Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

Sonja in Her Bath

with 26 comments

Starting in 1974, Swiss artist Annelies Strba has photographed members of her family for a lengthy project called Shades of Time. The photos in this projects are typically fuzzy, over-exposed or grainy and invoke a bygone era of intimacy and nuclear family. The photographs depict her children Sonja, Linda, and Samuel as well as her grandmother, mother, partner and eventually her grandchildren. Sometimes intruding, sometimes nostalgic, her photos capture utopian togetherness and lack of privacy in our simple everyday life.

In a subtle, effortless way, they are the chronicles of relationships, childhood and the coming of age between fantasy and reality. The title of the project itself invokes the process of seeing oneself in one’s own offspring, and fleeting memories of the irrevocable past. Although her photographic vision was much hailed, Annelies Strba was widely criticized when she exhibited the above photo of her daughter naked in the bath. The photo was taken in 1985 when her daughter was 12 (at least according to museum tags).

The photo has already been published in a book and shown in several major European galleries without complaint when it came to the eminent Rhodes+Mann gallery in Shoreditch, east London in 2002. Public outcry ensued in Britain and Scotland Yard threatened to charge the gallery’s director with the Obscene Publications Act. Although denounced as pedophiliac, the photo was not withdrawn, a court deciding controversially that the reputation of the gallery and the strength of other photos in Strba’s work is enough to consider the picture as a work of art.

Sonja-Maria Bon, who claimed she was 16 not 12 in the photo, also didn’t think the photo was pornographic or pedophiliac. Sonja, now herself a photographer, claimed it is one of her favourite pictures by her mother: “I was 16, I had a boyfriend and a job in a hospital. I knew what I was doing. And it was my mother taking the photo. It is only a problem for other people if they see it in that way. If they think of pedophiles, it is their fantasies when they see the picture, but it is not a problem for me or other people.”

(See similar controversy over Brooke Shields here).

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

June 7, 2010 at 9:29 am

Posted in Culture, Society

Tagged with

26 Responses

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  1. Interesting.

    This photograph is definitely different in it’s nature, and even though there could be some question about the actual age of Sonja-Maria, she is unquestionably post-pubescent, whereas Brooke was not. That plus the heavily applied make-up on Brooke, the obviously staged posing, the non-family photographer, etc.

    I’m curious about what has happened over the last year. The posting of Brooke Shields has 500+ comments, and this one has none. Well, one now. I for one intend to continue stopping in and enjoying the photos, history lessons, and commentary.

    Eric

    June 14, 2010 at 4:15 am

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  2. i need your sex vedio

    naer

    July 4, 2010 at 9:51 pm

  3. […] Sonja in Her Bath […]

  4. I think it’s a lovely picture. Not in a sexual sense, but aesthetically. I don’t see anything sexual or paedophiliac about it.

    ReL

    August 19, 2010 at 7:30 am

  5. […] the other hand, two photos I would consider almost equal in their intrusions into familial privacy (here, here) had different fortunes here on this blog, as they would in the real life too. Popularity of […]

  6. It’s the old belgium pedophile network again.

    Johan

    September 4, 2010 at 11:17 pm

  7. want photo sexy nice

    shahsavar

    November 14, 2010 at 6:48 am

  8. this the usa freedome is what we got its not like she was sucking his dick and she was so what thay are sick in head

    freedome 4 all

    December 6, 2010 at 5:32 am

    • My God, you must be the dumbest son of a bitch ever. Freedome? Please tell me your stupid ass hasn’t contributed to society’s gene pool. For fuck’s sake, how do you spell ‘freedom’ and ‘they’ wrong in the first place???? Besides the fact that THERE IS FUCKING SPELL CHECK ON THIS PAGE, you inbred moron!!!!!!!

      Charles Montgomery

      December 7, 2010 at 4:03 am

      • wow dude chill — damn —

        Galzu

        January 11, 2011 at 12:00 am

      • Oh wow. A photo of a naked child and the worst comment on here is a spelling nazi.

        Andrew

        March 2, 2012 at 8:41 pm

  9. This photo is not a museum or gallery material. This should just had stayed within mom-daughter’s album, not even to be seen by any male family. If they were good photographers enough, what need to be covered should had been covered. Why did not use the nearest soap suds to cover those pubic hairs? The state of the bathroom itself is nothin but scatter, sorry to say that. Comparing to Brooke Shields similar photo, this one did not leave any imagination… Brooke’s except for her being underage and screaming foul later in life, everything there was beautiful, the scenery and the pose, wherein what needed to be silhouetted was silhoutted. Come on people, if that part of suds is move a little lower to the right, it could be more prettier and has a little mystery left. Now that is what art and beauty is, not all given, should had left some imagination for the audience.

    enigmatically

    December 9, 2010 at 1:50 am

    • Yeah the bathroom is a bit of a scatter. Otherwise nothing wrong with the photo. Soap suds and hair leave plenty to the imagination. Not every photo needs to be carefully thought out to be artistic as it then just becomes unnatural.

      Andrew

      March 2, 2012 at 8:48 pm

  10. The author here alludes to the interesting way in which British Law addresses “Obscene Publications”. Apparently, from what I’ve read, it’s all based on context…a lewd or sexually explicit photograph might be legally deemed as such if it stands alone, but if it is part of a museum exhibit or collection, it may be considered completely legal and acceptable. I’m pretty wary of anyone who considers a photo of an under-18 nude woman as “art” (i.e. the Brooke Shields photos), but I think it’s interesting and thought-provoking how the subject of this photo came out and essentially scolded people for extrapolating a sexual connotation from it. As far as censorship goes: I’m more of a writer/reader than a visual artist, but anytime I hear of a book being formerly or currently banned, it makes me want to read it SO MUCH MORE.

    Eminent Archon

    February 22, 2011 at 4:30 am

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  12. send me similar photos, very interested inn these subject, TY

    Will G. Henley

    June 12, 2011 at 8:40 pm

  13. Broooke’s mom Terry gave her permission for the photos and the way everything turned out it might have been the gutiest move of its kind ever concieved since it skyrocked Brooke’s career. The publice has kept her in their minds from that point on. Would I as a parent done the same? NO! But I think it was a calculated move (the movie Prettyy Baby) to spark her daughters acting career and there is no denying it worked.

    Antonio Taylor

    January 6, 2012 at 7:31 pm

  14. Nudity is not pornographic, tis only the human body.
    Brooke, painted up and posed, crosses that threshold, imo..

    Jahk

    January 23, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    • I really do not see anything pornographic about this image. Bathing is a normal routine.

      Antonio Taylor

      January 24, 2012 at 7:58 pm

  15. Reblogged this on prettymangaandanime and commented:
    Another Controversy. another mold breaker.

    femininecharm

    May 16, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    • It is quite sad that the links are now Impossible to go to..

      femininecharm

      May 22, 2014 at 5:43 pm

  16. Sexual organs are sexual, and the public display of sexuality is pornographic. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar.

    Matthew

    November 26, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    • Well I just zoomed the pic up to 400. There is some hair but you can only see her sex organs in your imagination – no porn here.

      ...mySelf...

      August 1, 2015 at 10:02 pm

      • I disagree with both Matthew and ..mySe..

        First of all, pubic hair can’t exist without sex organs – so they are an extension of the sex organs. And many people find pubic hair as arousing as the sex organs.
        So that’s the wrong approach.
        But why should it even matter whether this photo is sexual or not?
        There is nothing evil about erotic stuff.

        As for Matthew, I disagree that this is pornographic.
        “Display of sexuality” or “pornographic” to me means the act of having sex -by any kind of penetration, including masturbation. This image involves no penetration. Otherwise if we are talking about seduction then even hair,make-up or perfumes can be considered pornographic

        Eugene

        August 3, 2015 at 12:03 am

  17. Why this over the top reaction with underage nudity is beyond my comprehension.
    Pre-pubescent children should not have sex. We can all agree to that.
    BUT if it is only a nude picture, then nobody is having sex. So why the fuss?
    Not to mention, this girl Sonja, no matter what her numerical age is – is clearly post pubescent.
    For me, there is no problem even if she has sex.

    As for nudity – to bare yourself in-front of someone is an act of love towards that person.
    When you don’t hide anything and present yourself in full – you prove that you have complete trust over that person. Trust – there can be no bigger proof of love than that.

    Eugene

    August 3, 2015 at 12:19 am


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