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December 4, 2009


A reader, “Timeless,” offers this take on last week’s TIME cover. (Apologies in advance for the commercial.)

TIME’s teary toddler, sitting alone amid silver balloons, strobe lit confetti and empty champagne (where are the parents?), says less about the so-called “decade from hell,” and more about the creatives at TIME. Of all the possible images that one could consider to illustrate a decade of war, crisis, the growing gap between rich and poor, environmental disaster – remember the tsunami and a little storm called Katrina? – we get instead a diapered baby on a set throwing a fit.

Is the toddler meant to be symbolic of a generation that won’t get a chance to party? Is the toddler meant to be symbolic of a generation of frustration? Is the toddler meant to be a rip off of Jill Greenberg’s End Times series?   

Thankfully, TIME provides us with an answer in a beautifully revealing behind the scenes video of the cover shoot. We now know that there were four toddlers that posed for the part, all  in various stages of distress.  One appears to be vomiting or hyperventilating. We see their stage mommies egging them on, eerily unconcerned about the screams and tears.  We learn that the shoot is historic because the photographer is using not a still camera but a video camera! And it’s never been done.  Or has it?

We see a photo editor and an art director seriously pondering which moment of tearful tirade is most suitably seductive.   Through it all is a still photographer shooting a 35mm like it was a machine gun, spraying the set, back and forth, back and forth, never stopping.

After sacking hundreds of dedicated staff members, shutting bureaus, cutting news coverage and photo assignments, it’s mind blowing to see TIME dig deep into its pockets to spend a small fortune for a picture of a freaked out baby show shot with a tricked out camera.

  • Scarabus

    I’m not sure how much this says about Time and how much it says about me, but I thought the video was a parody.

  • Stella

    That film answers the question on everybody’s mind – Does the United States torture?
    Maybe, but if you’re lucky you can always trust your mother.

  • Blue Shark

    Time … Tick-tock … Going the way of the dinosaurs.
    …Can’t happen fast enough.

  • bystander

    Gah! I may forgive your folks for this … someday.

  • Sandra

    Ther was a story this week about the high percentage of Iraqi babies being born with birth defects, new cancers, awful stuff.
    That’s what I thought about when I watched our ‘media’ at work.

  • DennisQ

    The children clearly don’t want to be there. They are frightened and anxious, and nobody is comforting them. It appears that babies have very few rights which parents are obliged to respect.
    Every time I see a photograph of a crying baby from now on, I’m going to think of this horrible scene. And trust me, I will not buy whatever they’re selling.

  • Clem Guttata

    Are both parents required to sign a release before subjecting a baby to that kind of treatment?
    Here I was thinking we had child labor laws in this country to protect against these very types of abuses.
    Children Protection Services has a leg up, video evidence exists and is publicly available.

  • Kit (Keep It Trill)

    “Is the toddler meant to be symbolic of a generation that won’t get a chance to party?”
    Yes, but if Time didn’t mention it, it’s because it didn’t occur to them.
    Instead, the tapped into the American unconscious, which is infantile in wanting everything but giving nothing in return except a presumably cute face of “Who, me?” to any other ethnic group (think Hurricane Katrina and injustice in the drug laws, court and privatized penal systems) or the non-wealthy (think Wall Street Sharks robbing us blind) and any outside an country who was wronged by them (think Iraq of being carpet bombed for no legitimate reason). The Ugly & Infantile American Consciousness revels in hiding behind slick public relations.
    Of course, I don’t think the folks at Time was thinking all this with that photo shoot… but by accident, captured the essence of what’s been wrong for a very long time.

  • Dean Booth

    The photo of the baby in the context of war made me think of this:

  • Victor F

    In the very near future, expect all photojournalism to be done with high definition digital video. Only purists, throwbacks, slowpokes and hobbyists will use still cameras, and everyone knows only the artsy-fartsy Luddites even think of using film.
    (Film! Get thee to a university’s art department, beatnik!)
    The unblinking eyes of the cameras are watching you, baby.
    All things considered, there have been way, waaaay worse decades in human history. Hell, technically our 200th decade is still not even over for another year. I know, nobody counts decades the way they’re supposed to be counted. That’s not what we’re talking about. What we’re talking about is the White All-American Baby Tantrum, which is actually insightful in a way. Nobody likes being reminded that shit stinks. Yeah, baby, gotta change that diaper in the new decade. We Americans spent ten years pooping ourselves with infantile greed and hysteria.
    Party’s over, babies. Yeah, growing up sucks, but at least we can learn to wipe our own asses and play nice with our neighbors.

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