I've talked before a couple of times about censorship in art, and what could be considered art (I'm too lazy to go and find the links for those posts, but they're around somewhere). Today I was looking at the blog of one of my favorite photographers, Jonathan Canlas, and he posted a series of photographs (which you can find here) that he took of a family in the hospital for the birth of their child. Jonathan has posted several shoots of hospital births, etc, but I noticed this one was different, and when I got to the text at the bottom of the post I realized why. The baby was born with a number of severe complications, and is not expected to live much longer. Jonathan wrote that the mother called him in to take some photographs when they realized their baby was ailing, and he did come, and took some beautiful photos. None of them really show the baby, more the people present, and from angles that communicate emotion of the various subjects. But what was shocking to me was first of all that the pictures were so sad, and that a professional photographer had been called in to record the moment.
I know that art is a very delicate subject at times, but I wonder where on the line between "personal" and "public art" this situation falls. I know that photographs (and art in general) is often created to provoke uncomfortable emotion, and that we may not always be comfortable with it. For example, a friend of mine is opening a display of her photography in the HFAC on campus in a couple of weeks, and the topic of her collection is the unrealistic image of women that has been created by our culture, and how it affects women in real life. She told me about an image of a girl draped over a toilet wearing almost nothing, her bones jutting out from her skin; and how she's certain this image will be censored the moment she hangs it in the gallery. People are simply not comfortable viewing things that provoke unhappy feelings in themselves. And yet, they miss the point. If we push these things away, we lose sight of what life is really like.
Maybe that was the point of Jonathan Canlas' posting of the photos I think perhaps should have been kept private. At the end of the post he said "Now all of you, close this browser and go spend some time with your family/loved ones. Life is so delicate." These images-- or other works of art in various forms, such as the poem "Dulce et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen-- are meant to cause emotions in us that stimulate a change in our lives, or help us to see the reality of life. They hold a power that other things do not.
What do you guys think?