The mainstream media inexplicably clued into Jill Greenberg's "End Times" series a few days ago (ABC News actually called the show, which opened in April and closed in early July, a "new exhibit" in their ABC World News article yesterday). It reminds me of the time about a month ago when I was watching CNN in a hotel room and saw them do their take on the "Cable Guy" video (repair guy videotaped sleeping on couch after waiting on Cox repair-guy hold for over an hour) when the video had already been downloaded by every 18-to-24-year-old in the English-speaking world and the "story" was a month old. Mainstream news outlets generally hold bloggers in disrepute yet rely heavily on them for their pop-culture news, which might sound contradictory but I guess is just savvy strategy. The fewer regular blog readers there are, the longer they have to prepare their institutional take on a story. By rolling it up in the "blog controversy" wrapper they have the opportunity to regurgitate the issue, throw in a little Mrs. Dash and call it fresh-baked.
For those who complained in the past that the blogosphere lacked a coherent "pro" side to the debate, after pointing out the obvious reasons - we're an opinionated bunch, the "pro" argument is the technical quality of the work itself, and hey, the work is morally bankrupt, what do you want us to do? - the best well-rounded article I have seen on the topic came from the L.A. Times. They do their best to be unfair to all sides, clipping the art world for their tin ear to the ethical concerns and not treating the millions of people who do read blogs as a bunch of losers. (Most other articles take great pride in positing their own sophistication by helping interviewees explain how a good photographer can fool a "naive" viewer.) In their article I came across a tidbit that may surprise some, but not me.
The day Boing Boing ran its post, the Kopeikin Gallery website rocketed from its usual 1,000 hits to 14,000. Kopeikin was receiving enough angry e-mail to consider hiring extra security. At one point, Kopeikin posted a comment on Peterson's blog: "I sincerely thank you for the attention you have brought to the exhibition and my gallery," he wrote. "I have made several sales to people who you have introduced to the work and who understand and appreciate it."
In fact, that assertion was false, Kopeikin admits, but then Kopeikin views Peterson as a fount of untruth, from his pseudonym onward. "I was just sending him information to see if he'd print it," Kopeikin said. "Jill and I were like, 'Let's tell him we're thanking him, because we're selling tons of prints.' ... Which wasn't true.... He totally took it."
This is what I love so much about Paul Kopeikin: His ego undermines his interests at every opportunity. These are the kind of enemies you hope to have in life. He lies to Thomas Hawk (anonymity has its place, folks) and to Hawk's thousands of regular readers, then admits it to the L.A. Times because he thinks it makes him sound clever. See, he "fooled" Hawk by tricking him into publishing his official response, which was really a lie!
Then he wants to rebut my assessment of the work, and writes in to tell me that he "hasn't bothered" reading my comments before launching into a statement of his own position. Roll over, Rasputin! And classy, too. Of course, Paul would never lie to a newspaper... right?
Stick around awhile and he may spring another leak.
Another source of some good commentary was, of all places, MSNBC, which interviewed Jill Greenberg and then refereed an argument between dangerously tanned former prosecutor Bill Fallon and starstuck celebrity defense attorney Debra Opri. Fallon speaks out regularly on issues affecting child welfare and abuse, and I was getting to the point where I was surprised to hear anyone agree with me on this issue. Here is a bit of what he said:
The parents are to blame, [but] the photographer is mentally ill. To say this is the same as a kid acting in a movie is ridiculous. I'm not saying you can take these people up on charges, but it's abusive of children, it's exploitative of children - look at the horror on those kids' [faces]. I know it's just a lollipop [being taken] away - I think one quote I heard was, "Well, they cry when you give them shots." That's for the good of the kid. This is for some political, social, artistic message that's using kids as pawns.No one was unkind enough to mention that Debra Opri represented Michael Jackson's parents through the ordeal of having their son tried for child molestation. She did take several opportunities to stare deeply into the television audience and declare Jill a great artist, and her argument was whittled away by Fallon until she was left to close with the bizarre mantra of "It's not illegal. It's not illegal." If anyone missed the subtext, Debra Opri is drawing a bead on a potentially lucrative client who could open the door up to many other potentially lucrative clients. I'm not asking you to disregard her argument (such as it is) but to strip her of her expert credentials when you evaluate it. Of course, there is also the possibility (stranger things have happened) that a lawyer could go on the air to defend a celebrity who was already employing them - but that would be a lie.
If you want to watch more, watch the video yourself - courtesy of Robert Green, Jill's husband.