Ever since Awkward Family Photos popularized the often hilarious and uncomfortable posed images that families create together for holiday cards, eye-catching portraits have become social media gold. But there are images that are harmless, silly family fun and images that elicit a collective “WTF?”—and rarely do the latter go viral out of amusement.
On Sunday, a Louisiana-based studio called Hannah Hawkes Photography posted a series of recent family holiday portraits to Facebook. Hawkes’ Facebook page described her as a “[n]ewly established, local photographer” specializing in family, maternity, and engagement sessions. Among the holiday photos that Hawkes shared over the weekend, one stood out from the rest:
The photo depicts a family of five posing together, flanked by evergreen trees. A woman, presumably the mother, and two little girls, presumably the daughters, sit in a row with bright green duct tape covering their mouths and a string of Christmas lights binding their arms. A little boy, presumably a son, stands behind them raising his fist, while a man, presumably the father, kneels and holds a sign, reading “Peace on earth.” The identities of the five individuals are unknown.
Though the photo perpetuates the adage of “Women should be seen and not heard”—a notion that some may find amusing to parody ironically—an image of girls and women silenced and restrained by men also suggests far darker connotations. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence estimates that one in three women in the United States will be victims of intimate partner violence over the course of their lives, and that a woman is physically abused every nine seconds.
Given these staggering facts, it is not difficult to see why, by Tuesday morning, the Facebook fan page for Hannah Hawkes Photography had been deleted, along with the hundreds of shares that spread the photo virally. Some people, though, are continuing to post their concerns about the photograph and its photographer, indicating that they will not patron Hawkes’ business should she relaunch her page.