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.

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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Previous comments
Alex Cooke's picture

Everyone in this subthread, enough. The next person that says anything off topic from discussing this article, swears at another person, or makes any sort of threat will be immediately banned from the site.

Brady Barrineau's picture

A very wealthy photographer in Los Angeles took a look at some of the photos...way too far. He photographs celebrity kids and many Hollywood actors and actresses.

Brady Barrineau's picture

"Sexual activity is not needed in the image to be considered pornography. The images may contain a nude picture of a child that is deemed sexually suggestive and be considered illegal. Child pornography under federal law is the disregard for age of consent for sexual activity in a given state. Some states consider age of consent to be younger than 18 years old, but when child pornography is concerned, any depiction of a minor under the age of 18 engaging in sexually explicit conduct is unlawful."

It is not up to you or any photographer to decide what's legal or not. You don't define this. The DA does not give a fuck how how rich you are or how many likes you have if the kids are from an agency or not. It is up to law enforcement to determine if any of those images may or may not be considered child pornography. They just need one single photo that may have crossed the line, just one. With so many sick fucks out there running websites collecting these images I'll tell you this, they are watching and very closely. If the photographer wanted to become more famous their wish has come true, the fuse is lit.

To any photographer out there reading this do not photograph young children who are posing or being posed in some kind of perceived sexual manner. Don't do it just walk away.

Charles Marshall's picture

Dumb stuff like this. These kids are models and there parents, some of which are photographers were present along with the production crew when this was filmed. I guess the hate mongers going group to group targeting Meg didn't tell you that. Most likely cause they didn't have a clue and made up their own version to farther their agenda. Real sick group of people that started this. Totally disgusting the things they made up for these images.

Louise Ungerman's picture

HOW is someone defending children sick? She knew what she did and why she did it, for attention. And she drags people like you in to defend her because all she can do is respond with filth and vulgar language, and hate towards all the "idiots" who don't agree with her art.

Deleted Account's picture

Because there is no harm done, so nothing to defend children against. I really want to understand why, in this era, we constantly need to victimize everybody, and overreact at everything. Letting people be seems to never be an option, everyone has to interere, censorize, normalize and moralize as they please. I want a time ride to the 70's…

David Pavlich's picture

So by your logic, this is okay. As far as I know, an 11 year old can't legally sign a model release form. It has to be signed by a parent or legal guardian. So now we have at least two people that find joy in dressing an 11 year old child like a prostitute and photographing him/her for the pleasure of other adults that deem this practice okay.

In which case, the parents/guardians/"photographers" aren't the victims, it's the 11 year old that's the unwitting victim. The fact that you can defend this says volumes about your character.

Deleted Account's picture

You see a girl dressed as a prostitute, I see a girl mimicking Mom. Ever seen the movie "Léon/The professional" (first appearance on screen of Natalie Portman) ?

Children are not holy little stupid things, they know perfectly well how to say no (serve them spinach for lunch, you will see). So they were most likely taking the pictures as a game, with no second thoughts. The problem here is adults and the way they constantly trash things by seeing the devil where he isn't.

I'm glad you are able to read my character in just a few lines because even certified psychiatrists need several hours of interview to do that. You need to teach in med school.

David Pavlich's picture

The fact that you justify this is all the education that I need to understand that you promote child exploitation. In my most humble opinion, that is a flawed character.

Deleted Account's picture

I take comfort in the fact that Kim Jung Un will soon put an end to your bigotry and deliver the World from your stupidity.

David Pavlich's picture

That sure did put me in my place. I bow to your rapier whit and razor like prose. You, sir, are a genius. Well done! :rolleyes:

Syd Takeshta's picture

That was one of the rudest things I have every read.

Lilla Gyarmati's picture

You know Aurelien, the ‘fact’ that you see a girl mimicking mom somehow just does not justifies these images. You pose yourself here as an innocent adult, you don’t think of anything bad, you are just defending the freedom of artistic expression. Right? Well, hurray for that, but there is something, a teeny weeny bit more complex here, that you just don’t even want to touch the surface of. But that’s ok, you just go on with the same song, and I can only hope you will have a deeper understanding, when you have your own child (or not) You can put me in the same box with mr David Pavlich and the alikes, it won’t hurt me, not even if you think I’m one of those who censorise, moralise, normalise. You know we, parents know some things about children, and I believe the most of us would love to protect ALL OF THEM from people who enjoy this kind of “art”.

Umit Pala's picture

Aurélien and Alexander insist on not to understand what we mean. they can not be so stupid. so they keep diverting it on purpose. Leave them alone in their twisted moral world

Slide Slide's picture

"I see a girl mimicking mom"

HAAhahahahaAHHHHAAAA. Mom probably wonders why she's single too..

Nicola Healey's picture

wow, really?? This is your comment? To put down single moms... shame on you. Here I was thinking God was the only person who could judge. Hmmm

Slide Slide's picture

No. I'm putting down "moms" who whore out their kids to make "art" and the fact that "mom" probably can't or won't understand HER role in ANYTHING, or else she wouldn't agree to have her child portrayed as a pre-teen prostitute.

These photos aren't a "girl mimicking mom" unless your mom is whore who snorts coke off the back of a Cadillac with a rolled up $100 bill. In which case, mom needs to be a mom and not a whore.

Do you see the difference? I'll be happy to use another example if need be.

Nicola Healey's picture

But your comment "Mom probably wonders why she's single too...." why say that? You making a statement that of course she is a single mom.. Those were YOUR words..

Slide Slide's picture

Did I deny they were my words? I gave you my explanation in terms I believe anyone would understand, perhaps you're just not capable.

But if you need a second round, here goes...

My comment was that a mom who pimps out her child or allows her daughter to "mimick" her slutty form of dress certainly would have NO UNDERSTANDING of HER (the mom) role and would ALSO wonder why NO ONE would want to be married to a slut.

And yes, these are my words too. So what exactly is your point? That I'm "picking on" single moms? No. I'm picking on mothers who pimp out their kids for exploitative photographers and use the excuse of "mimicking mom."

Nicola Healey's picture

your crazy... YOUR words "Mom probably wonders why shes single too".. implying a single mother would do this.. grow up, get yourself educated and re read what you said. I am totally capable of seeing through the lines here and your comment "Mom probably wonders why shes single too" ... You didn't need to bring up the fact you bet shes single.. low blow..

Slide Slide's picture

Perhaps I've given you Bittonites too much credit for comprehension. I see you continue to tell me what I've said despite two responses to clarify.

Go back to the beginning, ok?

"girls mimicking mom"

Girl dresses like a crack whore

Therefore, mom dresses like, or is, a crack whore

Mom is ok with offspring's emulation and fashion sense

Therefore, mom is either too stupid or non-caring, or both, to understand she is responsible for raising a child and not a crack whore

Either way, mom is likely to not be married as most men are not going to marry either a simpleton that can only raise a crack whore wannabe, or she actually is a crack whore.

Therefore, "mom" probably wonders why "dad" left for cigs one night and didn't come back.

Mom's actions made her single (and now she wonders why), NOT mom is single and therefore she would dress up her child for the next skid row fashion show.

Oh, and since your so "capable" of "seeing through the lines," I gave you a little extra room, so hopefully some basic third grade logic will seep in.

Tell Meg we all say, HI, and I do hope the poor dear recovers from her PTSD soon.

Pat McEntee's picture

- "Therefore, mom is either too stupid or non-caring, or both, to understand she is responsible for raising a child and not a crack whore"

- "Mom's actions made her single (and now she wonders why), NOT mom is single and therefore she would dress up her child for the next skid row fashion show."

Question there buddy, how do you stay single?

Slide Slide's picture

Well, buddy, no one accidentally gets married do they?

Slide Slide's picture

Aurelien Pierre - "Children are not holy little stupid things, they know perfectly well how to say no (serve them spinach for lunch, you will see). So they were most likely taking the pictures as a game, with no second thoughts. The problem here is adults and the way they constantly trash things by seeing the devil where he isn't."

Must be nice to have such a simple view of the world. Kids say no when they've experienced things they dislike (spinach), but often don't know how, or why, to say no to things that may not affect them in the immediate, but may much later. Other comments have posted about the damage these photos may have on these girls later, or even sooner when others see them online. Or does online bullying and predators not exist in your part of the internet?

The problem isn't adults "seeing the devil where he isn't" but knowing where he is, and not pretending that placing pre-adolescents in a situation that they don't fully comprehend is asking a little much of a child.

The question most of us are asking is, why? Were these photos part of a true documentation of these girls lives? No. Photojournalism? No. Art. Hardly. Or was it something that many of us find hard to accept as justification for placing these young girls in situations that may have serious consequences in the near future? Maybe. Money? What else would they be for. A quick buck at the expense of some naive young pre-teen that will later have to endure things that you clearly either don't believe happen or just don't seem to grasp.

Aurelien Pierre - "I'm glad you are able to read my character in just a few lines because even certified psychiatrists need several hours of interview to do that."

I truly hope they can help you to begin to see the world as it really is.

Jumpy J's picture

All he sees is a kid mimicking her mom. Aww, now all those prostitutes can be so proud that their kids want to be just like them when they grow up! @@

Alexander Petrenko's picture

Why do you think that prostitution is a bad profession?

Jumpy J's picture

Hey, if women want to open their coochie for a few bucks, I'm not judging. But many of them are trafficked by men and forced into that lifestyle (or better yet, run by pimps, like women aren't smart enough to invest their own earnings). I bet you bucks to dollars you don't have a daughter, because if you did, I can guarantee that the thought "oh, I hope my princess sets her sights high and becomes a full blown prostitute snorting coke off the back of another hookers ass with a rolled up 100 dollar bill" will never have crossed your mind.

Alexander Petrenko's picture

So, you are mixing sex labour and human trafficing. These are separate issues.

Claudia Hoag's picture

Were you ever involved with fighting human trafficking? According to US legislation, a person under 18 performing a commercial sex act is a victim of human trafficking. It doesn't matter if that young person does it by choice or not. So the images of those young girls on the street are definitely displaying a reference to human trafficking. That's not subjective, that's plain clear.

Alexander Petrenko's picture

You mix sex labour, legal age and human trafficking. And US legislation seems too. From what you wrote: sex labour + less than 18 = human trafficking; sex labour + more than 18 <> human trafficking.

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