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Critics say nude photos of children on display at the University of Louisville this week have no educational value and should be removed. But U of L and the photographer say the photos will stay, as part of a larger exhibit on women's bodies and self-esteem.
The exhibit also shows -- and tells -- the stories of elderly women, the obese, the anorexic, amputees and those who've had breasts removed because of cancer. Everyone is shown nude. That's how student Meredith Pass sees the point of a photo exhibit of 85 nude females, from birth to their nineties, on display a second time at U of L's Student Activities Center.
The exhibit was first displayed on campus in 2008 to about 800 visitors and little criticism, organizers said. The 2010 showing is different. Kentucky's Family Foundation sees pictures of children in the exhibit as exploitation.
"This isn't education; this is exploitation," said Kent Ostrander, foundation executive director, in a prepared statement.
For example, one photo shows a 12-year-old girl as she smiles, standing next to the tire swing in her yard. An 11-year-old girl sits nude outdoors in a photo -- about ten years after photographer Frank Cordelle took her picture as a baby.
"I think the people who object here aren't objecting because this isn't art or this isn't lousy art. They're objecting because it's nude. This is more of a gut reaction thing than anything else," said Frank Cordelle, photographer.
Provost Shirley Willihnganz said it is appropriate to display the photos, particularly those of the children.
"They do make people uncomfortable. It's important to remember the context that this is in. This is an artistic celebration of the life span of women's bodies," said Shirley Willihnganz, provost.
Down from each of the picture and see a statement that's attached, a statement written by the subject of the picture. In several cases, the person in the photo says she was a victim of abuse. She also says having her picture taken in the nude was liberating.
"Anyone who read any of the stories would not be leering. It's not what it's about. It's actually a painful experience to look at," said Justin Mog, visitor.
U of L sponsors the exhibit, called The Century Project, as part of Body Awareness Week on campus. Signs at the door warn of nudity ahead. The focus is understanding the connection between a woman's body and her self-esteem.
Cordelle says the age range -- and the nudity -- are appropriate and legal to show women's views of their bodies throughout life. He adds the parents of each child gave permission for the photos.
Photographer Frank Cordelle explains "The Century Project" photos through his website here. The site shows samples of the photos now on display at University of Louisville through Friday. Samples include a birth, young girls and women through age 94, all nude. You'll also find the stories that accompany each photo in the exhibit.
"The Century Project" is open 9 a.m. through at least 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday in the multipurpose building at U of L's Student Activities Center. Admission is free. It is part of "Body Awareness Week" on campus.
Click here for a link to a higher education journal article about the controversy published Feb. 22. It contains further background on Cordelle's exhibit, which has been on tour to more than 60 colleges since 1994. (This article also contains internal links to a critic of The Century Project and his efforts through social networking to protest the photos.)