VIRGINIA BEACH — Vanessa Hicks is an experienced photographer and was thrilled to take a portrait of her friend's 8-day-old baby wrapped in an American flag.
"I mean — before all this, they loved it," said Hicks. "The mom shared it on her Facebook page. The grandmother was there and loved it. I had gotten nothing but positive feedback," she said.
But when Vanessa, who's a Navy veteran and is married to a sailor, posted it online Monday, it went viral.
The Facebook page You Call Yourself A Photographer blasted Vanessa, calling her unpatriotic. The page, with 3,906 "likes," does not have a person's name publicly connected with it.
A post from March 9 stated "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."
"Not only the photo, but the service member that was in the photo - saying he should be reprimanded; he should be kicked out; he's dishonoring the uniform," Hicks continued.
The post's comment continued, ending with harsh words for the sailor.
"You have disgraced our fallen soldiers as well by disobeying that code. 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."
When Hicks complained to Facebook about cyber bullying, she says the social media site officials didn't consider that online 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. If that's not harassment, then what is,?" she said.
After shedding some tears Hicks, regrouped and fired back, defending her photograph on the site.
"Regardless of what you think of it, I will have you know, that I have spoke to some very high ranking military personal, who have stated we did not disrespect the flag. this was a practice flag that was never flown, and was also retired."
Several people posted in support of her photograph. One person wrote, "This picture is nothing but patriotic!"
Some others defended the page administrator's right to have an opinion.
"Keep up the good work!!!! Those who are hating and posting all the stupid ideas obviously can't understand the U. S. Flag Code," the person wrote.
Hicks appreciates the support.
"I was just very lucky that it started to gain popularity and other people started going onto this page to defend it," she says.
The photography's Facebook page posted a final comment around 1 a.m. Wednesday, defending its statements about the image.
"Our page is nothing but a business review page. 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. 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."