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15th May 2016

Facebook Removed This Artist’s Image of her Husband and Son, Were They Right?

Sophie White

Facebook originally removed this photograph posted by artist and birth photographer, Heather Whitten.

Whitten took the image of her husband, Thomas, comforting their son, Fox, in the shower after he’d contracted salmonella poisoning in November 2014.


The artist and mother of four explained in a Facebook post earlier this month the story behind the image that many found disturbing and prompted Facebook to intervene:

“This was November of 2014; Fox would be hospitalised that night for salmonella poisoning [that we never figured out how he was exposed to]. Thomas had spent hours in the shower with him, trying to keep his fever down and letting the vomit and diarrhoea rinse off of them both as it came. It was a powerful moment for us as parents. Our intuition was starting to fire off that this was much more serious than just a virus, but we’ve had much more experience with over reacting than not so we were trying to hold off.

As I sat in the shower with the two of them, I was just overwhelmed with the scene in front of me. This man. This husband and partner and father. He was so patient and so loving and so strong with our tiny son in his lap. His whispers of reassurance to Fox, that he would be ok and that Thomas would take care of him were so steady and so honest…

I stepped out and grabbed my camera and came back to snap a few images of it and, of course, shared them. I was taken aback by how many people missed the story or didn’t even look past the nudity to find the story. They were just hung up on them both being nude and being in the shower. I had crossed a line. It was too intimate. It shouldn’t be shared publicly.

But, I disagree.

My family may be different than yours. But, that doesn’t make your way right or my way wrong. You may never take images of your family like I do… you may never share images of your family like I do. But, that doesn’t give you the right to silence my voice. To take away my right to share our experiences in an uncensored way.

There is nothing sexual or exploitative about this image. There aren’t even any “private parts” showing.
I wish I could express this all in a better way. I wish I were better spoken and not as rambling. But, this is important to me. And, I hope that one day there will be a platform that not only allows this kind of freedom for families and artists like my own… but, welcomes them without fear.”

Read her full post here:

Heather Whitten’s plea for “her voice” is an interesting one. Many would argue that we, parents, don’t actually need to share every intimate moment of our lives on social media. Others found the sight of a child looking vulnerable and unhappy deeply discomfiting. Uneasy reactions were likely provoked by the sight of the naked man who’s identity is not revealed in the composition (his face is out of shot).

Heather Whitten wants us to consider her portrait as a part of her artistic practice, in an interview with Light Inspired she spoke about her approach to art and family life and how the two are deeply entwined.

“I don’t feel like anything is off limits. If it moves me, I’ll shoot it and share it. This is my life with these unique and wonderful beings, and I’m proud to share it with the world!”

Whitten has faced censorship with other social media platforms; her Instagram account was shut down temporarily:

“I share a lot of breastfeeding images of my twins and some naked baby booties from time-to-time. It’s really hard for me to swallow someone passing such a harsh judgement on the images that I share and ultimately of the choices I make as a mother and a photographer.”

When asked how she feels her work will impact on her children as she gets older, she is open about her intentions.

“I hope that message of “there’s nothing to be ashamed of here” will shine through for them. I really do strive to raise my children to be proud of themselves. To make smart choices and to not be afraid of new experiences or different perspectives. So, hopefully, they’ll see just how much I loved being their mother and that I was proud to share our story.”

Visit Heather’s website for more of her work.

What do you think of Heather Whitten’s photograph? Let us know in the comments…