Who knew a photo of a father with a sick child in shower could stir up so much controversy? Well, when it comes in the nude (with dad in the picture too), it seems as though everyone on the internet has an opinion.
In 2014 photographer Heather Whitten’s son Fix fell ill (with what would turn out to be salmonella poisoning). After severe vomiting and diarrhoea, dad took the little boy into the shower to calm and soothe the sick child.
Whitten writes on her Facebook page:
“As I sat 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 honest.”
Mum stepped away from the shower, grabbed her camera and snapped a photo of the moment. Capturing what she thought was a precious moment – one in which her husband was so tender with her sick son – she posted the picture on Facebook.
What happened next was far from what Whitten had expected. She posted on Facebook, “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.” Despite her intent (to capture and show an emotional time, and how her family came together during it), viewers were shocked by the fact that this mum had put a picture of her nude husband and nude son online.
With more than 135,000 views and over 30,000 shares, it’s clear that this father-son photo has received world-wide attention. Ignoring the intensity of the situation (and the beauty of parental caring that the picture catches), Whitten’s post was removed by Facebook for violating its photo policy. Recently, Whitten re-posted the picture and even though it’s still up on Facebook , that hasn’t stopped the comments. Without a thought to the situation at hand, parents (and non-parents) have been responding in purely negative ways. Looking at the picture as pornography and chastising the mum for posting a photo that’s too “intimate” for the Internet, the negative commenters are coming from a place of judgement – and not of understanding.
Are we missing the point here? Are we, as parents, just seeing the nudity in it and not what the photo is actually about? Many aren’t. Even though the initial response was widely negative, focusing on the ‘naked’ aspect of the scene, more recent comments show support for Whitten and her family. One comment (on Whitten’s Facebook page) says, “It’s a beautiful and caring photo. Any parent should be able to relate to caring for a sick child and would do the same. Why should you not share the moment. I think it’s very touching, in the right way. Good on you.”
With nearly 20,000 comments and over 30,0000 shares, it seems as though the viral tide is turning when it comes to how viewers see this photo. More recent responses come to the defense of Whitten, praising the pure goodness of the photo and noting that it’s not this photographer mum who is in the wrong, but the people who are judging her. Pointing to the problem with judging other parents actions, one commenter writes, “I cried so hard reading this. At first because I was happy, but then because I was mad. This is absolutely beautiful. Don’t let the negativity affect you and your families beautiful souls.”
Jumping to conclusions, before stopping to look and understand, is clearly at fault here. While the initial response ignored the focus on a father’s love and a parent’s journey to care for a sick child, it’s fortunate that so many mums, dads, grandparents and people who don’t even have children have pushed through the negativity.
Tossing out the notion of Whitten’s photo being anything but beautiful, one Facebook commenter summed it up, “This photo is so powerful, and with the story to match, brought tears to my eyes. You and your family give me courage, I’m proud that you shared this photo. Thank you, thank you for rising above the immaturity to touch the true basis of being a loving human. My heroes.”