<<< o >>>dream of the sea 71 comments + add yours

Libby suggested that I should explain this one, as the reality of the situation isn't immediately apparent, but I'd rather not, at least not immediately. Suffice to say that it's a shot of Rhowan, it wasn't posed, and despite appearances to the contrary, she's very much alive and well ;-)

Update: following warwick's comment below, perhaps I should explain ...

Libby and I took Milly, Rhowan, and Harmony to the beach today, and in amongst all the other games they played, they buried each other in the sand. The bow around Rhowan's neck was decorative, as was the seaweed around her waist ( you can't see it in this shot). Anyway, the bottom line is that the reality is somewhat less traumatic than warwick's first impression.

focal length
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exposure bias
metering mode
image quality
RAW converter
3.02pm on 4/6/07
Canon 5D
EF 24-70 f/2.8L USM
aperture priority
C1 Pro
1x1 + children [portraits] + photo friday
comment by Jennifer at 08:38 PM (GMT) on 4 June, 2007

Fantastic - but I agree with Libby - you don't want social services to come a knocking ;-)

comment by Trish at 08:54 PM (GMT) on 4 June, 2007

oooh, she looks like a sleeping Mermaid to me. :)

comment by warwick at 09:42 PM (GMT) on 4 June, 2007

Hmmm. Looks like pedophile bondage gone wrong. Maybe you should take it down. Really.

comment by Nick at 09:48 PM (GMT) on 4 June, 2007

A very disturbing image. Was that your intention?

comment by Adrian Hudson at 09:52 PM (GMT) on 4 June, 2007

Yikes! Dave... We all know this is perfectly innocent but it certainly is disturbing! It quite made my stomach churn.

comment by Keith De-Lin at 09:53 PM (GMT) on 4 June, 2007

cool shot. ghostly.

comment by djn1 at 09:53 PM (GMT) on 4 June, 2007

Nick: no, not really. Haunting perhaps, as are a lot of the shots I've posted of Rhowan over the years (this one, for example), but not disturbing.

comment by andyshon at 10:04 PM (GMT) on 4 June, 2007

Funny how any picture of a child is liable to be interpreted as abuse these days? Was it always that way? I don't know. Worrying though! I think it's a great shot, did it need so much blur though?

comment by Jacques at 10:10 PM (GMT) on 4 June, 2007

As often (not always, though !) Chromasia is intriguing and today, disturbing too. Great shot and processing.

comment by Jeppe at 10:19 PM (GMT) on 4 June, 2007

Very different from your usual work, and a good addition to your repertoire at that. Dark yet poetic (that skin). Love the focus, not on the eyes but on the sand and the rope.

comment by Audrey Mottishaw at 10:20 PM (GMT) on 4 June, 2007

Sorry David, I find this quite disturbing. She looks as though she is in training to be a Goth. Because of my views on the content, I find it difficult to view in impartially for its photographic quality.

comment by Brooke at 10:32 PM (GMT) on 4 June, 2007

You know you've shot something amazing when some people are in love with the shot, while others are completely alarmed by it. GREAT job, David! I love it.

comment by James at 10:33 PM (GMT) on 4 June, 2007

I think this is a case of people bringing just their own baggage to the image, rather than allowing the image a chance to speak for itself. I find it intriguing, not disturbing. Not all pictures of children need to be sweet.

comment by swoozyq at 10:55 PM (GMT) on 4 June, 2007

Isn't that funny, peoples takes on things... To me it was obviously Rhowan burried in the sand - but my main reaction to it was "wow, she is a beautiful little girl - who is able to look much older than she is!"

I like the darkness and blur - it adds to the "haunting" aura of the photo - very moody.

comment by Tor H. Eriksen at 10:57 PM (GMT) on 4 June, 2007

This almost looked surreal to me. Like a girl ghost laying on the ground with moss growing on her chest, the rope indicating how sie died. It's good with pictures that tell a story that can be interpreted in many ways, by different people. Controversy around a photo is also a very good thing. I like how it's diffuse and unsharp in the edges and the bluegreen overlaying color. Good work, as usual!

comment by andyshon at 11:46 PM (GMT) on 4 June, 2007

Looks like I'm on my own about the blur. Its had a funny effect around the bottom of the frame which makes it look like a compersite image. Like the shot even more though, looking again. Its got that Ophelia thing going on.

comment by Sara at 11:53 PM (GMT) on 4 June, 2007

I completely agree with swoozyq. I don't find this image haunting, disturbing, or even mildly innappropriate. I didn't see anything remotely close to bondage or pedophilia until I looked at the comments and then I was shocked that anything of that nature was an issue in this photograph.

It's obvious that it's a little girl having fun on a beach and a captured moment of that. I don't know anybody who hasn't gone to the beach and covered themselves in sand, and this is clearly what that is. Great capture.

comment by Mayuresh Patil at 12:09 AM (GMT) on 5 June, 2007

Nice image. This is so much different than what you shoot /process. Do you think that the blur around the body is little too much? Especially around the top part of the head?

comment by Robert at 12:56 AM (GMT) on 5 June, 2007

You know, I wasn't thinking along the lines of bondage, but I don't see the presentation as a little girl just having fun on the beach.

There's a tragic gloom in the color palette, and the rope gives it a sense of struggle or violence. Maybe she's an idealized drowning victim to me or something along that lines. Regardless, I think it's interesting and well done.

comment by jelb at 12:57 AM (GMT) on 5 June, 2007

Well done process..Strange..Bravo!

comment by d at 02:40 AM (GMT) on 5 June, 2007

This is a beautiful photograph. The various viewer interpretations are interesting.

comment by RD at 03:31 AM (GMT) on 5 June, 2007

I think it's a stunning image, but it doesn't feel innocent and child-like. It bothers me. I wouldn't want my child posing like this, or the image being manipulated to look this sensuous. I just worry how something like this might be used by someone with ill intentions. Artistically, it's amazing. As a parent, I don't like it.

comment by McFly at 03:39 AM (GMT) on 5 June, 2007

It's a great shot, and the blur really adds to the effect.
I think people see their own sins in it.

comment by Sandeep at 05:03 AM (GMT) on 5 June, 2007

WOW! the softness is just great and the girl, so cute.

comment by Sharla at 06:22 AM (GMT) on 5 June, 2007

I always love pictures of Rhowan. I'm with those that saw her buried in the sand. Even the darque noire of the image did not alarm me because many of us have watched your loving presentation (and production) of children for years. And maybe the shock others feel is because they know your children so well, too. A photo like this in a gallery where the artist is only a name and the model even less known would probably be studied for its technical and emotional portrayals. This image will have a life of its own, its that good.

comment by Clay at 06:33 AM (GMT) on 5 June, 2007

people who think this is a 'pedo-shot' really ought to see a pychologist and have a little talk about their past, present, or future thoughts about youth.

as for the shot, I think it's beautiful, graceful, and spooky. Rhowan will end up modeling for spooky magazines or something in the future. haha, just wait and see!

comment by mal at 09:08 AM (GMT) on 5 June, 2007

absolutely stunningly beautiful Dave. I'm almost laughing at some of the negative feedback here! Anyone that can not see this as art, really needs to get a reality check. I hate ranking the works of other photographers but this is one of my favs of yours, no question about it. mal

comment by wojtek at 09:08 AM (GMT) on 5 June, 2007

Hi! Great picture dave, it really is, very unlike you but maybe it just opens a new path in your work.
Somehow the discussion about it become twice that thrilling. Nowadays child-abuse or pedophilia interpretation of such picture is just bound to happen just as you are bound to excuse yourself. Hardly anybody remembers today that some 50 years ago or so C.S. Lewis was taking similarly etheric but sexually bolder pictures of young girls and no one would think of him as a pedophile, while in your case this option is so obvious. It may say something about Lewis, perhaps something about you but most of all it says something about the rooted classifications we all bear in our heads, which inevitably make us focus on such things. Not much to do about though.

comment by Roy at 10:23 AM (GMT) on 5 June, 2007

The dialogue this picture provokes is certainly symptomatic of our times, but the image is 'provocative' in so many ways - and you must have been aware of this when you processed and posted it (Libby obviously was). It's a little too forensic for me. Although I can appreciate it on some levels, others are undoubtedly disturbing. It's interesting to consider how it would be received if the model was older; if the sand wasn't so darkly menacing and present on her face; if she was smiling at the camera; if it was part of a series or a fashion spread.
It immediately reminded me of a famous Wynn Bullock image from 1951. Goodness knows how that would be received if it was posted to a photoblog today.

comment by Peter F at 10:55 AM (GMT) on 5 June, 2007

Gotta say, profoundly disturbing. But highly effective.

comment by Jamie at 10:56 AM (GMT) on 5 June, 2007

I find it neither provocative or disturbing. A little haunting perhaps but it's clear that she is alive and well. As others have said, the image has managed to stir conversation (and perhaps suggest something inherently wrong with our society and its views of children - see the news today about the lack of independence kids have), and that's a good thing. It's a good image. I like the processing.

comment by Peter F at 10:58 AM (GMT) on 5 June, 2007

I should clarify that I mean the above in the positive context. It's art. It's supposed to be disturbing.

comment by mooch at 11:00 AM (GMT) on 5 June, 2007

This image is all about interpretation. She reminds me of a fairy at rest in a Midsummer Nights Dream. Really.

comment by Milly (one of Rhowan's older sister) at 11:07 AM (GMT) on 5 June, 2007

When this shot was taken we were still burying her in the sand. I do not think this picture is disturbing. She enjoyed being buried and we all took the time to bury each other. I think this picture is different to most of Dad's other pictures, but the same in a way as it's quite amazing. we all have different thoughts on this picture and I love it.

comment by Tim at 11:21 AM (GMT) on 5 June, 2007

I think this is a fantastic picture. There is nothing disturbing about it for me. "pedophile bondage gone wrong"..... I would never think of it. The same with the reference to goth..... I am with mooch on this one. She looks like fairy to me too.

And like it was said before, when people react in the different ways they do here now, you know you have a good picture.

comment by Alexandru Savu at 12:41 PM (GMT) on 5 June, 2007

I don't care, the photo is great but at the same time it makes you think. So a+ from me.

comment by &Once at 01:27 PM (GMT) on 5 June, 2007

i find it excellent as a picture.I need some more time staring on it to find out what i think.

comment by drgourmet at 01:51 PM (GMT) on 5 June, 2007

I have to say, my first impression was one of shock and horror at the material, but on closer inspection of all the elements I was able to perhaps articulate in my own mind as to why this image disturbs me:

1. Her chest is covered in what appears to me as dirt (not sand as I know it in Australia as being golden, which is contextual, I know);
2. The rope near her neck;
3. The washed out tones, pale cold looking skin;
4. The shadows around her arms and shoulder that look like bruising;
5. The closed eyes.

This image doesn't depict the fun and happiness that can reasonably be expected to be associated with child's play. It doesn't evoke any positive feelings whatsoever. It shows a child stripped of clothing, laying in the cold earth with a rope near her neck and a pile of dirt on her chest. Simple. It looks like a snapshot of murder to me.

It's a very long bow to draw (Jamie) that reactions such as mine are suggestive of an "inherently wrong" societal view of children. I wonder when it became "wrong" to show concern for the welfare of young children?

I honestly admire your work David, but I disagree with your earlier reply to Nick. This image is disturbing, perhaps not to you, but to others, and the reasons for such emotions are, in my opinion, beyond reproach.

comment by Alice at 01:58 PM (GMT) on 5 June, 2007

Interesting shot and an interesting discussion that has transpired. While I guess I can understand how some might find it disturbing, I didn't find it disturbing at all. In fact, I didn't really even notice the rope at her neck until I after I read the full description of the photo. As I look at the shot again, I still don't find it bothersome. It's obvious the rope is tied in a bow, much like we tie our shoelaces....not the way it would typically be tied if someone were being choked. Besides, on the left side of her neck (or the right side from the viewer's perspective), it's clear the rope does not even go around her neck at all. My first impression when I viewed this shot was what a beautiful girl she is. I think this shot epitomizes what art is all about....making people think. Nice job.

comment by Jannine at 02:15 PM (GMT) on 5 June, 2007

Absolutely stunning. My first reaction was shock, followed quickly by the thought that it's just one of the kids playing the the sand, then shock, then it's just one of the kids playing in the sand, then shock, then ... endlessly. I would find this photo shocking no matter who was in it .. kid, adult, male, female... if they had the same expression. There is a disconnect between her relaxed face, and the darkness of the sand and around her eyes. It is an enormously challenging photo - and that is part of what makes it a truly great piece of art.

comment by Bill at 02:46 PM (GMT) on 5 June, 2007

I think this is a fabulous image. I was quite taken aback when I first saw it because it's SO different to your other stuff lately and I innocently read nothing into it at all. I just love it for what it is. Then I saw some of the comments about child abuse, blah, blah and was totally stunned. Why can't people just see a beautiful picture and accept it for what it is? But then again, great art isn't great art unless it stirs up emotions at both ends of the spectrum. Great work David, keep it up.

comment by Adrian Hudson at 02:51 PM (GMT) on 5 June, 2007

Thank you drgourmet, for putting into words what I was unable to. As I said earlier, I found this image disturbing. My possible mistake was to simply state that without spending the time to analyse why I found it so - drgourmet has done this for me! I will say in my partial defence, that my earlier comment was posted before Dave put up his revision to his description :)
Jamie, there are a good many things wrong with our society today but that is immaterial in this discussion. Concern for another human being (child or adult) is built into (most) of us and this concern and disquiet is what surfaces when an image like this is presented whether or not the image is accompanied by an explanation. Some people are able to read the explanation and then look at the image dispassionately or disconnectededly, some are not. Even after reading the comments I still shudder when I look at the image.

comment by navin at 03:35 PM (GMT) on 5 June, 2007

Nice post processing. It has a very dark feel to it. Agree with most of the people here. It IS disturbing

comment by Ash at 05:45 PM (GMT) on 5 June, 2007

David, I had to leave this one for a while and think about it before I commented. It's probably one of your most controversial images. It certainly echoes an element of pedophilia, but I don't think that was your intention at all. In fact, I don't think that you meant to portray anything other than a surreal, dreamlike image. I think it may be an effect of our dangerous and protective society that we equate anything other than fun and bubbles with children as a hint of danger, that something's not quite right; however, I can certainly empathize with the other commenters who are disturbed by the image. Anyway, i think it's a fantastic image, artisically sound and hauntingly beautiful.

comment by si at 07:55 PM (GMT) on 5 June, 2007

i am in deep admiration of your ability to manipulate a photo to this effect and your willingness to hang yourself out there for such criticism. i would love to be able to capture such a mood and emotion in one photo like this, but i don't think i would post it to the public, nor do i think my wife would let me portray our children like this to the public. probably due more to our own fears of how we, as parents, would be perceived by those that would not know us enough to realize our real intentions.

regardless of our own intentions or beliefs, others will draw their own conclusions and sometimes that can be dangerous. it's just the world these days, unfortunately. thanks for sharing this, and looking forward to all your future work. i especially love the kid shots and am always eager to see your experimentations in representing your own.

comment by djn1 at 08:56 PM (GMT) on 5 June, 2007

Thanks all, and my apologies for not responding to all the points your raised, but I will pick up some of them on tomorrow's entry.

comment by Damian at 09:55 PM (GMT) on 5 June, 2007

I like others was at first a bit shocked by the impact of the image. Having read a lot of the comments I can see both views. We are living in times when everyone is very sensitive about the portrayal of children and their protection.
I think some of the critisism against David is harsh, but perhaps that is what these forums are for?
Personally I would feel uncomfortable about putting my family in such a public forum as this site does. But I totally admire what David is doing and he is obviously doing with the full consent and support of his loving family.
Art should provoke discussion.

comment by Stewart Bywater at 11:30 PM (GMT) on 5 June, 2007

Well... Everyone else has written a lot, so I will let myself off with just a few words... -An excellent and touching image. Congratulations! :)

comment by Alec at 01:21 AM (GMT) on 6 June, 2007

Jeez, people. Anyone who has spent even a minute or two around children should have immediately recognized it as being "buried in the sand," a popular children's game at the beach. Nothing shocking about it.

comment by Negroni at 10:54 AM (GMT) on 6 June, 2007

I agree with Alec, an artistic take on kids playing on the beach. Disturbing? Don't be ridiculous. That's the over-reactive paranoia that is robbing innocent men all over the western world of enjoying appropriate relationships and interaction with children, just because there are a few perverts out there. Beautiful image, great work! When your kids grow up and look through your archives of them, I'm sure they won't be disturbed by the father's love that went into crafting them well.

comment by 西皮士 at 12:45 PM (GMT) on 6 June, 2007


comment by Tom at 01:11 PM (GMT) on 6 June, 2007

This more then many of your pictures requires the interaction of the viewer. It hints and something but does not bring all the answers. There is a dark undertone but it is the view who then interprets that and fills in their own “back story”. While I find this image slightly disturbing, I don’t think this is a bad thing, but rather that this is part of the intrigue.

Well done.

comment by Rob at 10:15 PM (GMT) on 6 June, 2007

I also think this image is excellent. I understand why people found it disturbing but that it evoked that reaction demonstrates it is indeed well done.

comment by ken at 12:54 AM (GMT) on 7 June, 2007

cant understand why u would like your own daughter to be in a photo like this.

comment by Ryan at 10:43 AM (GMT) on 7 June, 2007

Seems very inappropriate to me

comment by cy at 04:11 PM (GMT) on 7 June, 2007

i love tghis one. it is very dreamlike. and the hard sand nicely contrast her and the calm face. not sure why you got such the bad rap about it.. i am pretty sure that when she gets older this will be one of her favorites.

comment by JD at 11:46 AM (GMT) on 8 June, 2007

WOW, just read a few comments and its amazing how people read into images, which probably says more about their minds than the actual image itself :)

I took it for what it was, a child burried in some sand, and it was obvious that it was just kids playing ;)
I like the PP: the blur contrast and colours work well together, tho I do think that this is possibly what lead people to see the darker side

overall its a stonkey :P
did you shoot with square crop in mind? I can't seem to do this at the moment on the 5D, but I'm shooting more polaroids and 120 film to try and train my eye for it

comment by Chris at 08:08 PM (GMT) on 8 June, 2007

This one is superb.

comment by Stefan at 11:32 AM (GMT) on 9 June, 2007

When I saw this photo a few days ago my first reaction was, wow. Not for all this rather negative interpretation I found now in the comments but for the spirit of it. It has to me a very melancholic expression and seems to me like an image out of a dream, a more a less sad dream. It shows to me also to some extend some vulnerability (I hope, I'm able to express it right). It's really a photo what provokes to think and that is what I really like. If people think it is disturbing, well this is what art is for, disturbing to make people think and ask themselves questions and I think its much more important to discuss an images "message" than technical details. Congratulations for this photos.

comment by m at 09:57 PM (GMT) on 9 June, 2007

The jury is out on this one, I hope they don't come back!

comment by brano at 12:08 AM (GMT) on 10 June, 2007

To the picture: it certainly is intriguing picture, my first impression was *contrast* and nicely closed? eyes - many meanings, certainly not violent, the picture is complicated and open to many possible meanings. If I were phychologist I'd use it to get into people's minds, to understand their inner worlds. And with this point I'd like to comment some of the comments above. They make me sad and some of them quite shocked. As if the previous page or the other tab window in their browser still contains "that" content. As I wrote already, this picture is certainly open even to that interpretation, however, it's based on his/her own associations. Finally, I'd guess that more we go to the west, the harsher the comments become, sad :( ... common people, bring some life into your *** minds ...

comment by jonas at 11:43 AM (GMT) on 10 June, 2007

breathtaking! this is so beautiful.

comment by Marina at 08:58 PM (GMT) on 10 June, 2007

For me it is one of your best shots, Dave.
The discussion surprised me a lot. For some reasons ppl stop seeing art when it comes to children; especially when it is a situation ppl are not used to see. Yes, it is important that we all are aware of child abuse but sometimes we like to see more than the picture actually shows us.

comment by MrToes at 04:19 PM (GMT) on 11 June, 2007

I don't usually comment on your pictures Dave but this time I just want to say as another (inferior) photographer, this is a beautiful ghostly picture and I don't find anything disturbing or inappropriate about it at all. Please don't let people's fears and prejudices about what constitutes an appropriate image dictate what you put up on your blog! There's enough "shining golden moment" pictures of smiling kids, well done for doing something different. Peace, Mat

comment by Riccardo Mori at 02:22 AM (GMT) on 12 June, 2007

This is a great photograph. It is courageous. It is well thought, executed and processed. To me, the most striking elements are:
- the position of the rope: it is not around her neck, although it effectively suggests a sense of suffocation by creating a dark area just below her chin.
- the lower part of the photo, the dark part right under her arm makes her upper torso appear somewhat "shrunk" and consequently makes her look like some otherworldly creature.

And then, am I the only one who sees the girl as emerging from the sand, in some kind of awakening (with her eyes just beginning to open)? I can't see this image as static, perhaps because of her hair, which look so wonderfully ethereal and in motion.

It is undoubtedly an image which makes you stop and think, yet I won't define it as "disturbing". Thought-provoking for sure.

comment by hoveeto at 10:03 AM (GMT) on 12 June, 2007

Amazing, the shoot is superb. Like a cover art for an album

comment by Anna at 11:04 AM (GMT) on 14 June, 2007

Funny how people see things so differently, when I saw this I did NOT think peodophilia (what??????)
I don't find it disturbing at all, I thought she looked like a mythological child, like a Mermaid, sprouting from the ground and coming to life.

I think there's a bit too much blur but other than that it's a lovely photo of a beautiful child.

comment by Stu at 10:11 AM (GMT) on 15 June, 2007

I can't believe some of the comments left by narrow minded people about this image. It makes me sad when people's thoughts and opinions are drawn immediately to the content being offensive. You're all letting your fears spoon fed to you when you should see images like this for what they truly are! This is a beautiful peice of art, plain and simple!

comment by Dave Carrington at 02:39 AM (GMT) on 16 June, 2007

Without question a superb portrait, Dave. Rhowan, and you, should be proud of this.

comment by Deb at 08:23 PM (GMT) on 16 June, 2007

I'm with Mooch and Andy on this. I didn't find it darkly disturbing but, rather, hauntingly beautiful and evocative of a Shakespearean faerie. You aiming for postmodernist pre-raphaelite? :p

By the way, have you changed the baby's name to Milly?

comment by chiara at 07:19 PM (GMT) on 9 July, 2007

I love the post processing effect. I would love to see other shots treated this way... perhaps a little less dark.