more than I'm comfortable with. I mean, who is gonna buy photos of her naked children? Sure, if I were an uber wealthy person bad with the camera, she'd be a well regarded pick to commission photos of my kids. As a photographer, I'd not mind learning from her, but not to copy her. I'd like to think she's famous first as a photography educator, but I suspect she's actually famous for promoting her naked kids.
     
  24. Moopheus

    Moopheus Member

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    The Hunting of the Snark, on the other hand, is quite good. And worth seeking out the edition with Mervyn Peake's illustrations.
     
  25. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    Unfortunately this is the truth -- both in his own days and today. The issue never was with nude photography. Lots of people legitimately did it, and still do it, even with young children. The issue was his OTHER activities associated with young girls. I think it is called "grooming" today. And it was just as creepy then as it is now.

    But history has not shown that he ever violated the trust he had with the children or their parents... and I agree that nobody should assume ill-will without some new-found historical evidence. Assumption and conjecture isn't enough.
     
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  26. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    I agree. People often say that Edgar Allan Poe was schizophrenic or psychotic or both because of what he wrote.

    He certainly was known to be a drinker, a carouser and a womanizer. By today's standards he would probably be labeled an alcoholic.
    Also, by today's standards, Poe would have been considered a pedophile. If you know the real story of Anabel Lee, you'll know what I'm talking about. Back in the day, people might have said, that Poe "liked them young" but 14 or 15 years old wasn't necessarily considered to be too young if the parents consented. (The real "Anabel Lee's" parents didn't consent.)

    Poe might have been all that and more but he wasn't "schizo."

    Poe was a writer and he wrote to make money. He wrote what sold and, in that time, nobody else was writing stories or poems of such horror and gore as Poe. Poe simply wrote what made him the most money.

    What about Stephen King? Do we call him "schizo" because he writes horror stories?
    Yes, there are people who have met King who say he often acts pretty creepy but he usually counters by saying it's all an act.

    Maybe King is a creepy guy. Does it really matter? Could it possibly be because we want to believe he's creepy?
    The same thing goes for Poe. Does it really matter? Could it possibly be because we want to believe he's crazy, too?

    In either case, both of them probably played up to the stereotype for "marketing purposes," as it were but I don't think either of them were crazy just because they wrote horror stories. They both did it to make money, plain and simple.

    In Carroll's case, maybe he got a little "too close for comfort" but I think it was more out of naivety rather than neurosis.
    I think he might have been playing up to his stereotype as a "children's writer," just as King and Poe played up to their stereotypes, but didn't realize the connotations that came of his relationship with the real Alice and/or other children.

    I would put Lewis Carrol in the class with the others: Creepy but probably not crazy.