Photographer Renowned for Child Portraits Is Criticized for Sexualizing Her Subjects in New Images

Photographer Renowned for Child Portraits Is Criticized for Sexualizing Her Subjects in New Images

Meg Bitton, a photographer renowned for her portraits of children, is receiving backlash online for posting images of youngsters — some allegedly aged 11 — wearing revealing outfits, smoking, and in t-shirts supporting cannabis. In an age of children growing up and being sexualized too fast, how far is too far?

Bitton is widely regarded as a respected children's photographer, with tens of thousands of followers across various social media pages. Over the last few days, though, a number of photographs have been circulating the Internet for all the wrong reasons. Many are deeming that some of her recent work is highly inappropriate, largely due to the overtly sexual nature, despite her subjects being children.

In one, two young girls are seen pressing themselves against each other, while one has her hand on some money that is tucked into the other's shorts. In a second, Bitton has positioned her child subject in the front seat of a van, wearing barely-there underwear and smoking on a cigarette. Another sees a child so young that she’s likely not even in double digits, bearing a top promoting the legalization of marijuana.

https://twitter.com/WebbDawgTG/status/1035185601664954369

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It’s an increasing trend, treating children like adults. Earlier this year, "Lil Tay" gained notoriety online and was giving TV interviews for simply behaving outrageously on Instagram at the age of nine. Meanwhile, celebrities like the Kardashians parade their offspring around in outfits tailored by high-end fashion houses. But these images feel incredibly distasteful and a step too far. Bitton’s subjects are likely old enough to be consciously aware of many of the themes portrayed in the photos. However, positioning them as the subjects within them is in poor taste. It risks putting incredible pressure on these children to be or behave a certain way before they’ve had a chance to figure out who they are as people or the consequences of such behavior. It blurs the lines of how it is or isn't acceptable to behave in front of a minor.  And it certainly calls into question the legality of such images; many online are calling it gross at best and pedophilic at worst.

Setting aside the sexual aspect of such images, there is nothing realistic about these photos. They aren’t artistic, documentary style images that capture the livelihood of innocent children. They depict something unrealistic and forced. When was the last time you witnessed 11-year-olds in such pants, gallivanting in the streets, and leaning close to each other in a provocative manner? Never, I hope.

Bitton’s response, written within the comment section on Facebook, was:

Too young for what? To be embracing each other in shorts and tops? Too young to be out at night? Too young to explore? Too young to feel? What are they too young for? What is disgusting?

She claims she is simply depicting a normal child’s evolution into adulthood. Thankfully, the Internet disagrees. Sexualizing children is never justified.

At the time of writing, her Instagram is set to private.

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539 Comments

Brent Schmidt's picture

Not surprising from her... she’s blocked me after being called out as being a fraud on her sales. She’s always done crazy stuff like this.

Charles Marshall's picture

'Called out for being a fraud on her sale." ? I've followed Megs work for 2 years and own 10-15 of her course. Never has she been a fraud on her sale or any other way. Tell another lie to prop that one up.

mike brannon's picture

Admitting to collecting child porn and defending the photographer is a risky thing to do. What's wrong with images of adults or a nice landscape? Why perpetuate a market for this kind of child abuse? Which is exactly what it is. Instead you could be fighting to protect children who need it. Many do, likely including the ones she photographs pretending it has something to do w/ her 70's childhood memories. Who cares? Theres no way to frame this where it isnt child porn.

Charles Marshall's picture

I know how silly it is to see all the crap y'all made up to go with these photo's. My favorite is the, so called "Man with the walkie talkie" Any fool can see this is a boy close to the age of these girls. It's titled "Choices". Myself, I seen it from the boys point of view because when I was a kid I remember being put on the spot to choose which girl I liked better and will never forget how hurt the girl was that stormed off up the street to her house because I didn't choose her. Was a really bad moment I learned from. The actual meaning behind it is a girl choosing her boyfriend over her 2 best friends. I didn't even come close to seeing what y'all made up. First I knew it was a boy, not a man and second, I never looked at these girls as prostitutes. Other than that never gave the photo a second thought. I still remember the group discussion and don't remember anyone else getting that ideal either. I guess cause we knew the girls never portrayed prostitutes in the rest of the photo's. Seeing all these wild stories made up is crazy. What really gets me is how this gets blown out of proportion by people that think their doing good, mostly because they have been misled but in fact their no better than the people of Salem burning witches. This all starts because of a few bitter photographers planting false seeds to attack other photographers that sell products and lessons to teach others. It's nothing new. They even list 3 photographers they target for selling products. It's easy to get people riled up when it comes to children. Wasn't but a few years ago they did this to another photographer that was a male. His were just normal photo's of children, both boy and girl. Turns out he had more girls on his page so they used that to attack him, that and I think he told somebody off online with a few choice words. Nothing new here. Does Meg use photo's for a shock factor? Couldn't say truthfully. Is everything she posts legal? Would be pretty stupid if it wasn't now wouldn't it. I don't give a rats arse about the photo's one way or another. What it comes down to is people bullying others trying to force them to conform to the ideals. This is what riles me up!!

Brady Barrineau's picture

Photographers who disagree with some of her photos with little girls are told to 'Shut the fuck up', 'Go fuck yourself' and 'you're a loser and just jealous.' Here's the thing Charles, you show up with a camera on a shoot where minor children are posing in some sexual manner, watch out.

Nicole M's picture

"Any fool can see this is a boy close to the age of these girls."

Really? How can any fool tell this? His back is to the camera. It's dark. He's on a dock next to water. You can't see his face. You can't even make out his profile. So right here you lost me. You're lying and you know it. It's not even a good lie.

"The actual meaning behind it is a girl choosing her boyfriend over her 2 best friends. :

I don't even know how to reply to this comment. It's so ridiculously false. I really dislike when people lie but when they lie so obviously, it's even worse. Stop it. Just stop.

And in case you really believe this, I showed it to my daughter who is 13. She was horrified. She asked what mother would allow that. Then she said don't those girls realize this is going to follow them forever?

By the way, I noticed you keep changing your writing style midstream. Are you from NYC? ("I seen it from the boy's point of view"), the midwest (Y'all made up) or a brit (a rat's arse) Or maybe you're just her husband :)

Yin Ze's picture

"Meg Bitton, a photographer renowned for her portraits of children, is receiving backlash online for posting images of youngsters — some allegedly aged 11 — wearing revealing outfits, smoking, and in t-shirts supporting cannabis. In an age of children growing up and being sexualized too fast, how far is too far?"

Article then splashes photos on the site thus taking "too far" a step further and exploiting kids for clicks. I guess if this gets enough page views Megs name will be on the next Fstopper DVD tutorial.

Jack Alexander's picture

I see your point, although, I can't make this degree of accusation and not provide any of the evidence.

Gina K's picture

Without continuing to share the images and perpetuate the problem, There is a well written post about this here (describing the images in question in detail) and I have to say, remarkably accurate to everything I have witnessed : https://www.jodieotte.com/business-of-photography/exploitation-lies-phot...

Slide Slide's picture

Thanks for sharing this. Her post is probably the best response anyone could make about how this whole thing is being played out. Very informative.

Dennis Johnson's picture

Gina K "I’m out. I will no longer participate in the hustle of photography. I don’t want to be associated with an industry that finds any of this okay. As the desperation to hold onto the little ‘cheese’ that’s left in the industry continues to build, you all can fight among yourselves for it.

But when I see something that is absolutely insanely wrong, I will speak up… because I once loved this industry… it used to be wonderful. Now it’s turning ugly."

when something is wrong, you must speak up. its about morality and about integrity as a photographer. couldnt have said it better. the images of Meg should not have been made, shame on the photographer, shame on the parents.

Brian Bray's picture

There is another option: draw no more attention to it at all. Just has she could have chosen other subjects, so could have you. This piece has only delivered these images a wider audience. I doubt that’s what you had in mind. Linking to her website in the very first words of the article was another option.

Alvin Toro's picture

These are not even the worst photos. I debated about it myself before posting about this to my group a few days ago. It is sad but to Jack's point I also see no other way of exposing what she does without proper evidence. Since she has locked down her SM, deleted the photos and blocked everyone that's been critical of her, most of blogs posts online that omit the photos and only describe what she's done have been met with skepticism. Because of this bait-n-switch, anyone goes back to look though her feed only sees older images and comments of praise and automatically asumes the world is just envious and out to get her.

Charles Marshall's picture

I've been in her group for 2 years and own 15-20 of her courses. I don't know what you think your exposing. Most of these photo's were taken during the production of a workshop with a full production crew and attendees, one of with is police officer for the city of New York and has been on the force for over 20 years. Yes it was filmed and will prove most of the lies about what's going on, why and how they were done. You might want to be correcting false statements. If they find anyone posting trying to hurt Meg or her business they can file charges.

Nicole M's picture

Hey bud let me help you out here. There are no charges to be filed at least not by the police. This would be a civil case. Civil cases are never fun and there's a process called discovery - meaning all of the outrageous things Meg's ever posted in the past could be pulled by a lawyer on the opposing side. Any posts she made - public or on her private personal pages would be part of discovery.(And dude, just because someone deletes something doesn't mean it's gone. People screenshot her stuff all the time. She's not exactly well liked.)

I'm sure no one really wants their background dragged through the mud which is why lawsuits like that are rarely brought to the courts. Moreover, they are rather expensive. So stop going through posts and threatening "charges". Understand how the legal process works before you make specious threats. I get that you are relying on people's naivety about the legal system and civil lawsuits in general but this is tiresome. And you make yourself look foolish.

Also, given that a police officer was part of the shoot, can you please provide their badge number and what precinct they work out of? I'm just curious :)

Charles Marshall's picture

Let me help you out, If the person making the comments resides in another state, meaning crosses state lines it becomes a federal crime If the intent of the comments is to harm someone or the business. If you actually were in Megs group and knew what was going on you could ask him yourself, but instead you spread rumors that have grown from group to group.

Amy K's picture

Meg and her minions would be WAY more guilty of that than anyone else. Nice try, though.

Charles Marshall's picture

Guilty of what exactly? Creating an imagine you don't like. It tells a different story to everyone that sees it. This image made me think of my childhood. I didn't smoke but a lot of my friends did, My sister and her friends dressed this way minus socks and skates. We didn't live a a big city and spent a lot of our summer at the lake. I guess a lot of people must have had really bad childhoods with the things they say this image means. BTW, this girl is the daughter of another talented photographer and friend of Meg's. So what happens when y'all go swimming and girls of all ages are in swimsuits?

Lisa Holloway's picture

They probably all pass out from shock. lol

Jumpy J's picture

Aww look- there's Lisa H - the other half of the prolific "use children in shocking situations to sell an action or workshop" duo. Of course you would defend Meg and her online abuse of children. You sure have enough of your own to use in that context. Are you pregnant with another kid yet?

amy kiley's picture

that is a bit bold Jumpy don't you think? Lisa has clearly and without a doubt created a very bad image for herself through her responses . I love her work. but won't be able to look at it now without being reminded of her her comments here. I do believe her image as a photographer will never be the same. It will effect those very things she is so boldly claiming but most of all she herself has tarnished her own reputation as a photographer. You don't need to go there any further ..not necessary "are you pregnant again?"

Brady Barrineau's picture

I think your work is superb, I just took a look for the first time. You make millions and you deserve it. I've been looking though some of these comments - this is the one time that she nor anyone here who is in her tribe can insult her way out of this shit. I don't get it, she's worth millions why do this? More money and fame? I like attitude I even like arrogance esp if you've earned it but damn a few of those images well they're getting the attention of other people who are not photographers - people who have never heard of her or you or anyone here and don't give a flying fuck. I think that the photographers intention was to raise her middle finger and say fuck you to anyone who thinks the images are inappropriate. I'm rich, you're not you're a jealous fool doesn't work well with law enforcement. With tall the #MeToo movement gong on and all that I cannot understand why some of those photos were even considered.

Gina K's picture

It’s a desperate attempt for money and attention plain and simple. Either she’s hurting financially and desperate or a greedy selfish despicable human being

Brian Bray's picture

"So what happens when y'all go swimming and girls of all ages are in swimsuits?”

We put our cameras away.

Brady Barrineau's picture

Cops aren't like the rest of us. I got into it with one on that FB page regarding some of those photos that have since been taken down. What this cop doesn't understand is its not the workshop where portraits were taken that will get him in trouble its the OTHER photos, you know the ones that are pushing boundaries? Cops and lawyers are held to an entire different level of trust - totally different than some part time photographer that works at Starbucks. Police Departments do not like their officers being linked to anything that even resembles something that is pushing boundaries especially anything involving minors and cameras. Some District Attorney somewhere will be looking though those same photos plotting a way to get probable cause for search and seizure. And the photographer can scream and rant about how rich they are and how jealous everyone is blah blah - that DA making 65k a year with two mortgages sweating their balls off in the subway does not give a fuck.

Nicole M's picture

Charles, my friend LOL what Federal Statute(s) are you referring to that make it a federal crime to post an internet comment about someone? Dear me, if that's the case there must be a lot of very busy law enforcement agents. And which departmental agency is going to be the one to press charges?

If you're referring to defamation, it's largely state. But here's a nifty little primer on it: http://kellywarnerlaw.com/us-defamation-laws/

By the way, since Meg posted those pictures all on her very own, it will be quite difficult to argue that someone set out to purposely harm her or her business. She did that quite nicely all on her own.

Pat McEntee's picture

"There are no charges to be filed at least not by the police. This would be a civil case. "

So what civil case would this be? You do understand that a civil case requires that the person have standing, that is a personal stake in the incident they are suing over.

These photos may not rise to your level of approval, however, they are representative of many girls that do dress and act like that. Again, even if you are offended, that does not mean they are offensive.

Last, but not the least, is the series of Brooke Shields Calvin Klein commercials from 1980-81. We all survived.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXzR5b6HoIA

Nicole M's picture

OMG you really need to read what people write. I was responding to "Charles" who implied police were pressing charges. I responded that it would be a civil case, not a criminal one.

*I* am not suing anyone. And you need to actually read.

Motti Bembaron's picture

it's not illegal it's just very tasteless.

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