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.
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.