A Virginia Beach photographer and Navy veteran is at the center of controversy after she published a photo showing an infant being cradled in an American flag.
Vanessa Hicks says she couldn’t wait to photograph her friends’ newborn baby and loved the idea of having the infant captured inside of a flag.
“I mean - before all this, they loved it," Hicks told 13 News Now of her friends. "The mom shared it on her Facebook page. The grandmother was there and loved it. I had gotten nothing but positive feedback.”
The picture soon went viral, however, when the Facebook page “You Call Yourself A Photographer” shared it along with the caption, “The flag is not a prop. I repeat: THE FLAG IS NOT A PROP. To use the American flag in such a way is disrespectful, rude, tacky, disgusting, and against the U.S. Flag Code.”
“You have disgraced our fallen soldiers as well by disobeying that code,” the post from the Facebook page continued as it called out the service member photographed holding the flag in the photo. “I don't know what the military teaches these days but I do know my son was taught the flag code and also taught that any disobedience towards that code would result in repercussions from your command....yet here you are in uniform, name fully visible, on a photographer's Facebook page disobeying that code and dishonoring our fallen soldiers and you obviously don't care.”
Hicks says that soon after, she started receiving intense criticism for photographing the baby cradled inside of the American flag. When the photographer and veteran tried to contact Facebook to report the attacks, they told her that they didn’t consider the backlash to be harassment.
“It made me second guess what was Facebook's policy on harassment if this, a page that is created to bash, to go on people's business pages and bash them,” Hicks said. “If that's not harassment, then what is?”
Hicks went on to defend herself on the page, noting that she was told that the photograph doesn’t desecrate the flag.
“Regardless of what you think of it, I will have you know, that I have spoke to some very high ranking military personal [sic], who have stated we did not disrespect the flag. this was a practice flag that was never flown, and was also retired,” Hicks reportedly wrote.
Despite harsh criticism, Hicks says that many people have come to her defense. Still, the Facebook page that initially started the controversy has continued to defend its initial statements.
“Our page is nothing but a business review page,” the page said in a follow-up post. “We see a bad photographer, we review their work publicly for others to see. Are business reviews considered bullying? If I go to a restaurant and their food is always cold and I say so on my page, is that bullying them? No. Sorry. It's not. Stating the truth about a bad business is not bullying. It's what the public deserves.
“In reading comments regarding that photographer's work who put a NAKED BABY on the flag (that was on the ground of course) and holding up the baby by the father, it's clear that some of you have no idea what good photography actually looks like,” the post continued. “Those were in no way a good picture of professional quality and nobody should be paying for that So, here ya go. Although we don't condone the use of the flag as a prop or in any way breaking the U.S. Flag Code, you all need to see an actual professional tackle the same concept.”