Upon watching the news this morning, I was made aware of the plight of A.J. and Lisa Demaree. Who are they? According to Peoria, Arizona, they are sex offenders (potentially child pornographers). And why, might you ask, are they sex offenders? Well, because a photo developer at their local Wal-Mart didn't like the pictures of their three daughters (all five years and younger) playing in the bath.
And because that Wal-Mart employee called the cops, for more than one month, three little girls were taken away from their parents.
Who among us does not have photographs of our children in various stages of undress? Whether it's in the bath, in a pool, running around the yard -- it doesn't really matter -- most of us have these images without an ounce of malicious pornographic intent.
With two little ones at home, I snap photos of every meaningless occasion. I snap them for posterity, I snap them because my children look beautiful, I snap them because they grow so fast and if I don't snap them then I wind up missing something. Sure, with the advent of digital cameras I wind up deleting most of my photos (and I don't intend for the world to see them). But nonetheless, when I photograph my children, I do it because I love them and want to document their lives.
Any of us could be the Demarees. Any of us could receive a knock on our door because someone at a local photo developer can't decipher whether photographs are innocent or malicious. Meanwhile, real child pornographers aren't getting their pictures developed at Wal-Mart.
However, perhaps we should really recognize that the minute a photo store employee looks at a child and deems an image as being pornographic, it is that person who sexualizes a child. It is that person who takes away their innocence.
Don't get me wrong. There are definitely some people out there who don't have a child's well being in mind. And there are special places in hell reserved for them. But this isn't that case.
Granted, I suppose that this is again America's fear of the naked body and sexuality in general. We have a hard time distinguishing what is natural from what is exploitative, what is innocent and what is pornographic.
Hopefully we can all learn from the Demaree's experience. Don't be quick to judge. Let there be better procedures for determining obscenity (if you can even call it that). And seeing as obscenity is subjective to begin with, watch what you take to your photo developer.