OUTRAGE: Bill Henson’s Exhibition. Child porn?

Bill Henson

Since the dawn of the civilised world, humankind has been asking the question What is art? This week has prompted many Australians to ask the same question, with the controversy surrounding Bill Henson’s latest photographic exhibition.

The photographs were due to be exhibited at Paddington’s Roslyn Oxley Gallery, and depicted nude teenagers. Some people say the images are thinly veiled child pornography. Even our Glorious Leader, Kevin Rudd, has slammed the images as ‘absolutely revolting’. “Whatever the artistic view of the merits of that sort of stuff – frankly I don’t think there are any – just allow kids to be kids.” he told the Nine Network.

The question is: do the photographs carry a sexual flavour, or are the anxieties of an alarmist media colouring the works with a darker, unintended hue? It would be naive to endorse such a view with confidence; Bill Henson’s photographs are unmistakably dark and have a creepy, voyeuristic feel to them. The children in question appear awkward and embarrassed. There is a sense of irony in that the exhibition has been closed, and yet media outlets continue to fling around lightly censored versions of the images.

But John McDonald, from the Sydney Morning Herald, says there is nothing sexual about the photos. “To me, the big shame is that the only time that we start looking at art and talking about art in the mainstream media is when it’s banned, when it’s supposedly pornographic, when it’s doing something that’s taboo,” he told ABC Radio’s AM

All these arguments aside: putting these kinds of images into the public arena is not sensible. Could it attract paedophiles? Perhaps it was a good idea to close the exhibition until these questions can be answered.

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  1. John Mannering says:

    I personally think the photographer has made an error with these images. I have seen them on the news sites, which is yes very ironic, and even though hes well respected he shouldnt have taken the shots.

  2. Sarah J Leverage says:

    I agree with this article.I also agree the photos should be taken down as they did look creepy.

  3. cakes says:

    I agree with Dr Rogers – it was not a sensible decision to put these images for public consumption! Paedophiles will get their thrills.

  4. klaus says:

    This is the second thing shutdown in the last two weeks by the police http://www.designfederation.net/general/police-panic-over-palestinian-photo-exhibition/

  5. Dave R says:

    Yet another knee jerk reaction by pollies and police. Soon we will be like the USA. Remember nipplegate anyone? Now US media is so prudish as to be a joke

  6. John A says:

    I agree with this article.
    If you do a crime but take a photograph of it, is that art?.
    A woman gets gang raped but you take a photograph, does it legitimize it?, should that be in a gallery for all to see?.

  7. Daniel says:

    Why is everyone being so insipid and conciliatory here? Depiction of nakedness is about sex and sexuality – without question. These are children who, by any test in social and legal contexts, do not have the capacity, by virtue of their age, to give informed consent. Their bodies are being exploited for somebody else’s benefit, pleasure, entertainment or, and I use the term advisedly here, creativity, without their having the benefit of a wisdom that can only come with maturity to help them decide for themselves whether it’s appropriate for them to have their bodies displayed in this way. I have no difficulty with nakedness and eroticism in a variety of situations, but the unfettered exploitation of naked children under the rubric of art should never be allowed. Hysterical cries of censorship should not intimidate those whose view of art is no less relevant than anyone else’s.

  8. Daniel says:

    Oh dear, William L. What a remarkable response. Rationalising away, as you’ve done, every argument presented just so your belief that art and its practice should be beyond reproach just because it’s art, is seriously unhealthy.

    Maintaining for instance, that informed consent is just a legal concept and therefore not relevant to the discussion, demonstrates the point. It’s not a concept formed in a vacuum. It’s a principle that arose out of a civil society’s expectation that the vulnerable in our society will be protected. If you’re trying to mount an argument that 12 year old children are not vulnerable and know their own minds in the same way a mature adult does, then you have a lot of soul searching to do. That argument is not a long way from the argument of the man who engages in a sexual relationship with a young teenager but maintains that she instigated it or was a willing partner. Society rejects that notion unequivocally. It’s time you did too.

    I’ve no doubt Henson did not intend to exploit these children but he has nevertheless. His consciousness needs raising about this, as do all those who believe that art is a defence to everything.

  9. Daniel says:

    William L – I give up.

  10. Michael says:

    It’s about timing. Henson and his supporters-and I don’t really care either way have got it wrong. Surely they should have seen what has been happening over the past ten years or so. Dozens of men have been charged and convicted for possesing images like this but the media rarley takes the time to eeamine in depth what type of images they are-they simply accept what the police say and believe the headlines that scream “child porn charges” and believe another “pedophile” has been jailed. In fact this should be a real wake up call to a complacent society that has allowed “terrorists” and “pedophiles” to become the big bogeymen of today’s society. Wake-up guys. It’s Germany again in the 1935’s and you should have expected this all along. Guys have had their lives destroyed or gone to jail, some have committed suicide and you have all allowed it to happen because you have been caught up in the art aspect and let the media continually get away with condemning one section of men and lunping them all in together. Therefore one high profile case of a police prosecutor charged with the worst of child porn is sold in the media the same as a guy with a collection of Henson style pics wiith police claiming what his motive is for having them. This is going to be a court case with huge ramifications. I feel sorry for those involved but in a way I don’t-dozens of men around the country have been stigmatized and basically classed as “sex offendors” for life for similar and not one person defending Henson or the gallery has given them a single thouhgt-merely nbelived every cheap headline in the tabloids.

  11. Alexander M. says:

    Did the 12 and 13 year old girls give their consent to Henson? Or rather did the parents of the girls who are undoubtedly starstruck by Henson give their consent on behalf of the children. In my view, and I believe ANY right thinking person must understand that what Henson is doing is without doubt WRONG.
    He should be up before the courts explaining himself.
    This matter would be somewhat diminished (though not by much) if they were Hensons daughters.
    I wonder if Henson would like it if I took nude photos of HIS daughters (if he has any) and decided it was my “artwork”

  12. David says:

    I think it is interesting to see how most self professed art connoisseurs can manage to rationalise anything. Personly I think these photos are particularly disturbing but it is not just a simple case of a girl being exploited. If we consider these images purely in isolation there may have been no exploitation of the girl in question and they may actaully be very beautiful and artisic shots. The human body can be a beautiful thing at any age. Just becasue a girl is 13 doesn’t mean we cannot admire the beauty of her without a sexual conotation. However we must step back and look at the bigger picture to see the real issue and understand the mathematic statsics term – ‘ normalistion of deviation’. We have something which is considered as normal in society today.. and that is we do not take or show photos of children naken for any reason except possibly for medical reasons.ie This is the norm set by out society. This exhibition is a deviation to that norm. If this is now accepted as being OK for what ever reason, then we are absically expanding what is considered normal in our society. ANd what happens gradually over time is that someone else uses this as the accepted standard and goes just a little bit further the next time. Any one of these in isolation may not seem like a big deal, but gradually over time we find we have dramatically shifted our accepted norm in society and not necessarily for the better. In the case of protection of children I think we must have an absolute intolerance to any sort of exploitation of children regardless of any artistic intent. So it’s not so much about protecting this child or this incident, it’s the new benchmark we are setting that may effect other children in the futrure. Most of the issues we have in society today came about due to this phenomenon… normalistion of deviation.

  13. Jono says:

    i feel sorry for the young woman portrayed in these pictures. articles i have read have ceaselessly questioned her integrity and intelligence, and described her body as ‘revolting’, ‘disgusting’ and ‘obsecene’.

    she has been seriously abused by Miranda Devine, Kevin Rudd, the police, the state, and by the stratospheric stupidity and sanctimonious judgementalism of a public who seem to be suffering a collective spasm of congenital moral blindness.

    art such as Henson’s exists above all to challenge the objectification of its subjects, especially in this case, that of a young woman. that his subject, whose personhood is honoured and elevated in his work, has been dragged into the gutter by a lot of face-palming, tutting aunties really is a gross irony!

  14. David says:

    yes, William, my argument was full of generalisations and contained no specifics. What do I mean by exploiutation… Exploitation as a noun can be used in the context of either a ‘use’ or a ‘misuse’. I was obvioulsy referring to it in the context of ‘misuse’ i.e To abuse, mistreatmen, taking advantage. You have certainly made a lot of false assumptions about what I am saying… My statement was only intended to be a high level comment. Could Henson have used a slightly older model who only looked 13 but who was was legally an adult? Probably. And if he had..would that have generated the same amount of kudos and back slapping from his peers and the so called learned art community. I argue the point that it would not.. it would be just another exhibition of nudes; and hence why in my humble opinion that the ‘artist’ has used this child for his own person gain, however you choose justify it. I think Hanson qualifies for a gold medal in stupidity at the very least… my bleeding heart goes out to him and the legal issues he now faces. He may after all be found innocent under the law which is the opinion of many in the legal profession, and if that is the case it will be intersting to see if the legislation is then changed as a result of this to ensure child protection. The real issue I refer to is the longer term threat to children that acceptance if this then opens up..it becomes a pandoras box of issues. If it Ok for Hensen to have his art exhibition, then we set a precedent, a new bench mark of what is acceptable…yes a new norm for society. So then assuning it is OK for Hensen, then it must be OK for any other artist to have nude content of minors. Is it OK for me as an art lover to have artistic nude images of under age girls on my computer… While this may not be Henson’s intent, it is the road his is unintentionally leading us down. Normalisation of deviation can occur in may ways, and as you point out can be for both good and bad. Often it can be dramatic, other times in can be in very subtle increments, and the latter can be the one that catches socieaty unaware.. as the very gradual change with time can go unnoticed until we have created somthing we don’t want. This can deliver both good things but also unwanted bad things. SO no idea why you are have started ranting about slavery…. At no point did I suggest that normalisation of deviation did not also deliver positives. I simply made the point that many social issues we have today have crept up on us in this manner. I think Daniel hit the nailon the head with his “I give up comment”.

  15. William L says:

    David, if you concede that ‘deviation’ could be ‘normalised’ for better or for worse, then you are saying nothing at all, really. This puts your statements firmly in the ‘thoughtless’ category I have been criticising. Or possibly in a new ‘fatuous’ category.

    For some reason most people commenting on the Henson case have felt perfectly entitled to thoughtlessly mouth condemnatory platitudes about Henson and his models and their supposed failings as if they had a perfect right to do so regardless of the harm this could cause, when all they are actually doing is sharing their private, intensely uninteresting moral preferences.

    I hope that none of the moral judgments expressed on this thread will make a damn bit of difference to the fortunes of Henson, his models and their families. But if you are gong to comment at all, it would at least be realistic to look at the facts involved, and consider relevant analogies to the present case. No-one here has considered the two main legal questions that arise from this case. These are mainly what will determine the extent to which Henson and his models suffer from the thoughtless actions of Hetty Johnston, the police and a great number of public commentators. However, thoughtless commentary can have its own detrimental effect, on reputation for instance, which is also a legally recognised concept.

    I have no idea why Daniel ‘gave up’, but I trust it wasn’t because my comments were too ‘insipid and conciliatory’ for him.

  16. kate b says:

    I’m a social worker. Let’s get some reality here.

    The reality is that a paedophiles are attracted to and turned on by a k-mart catalog with kids undies in it. They get off by just going to public schools and sitting out the front in their cars watching the kids. They like children, they see them in a way that normal people do not. They see their child likeness as sexual.

    This exhibition wouldn’t have even been noticed by paedophiles had it not been in the news as much as it has. Paedophiles are attracted to normal kids who look like kids, not kids who look like adults.

    The problem here is what we as a society think adults look like. We’ve lost our way with that. We think an adult can be someone has no signs of age at all! What’s that about?? Why not have a discussion about that? If these girls had ended up being 19 instead of 12 would that make the shots ok? To my mind we have that happening all the time in popular magazines across the world.

    The problem is our obsession with age, the problem is with us, not the paedophiles. They twist the norm for their benefit. So do we. We say it’s ok for women to look like girls, just not the other way around.

    If we loved and valued age this wouldn’t be an issue.

    This is just a classic beat up the artist the cry for the well being of the children. I wonder what the people who are complaining about this think about advertising aimed at getting kids to buy fake food and get fat?

    Priorities people!!

  17. Gene says:

    This whole thing is incredibly idiotic. It’s utterly stupid that as soon as someone see’s the naked human form in the modern world they immediately think ‘sex’. It is obvious the photo’s had NO (none what-so-ever) sexual connotations. These were works of art that, like most of Hensen’s work, showed the beauty and rawness of the human – the human straight-up. It is how all these fools take it that turns the art into some kind of monstosity.

    There is a theory called “death of the author”. It states that a creator has no control over how his/her work will be recieved, because every single person is going to see the work in a different way. This is an example of that theory to a high extent. Anyone who has witnessed and followed Hensen and his work in the past, I am almost positive, would see these works for how the author intended – a depiction of natural human beauty.

    What all those who see these works and think ‘child-sex’, or anything like the kind, should be devasted about is all the other missues of the child body. If none of you have noticed, children are used in much worse ways in the MASS MEDIA. You think exploitation comes down to this? We have 4-y/o children on ads they know nothing about saying “oh I love this brand of washing powder”, “these lollies are excellent daddy”, etc.. You don’t think this is exploitation? The kid doesn’t know what’s happening, the money goes to the parents and the advertises get rich after mothers and fathers with children of the same age say “oh how cute! Our little Billy could love washing powder as much as that kid does!”

    Not to mention what is put in magazines aimed at young girls. Dolly. You think one child depicted in those magazines hasn’t been unnaturaly enhanced? Sorry folks, but those kids have been exploited. They have been used to make a whole heap of capitalists richer. They have been thrown into an unnatural, materialistic world where they help force feed the rest of their peers garbage about how to give the best BJ to all the totally hot boys.

    What Bill Hensen did, that was not exploitation. It showed true natural beauty, the kind you don’t find in the magazines and in the marketting media. The naked human form does not automatically mean ‘SEX’. Paedophiles are not going to swarm to these photos like ants to honey. A fool would think that these images are the epitome of child pornography and no matter what kind of PhD or certificate you have in art, photography, pyschology or sociology, your opinion is not going to be the be all and end all of a debate about the relationship between nudity and sex.

  18. Gene says:

    And also, I got this from another forum. It was posted by ‘Lotta':
    ” Im a long time fan of Bil Hensen, studied his art for over 10 years as a school girl in Sydney. I’m also a child rights adviocate working for the UN in Geneva and have a PhD in child rights.

    Yes, the children are underaged and naked.

    Sexual? I don’t think so. I understand Australia is a conservative society but this moral panic is too much. While at times there may be a grey area between art and porn, this is not the case here, it is clearly art and not titilating in any way, not in the way you see kids behaving in mainstream media.

    Bill’s intention is often to highlight the wasteland of modern society, the povery of values, the alientaion of young people, and I think he does it well.

    Leave the artist alone. The day Australia allows police to shut down art shows is the end of free society. This is not about child protection. It’s about moral panic.

    Why aren’t the same resources avaiable to save kids from parents and teachers who are at times clearly abusing them?? “

  19. Paul says:

    Does it not occur irrational to many people that within all the naturally occurring creations of the known universe, we have chosen just one to be so damaging that is should be illegal to view its image. And yet this is not some phenomenon that might destroy us, it is actually part of who we are as a species, the body of a child.
    The relationship of a Henson photograph to a child sex attacker is no different to the relationship of an adult nude portrait to the rapist of a woman. Nor is it any different to the images of death on your nightly murder mystery to the next real life killer.
    Censorship is not the sign of a sophisticated society. This episode shows the backward nature of Australian culture. Unfortunately for some though, you could ban a book or a song and conceivably make it disappear, but in a thousand years, there will still be people of all ages (even including children), and they will still be made of flesh from head to toe.
    Kevin Rudd said as part of his response ‘ just let kids be kids’ . This is saying one thing and doing the opposite. The message to children is that you are not allowed to be what you see in the mirror. Conceal yourself and be ashamed so that we may feel comfortable. To agree to be photographed would suggest the girl has not learnt the messages of self-denial that most parents are expected to drill in to their children. Just imagine the chaos that would occur if we really did follow Rudd’s advice and let kids be kids.

  20. […] Vargas because of his latest photographic exhibition. Now the previous article on this site by Sy Rogers has created some excellent articulate discussion for both sides of the argument, but I wanted to […]

  21. Artismo says:

    http://www.tolarnogalleries.com/media/client/web_cutscreen2.jpg

    “Just let kids be kids” Did this young girl consent to be used in this way?

  22. Tazia says:

    If he did it in London he’d be a resistered sex offender, it is illegal to use anything under 18 for topless photography as a factor of the SOA 2003, The reason the legislation was introduced was the ‘Henson phenomena’. In London, waving that pic, would get a person put on the SOR, Henson for example, will not be able to teach in schools in England, because, well, he just can’t now. I would have thought Cambodia was a safer bet given his fetish art disposition. He might just get away with it there.

  23. murf says:

    i really think that the charges should be let down.
    i have been a admirer of bill henson’s work for nearly 4 years. i believe that his only intention with these images were for an artistic purpose. i am an student artist and i see no sign of pornography in these images . Henson’s work is all about the viewer creating their own meaning of the image. Like the photo of the road. That could mean anything. It all depends on personal opinions and experiences. that is what art is about.
    i also understand where the police are coming from with the underage thing and perdifilers, but i these issues can be resolved.
    So far as we know bill henson got permission off both the model and the parents to take these images. plus im sure they would of complain if they were not comfortable with the composition of the image. She did this to help her modeling career as i have heard.
    A former model of bill hensons work has commented that she too disagrees with child pornography but she doesnt see this as something under that category.
    if the police are worried of pedifilers getting hold of these images then they should make the exhibition a closed exhibition. so no one can take photos of them.
    also its not like these are the first images of naked people to be called art.
    if you believe that these images are child pornography then you are sick of even thinking that in the first place.

  24. Dean says:

    Remember people. Nudity is not pornography, so in this cases, sickness, just like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

  25. Brett says:

    You have no clue my friend of any of these policies or laws.

    Why is there this nationwide investigation; unless there were legal grounds for it. How about tomorrow I put an advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald for 12-13 year old girls to model for me naked. I am a photographer so based on your arguements it should be perfectly all right. If Henson get’s away with this it provides precendent for anyone to do this. Right? Are you saying that Bill Henson has greater rights than anyone else when it comes to working with children? You tell me any work place in Australia where it is perfectly all right to work with naked children, let alone take photos of them?

    The fact that you are so blinded to defend teacher’s taking photos of naked students really disturbs me. maybe you should be the one being investigated.

    All your argument tells me is that maybe you like to look at naked children. That there is nothing wrong with looking at someone else’s naked child. Does this thrill you in some warped artistic or maybe personal sense? Please write it, I would like someone in the art community to be honest. Do you enjoy looking at naked children? As far as I can tell no-one has yet come out and said this yet.

    All these people have come out defending his work but no-body has come out saying.

    “Bill’s work should be protected because I like looking at naked children.”

    “Bill’s work should be protected because I want to take photos of naked children too.”

    Instead all I have read is a bunch of frugal outdated arguments that just condone this kind of work allowing the flood gates for anyone to do this.

    All I can say is that with every industry that deals with children there is policy in place to try sand protect them. I think it is abot time that the art industry does the same thing.

  26. Brett says:

    Interesting side to it. I wonder if Bill bothered to apply for an “Employer’s Authority” and whether a government department actually granted it? I had a look at this act and the penalty weighting is exactly the same as for sexually abusing a child

  27. William L says:

    Brett,
    I can’t be any clearer. But I’ll try to be more concise.
    The Henson case is not a moral problem.
    The Henson case is a legal problem.
    Your feelings about child nudity are IRRELEVANT to Henson’s case. So are my feelings about child nudity.
    Do you understand what flows from this?
    I do not care what you think is all right. Neither should Henson. I do not care what you imagine I would be happy to do or think. Neither should Henson. Private beliefs about child nudity are IRRELEVANT to Henson’s case.

    Henson’s case will be decided on the question of indecency and/or child pornography.
    The only room for doubt or discussion is in what ‘indecent’ means to the courts. Your feelings and mine will have NO IMPACT on the judge’s decision if the Henson case goes to trial.

    Your post, like those of many people here, is PURE SPECULATION.

    Your post, like those of many people here, is offensive because it condemns Henson WITHOUT REASON. Bring some REASONS to the table and I will have something to talk to you about.

    P.S. Your feelings about child nudity are IRRELEVANT to Henson’s case.

  28. Brett says:

    Couldn’t answer the questions I thought so….

  29. Brett says:

    My reason’s are based upon closing the door of opportunity for paedophiles to take advantage of children.

    I am sorry but by condoning the idea that it is perfectly all right for a grown man (regardless who it is), behind a lense to be taking pictures of a naked child for extended periods of time leaves the door wide open for child exploitation. I am not saying here that Bill’s intentions were not perfectly innocent. I personally do not know him or how he thinks. The problem is if you allow one person to do the above why not anyone else? And how would you regulate or police it? You can’t and that is why I support a zero tolerance appraoch to this issue.

    You forget William that laws are based upon morals and ethics.

  30. William L says:

    Brett, I appreciate your returning to the substantive issues in the Henson case. I welcome the opportunity to discuss the ethics involved in photographing nude children, though I am not interested in morals, which are dependent on individual emotional states.

    “closing the door of opportunity for paedophiles to take advantage of children… if you allow one person to do the above why not anyone else?”

    When people or governments announce their ‘zero tolerance policy’ for this or that conduct I am amazed at the implied ignorance or dismissal of the ethical complexities involved.

    I hope it is not a distortion of what you mean to argue this:
    “Charging Henson with the offence of indecency / producing pornography will disallow paedophiles from taking advantage of children.”

    If that were true, the following would need to be demonstrably true as well.

    (1.) ‘To take advantage of a child’ is equivalent to committing an illegal act involving a child.
    (2.) ‘Paedophile’ has a clear meaning.
    (3.) Henson’s photographs of a nude child give some paedophiles an opportunity to commit illegal acts involving children.
    (4.) Charging Henson with an offence causes some paedophiles not to commit illegal acts involving children.

    Proposition (1) sounds reasonable and I assume a dictionary of idioms would agree with it.

    The _Crimes Act 1900_ defines what sexual acts involving children count as crimes. Therefore proposition (2) could arguably be justified by the self-identification of a person who was convicted of sexual acts involving children. For example, we might choose to believe someone who says, on their arrest, ‘I dunnit cos I am a paedophile’. That would be convenient, but it would not prove that anyone knows what a paedophile is. The common psychiatric definition seems to be of a male over the age of 18 who ‘is attracted to’ – whatever that means – young people beneath the age of puberty, whenever puberty occurs in an individual child. The ‘attraction’ is chronic and not just ‘situational.’ However children are also rigidly defined by law in terms of their age rather than, say, their abilities or their intelligence. The law itself doesn’t recognise attractions, which are states of mind, and the legislation controlling sexual behaviour only captures situations in which genital contact really occurs between legally defined adults and children. All kinds of possible cases fall outside any easy definition of a ‘paedophile sex crime’. One example would be consensual sexual conduct between a 17-year-old and a 14-year-old; another would be forced genital conduct between a 40-year-old and an 18-year-old. If these cases involving physical contact are so ambiguous, how much more dubiously ‘paedophilic’ are cases involving mere photography of a naked body?

    Proposition (3) is very difficult to demonstrate. There is nothing in a representation of a naked body that causes physical actions in a viewer of the representation. It leaves all viewers with an unimpeded choice as to how, when, where and why to act. Therefore it is almost impossible to prove that an image can somehow cause anyone to act illegally. I can see a possible counter-argument at this point that goes:
    (i) External phenomena can cause states of mind.
    (ii) A photograph is an external phenomenon.
    (iii) A photograph can cause a state of mind.
    (iv) States of mind are causally linked to actions.
    (v) Actions may be harmful.
    (vi) A photograph may be causally linked to a harmful action.

    And so on. You would then try to show that a paedophile, unlike a normal person (whatever that is), can be ‘triggered’ by a nude child photograph into having a certain state of mind which is causally linked to a harmful action. But it is rather arduous and the causal links involved not very easy to demonstrate at any point in the chain.

    Steps (i)-(iii) in the counter-argument are fairly secure, but states of mind are not illegal, so it is impossible to demonstrate that by, for example, producing a state of erotic excitement in a person’s mind (assuming this an objectively measurable phenomenon), a picture somehow causes that person to break the law.

    Proposition (4) also has serious problems. In science and in ethics, it is a bad argument to propose something that cannot be falsified, ie cannot possibly be shown to be false. It is actually impossible to disprove that a photograph stops someone from acting in a particular way, because any and everyone’s actions would have to examined in order to do this, a set of observations which is infinite in scope.

    So, in response to (2),(3),(4) above, I offer the refutations (x), (y) and (z).

    (x) We can’t be sure what a paedophile is.
    (y) We can’t demonstrate how a photograph causes anyone to commit an illegal act.
    (z) We can’t prove or disprove that arresting Henson will cause people not to act in some way.
    Therefore it is false to argue that Henson’s photographs prevent paedophiles from causing harm to children.

    “if you allow one person to do the above why not anyone else?”

    Finally I’d like to respond to your appeal to the slippery-slope argument. I assume that by ‘the above’ you mean the photographing of a child for an artwork, as Henson has demonstrably done.
    My reasoning here is as follows.
    1 Henson has artistic intentions, and has used reasonable artistic means, to have made his photographs.
    2 The Henson photographs are artworks, not indecent articles.
    3 Artworks are not harmful.
    3a Any number of artworks are no more harmful than one artwork.
    Therefore, nothing turns on the argument that, if one person makes artworks, another person may then, as a result, make artworks. It follows that if someone makes artworks like the ones Henson has made, ie, artworks incorporating images of naked children, the same indecency laws will apply, or fail to apply to them. No additional harm will result.

    I put it to you that both the ‘closing the gate’ and ‘slippery slope’ parts of your argument fail because of flaws in their reasoning.

  31. William L says:

    Another error of mine needs correction. At one point I wrote:
    “It is actually impossible to disprove that a photograph stops someone from acting in a particular way…”
    This should have read,
    It is actually impossible to disprove that a charging an artist with indecency stops someone from acting in a particular way…”

  32. Brett says:

    You are not getting my point or you don’t have the ability to address it. It is not about the images themselves, it is the “process” of getting the images. How do you maintain a safe environment for a child in this position
    “a grown man (regardless who it is), behind a lense taking pictures of a naked child for extended periods of time” regardless of the intentions of a senior more dominant adult. How do you avoid this becoming an exploitative situation.

    You appear to be an intelligent person and must of come across the odd ethics committee once in a while. There are a variety of pursuits that have been cut short because the end does not always justify the means even if the end product has some so called benefit for society.

    While many professions have codes of conduct, policies and laws regarding child/adult interaction the art world does not. This is important for protecting both the adult and child.

    The unregulated process of taking photos of naked children as part of your profession is fraught with danger.
    A teacher can’t even be alone in a closed classroom with a student because of possible ramifications not to the student but the teacher.

    Do you understand my point. How do you provide a safe environment for the “professional” endeavour of producing “artistic” child nudes. How do you prevent paedophiles from taking advantage of this pursuit. This is what I believe the broader community should be focusing on, not the pictures themselves.

    William what kind of fair treatment do you think Bill Henson would receive if everything didn’t go as planned at the shoot for these photos? That at some point the family and child wanted to take financial advantage of Bill by fabricating some sort of scenario. What sort of policy or regulations are there to protect Bill from accusations of wrong doing during the shoot. There are none.

    The unregulated process of taking photos of naked children for artistic pursuit involves too much risk.If the art community was really serious about protecting this form of art it would try and address the ethical side of the process, instead of just focsuing on the final product.

  33. William L says:

    Brett,

    I am happy to pursue the terms of discussion as you have now put them, but I do feel like a footballer chasing a tractor as it hauls the goalposts to and fro. You initially referred to a number of political and historical situations that seemed scarcely relevant to Henson at all. For example you mentioned the criminal conduct of priests and other authority figures toward children and alluded to child pornography laws. You put forward scenarios involving teachers and fathers in their roles as authority figures. You implied that Henson was ‘getting away’ with something illicit. You claimed that ‘the rest of society’ had known something that ‘bourgeois’ artists and their ‘sycophantic’ followers had no clue about, implying that just to know this certain something was to be indisputably, morally right about it.

    Now it appears your concerns are about legal liability implications for the artist-model relationship when the models are children. Should I assume you are not really interested in the problems raised by the ‘slippery slope’ or ‘closing the door of opportunity’ arguments after all? You have repeated your ‘how do you prevent paedophiles’ question, but it is now your turn to show that my refutations of your arguments on that matter (see previous post) are wrong.

    I can only agree that a photographer, particularly a commercial photographer who advertises his services as such and runs a business, is liable to certain business and legal risks.

    It may be that an artist who uses film and photography as his medium, like Henson, also faces business and legal risks, but the role of the artist in Western societies has grown apart from that of a merchant or craftsperson. Granted, he probably sells them in order to continue loving and working, but it still makes no sense to find some moral failing in the fact that Henson sells his photographs.

    I am sympathetic to the situation of teachers as I am one. You are right that they enjoy few legal protections should a complaint be made against them by a student. Teachers who become the target of a complaint alleging sexual misconduct are immediately suspended from duty, denied communcations with the complainant and denied any knowledge of the nature or content of the complaint itself (!)unless and until court proceedings are initiated. This treatment amounts, in my view, to a de facto presumption of guilt, which totally contravenes the principles of due process. The present policy response in State schools, which is to treat all encounters between students and teachers as inherently untrustworthy on either party’s side, is a poor one. Henson now bears the same burden of ‘disproof of guilt’ as a teacher accused, but in no way shown by any evidence, of misconduct. His livelihood has been suspended and his character has been impugned by complaints lacking supporting evidence.

    An ethical regulatory system for teacher-student or artist-model relationships is not difficult to envision. It would entail equal considerations of the parties’ interests regardless of age or gender. It would not be adversarial. It would be communicative, and where disputes about consent, payment for service or some other alleged misconduct arose, these would be resolved by discussion on equal terms and overseen by a trained mediator. Disputes would be resolved non-punitively wherever this was possible. To the best of my knowledge most of this regulatory machinery is already available under the law of contract. The only barrier I can see to it operating fairly and protectively toward adult artists and child models is the inbuilt discrimination against the natural rights and wishes of young people created by statutory limitations on the validity of consent. An expert, whose views were published in _The Age_, has already given quite strange advice that because a girl of 13 might not be legally able to ‘consent to such photographs’ – whatever that means – she could later sue the artist for having been harmed by the pictures. A statutory denial of even the possibility of consent ‘to a photograph’ on the basis of the model’s age would make it even harder to decide such a bizarre question. See http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/henson-model-could-sue/2008/05/26/1211653938450.html.

    We are actually in agreement that artists, like teachers, are susceptible to malicious complaints. Henson and his models worked in a consensual artist-model relationship. That is a matter of public record. If your real concern is that a model, or her family, or any other party for that matter, might maliciously abuse that relationship for financial gain, then our attention in the Henson case should be on Hetty Johnston and her conduct.

    This returns me to one of my original points – that when a complaint is both brought by a third party and its content is prima facie absurd, as Hetty Johnston’s complaint about Henson is, the spotlight should be on the conduct of the complainant, not the accused. I personally hope Henson’s lawyers are investigating avenues to having Johnston and her like charged with libel.

  34. Brett says:

    To both of you,

    Thanks for the different perspectives; particular Paul as your arguments are far more grounded in the real world than William’s which as you stated Paul are far more clinical and objective which doesn’t always equate to reality. I can’t keep going on with the debate as my own life needs to move forward (in the real world).

    Although William you have not won me on this issue it has been a pleasure to be able to debate this in a public forum.

    Ciao

    Brett

  35. Tazia says:

    Risk and due proces are two different things, and nobody has a right to work with children.

    The issue in schools is risk, British teachers are being connected to 700,000 (known) child pornography transactions over three years. That’s risk.

    So the reason Henson can no longer travel to several countries, is because, his material is child pornography.

  36. Tazia says:

    I don’t think hanging it on a wall is a viable prospect at this point in time, the police have decided otherwise.

    Henson is finished, even if he gets away with it in Australia, his range is limited to countries which will allow him to visit.

    That’s not going to be many. Bill Henson is one of the reasons the Brits changed their child pornography laws.

  37. Lorna J Key says:

    This whole business saddens me. Bill Henson has brought happiness to so many art lovers with his work over many years. Let us all leave him in peace to continue his artistic achievements.

  38. Tazia says:

    I think Scotland Yard is about to go hunting for ‘reference’ photos in London. Henson’s child-fetish stuff is illegal there.

    :o))

  39. Michael-A Photographer is NOT an Artist. says:

    Art-My Definition. By The Artist:Is the expression of a perception or feeling as manifested to the ‘Artist’. To the VIEWER: Art, Can be anything, or nothing.For, what can be a work of art for some, may be rubbish for others.A Photographer is NOT an ARTIST. is a viewer who selects and captures objects to display.Often modifying (altering and often destroying them).Is a Naked child pornographic? It’s all in the mind of the “Viewer”.Is a shoe or a whip pornographic? What was in the mind of Mr Henson? Well one thing we know” Money. The other? Well,… he is a Photographer/”Artist”.And this people are beyond suspect… Should he be allowed to Exhibit and sell? If he sold it could be a bit like selling guns.It would be a crime only in some hands.But in an age when my mechanic can’t have a calendar with a naked ‘Bimbo’ of 20+ years of age, I don’t think he would be able to “exhibit” Mr Henson’s “artistic” “naked girl’in the workshop.Or is a calendar’s Photograph a work of art? Cheers, and God bless a naked body. PS. Next time you may try your (respectfully and seriously) granny, you will be more successful, and age won’t be a problem, Bill!

  40. William L says:

    Darren,

    I see the point you are making, but if the essence of your point is, ‘We parents are afraid for our children,’ then there is nothing to dissect and little for me to say in reply. I certainly wouldn’t try to deny your feelings.

    I think a question parents ought to ask themselves if they are afraid for their children is, ‘What should I do about my fear?’ It is not fear itself, but the actions that follow a fearful state of mind that can either benefit people or harm them.

    I think the following propositions could be supported with reasons.
    Henson might be harmed by actions that follow mindless fear.
    Children might be harmed by actions that follow mindless fear.

    There I see a possibility for dialogue based on the use of reasoned argument.

    I can only repeat that my criticism is directed only at people who have used their feelings as justification for attacking Henson. If Henson and his models are to be impugned there needs to be a reason for doing this. Fear is not a reason to take police action or make denigrating public statements – nor is it a reason, as you suggest, to make child pornography laws somehow capture artistically produced, patently non-sexual images of naked children.

    I have not said much to people who defended Henson because I judge their arguments to be rational ones that don’t need my support.

  41. William L says:

    Lou
    “I was simply pointing out that you ask others for arguments to support their statements but that you yourself also make statements which have no support.”
    No, you were questioning the position that there is no basis for considering the Henson photos harmful. I had already showed that it is extremely difficult to demonstrate how the pictures could BE harmful. You still haven’t noticed that the onus for providing evidence is on the person who makes a positive claim. Henson’s photographs were simply sitting on a wall and were not making any claims to be anything but photographs of a nude girl. It is for those people who would characterise the photographs as indecent to demonstrate how that is so. No-one has done this, and all my critcisms have been directed at people who have condemned Henson – even at one point asserting he has broken the law – without reason. There actually isn’t even an argument about Henson until such reasons have been proposed. I have gone to the trouble to show the – to me obvious – basis for NOT considering the photographs obscene or harmful. This basis exists both in the applicable laws as they have been written and in the content of public statements that the artists, his models and their families have made. Feelings just aren’t good reasons to publicly denigrate Henson. Despite the complete lack of legal authorties’ interest in her bizarre claims, Hetty Johnston continues to vilify Henson in public, I hope prompting the general conclusion in the public mind that she is a fool. However, she has still succeeded in her aim, which was to oppress individual thought and decisionmaking about Henson’s images through spreading mindless fear, suspicion and disgust. The Henson exhibition at Oxley9 remains closed to the public and available only ‘by appointment’.

  42. William L says:

    Lou,
    I can only agree that if your intended meanings could not be derived from your words, then your intended meanings must remain a secret known only to you.
    Your parable is interesting as it highlights the lack of opportunity young pepople have to think freely in a culture that operates on ‘serious concerns’ and fantastic beliefs, not reasons.

  43. Icky says:

    What’s wrong with Muslim girls being affected adversely by naked stuff, isn’t that normal, why did you bring her there? Henson’s stuff is the child pornography version of adolescent heroin chic, it is illegal in London. So she should be spared that degenerate filth at least.

  44. Lincoln Lawyer says:

    “Nobody has the right to work with kids is a hugely open statement.”

    It is also true, as a point of law.

  45. The luw says:

    “Bill Henson has brought happiness to so many art lovers with his work over many years. Let us all leave him in peace to continue his artistic achievements.”

    So long as it is in prison and he is getting treatment, that’s fine by me.

  46. Lincoln Lawyer says:

    “Are you aware that you are calling Henson a criminal in a public forum? Your own conduct may be legally actionable on that account”

    What, here is what I know, pimps, strip club owners, pedophiles and Bill Henson, will not risk going to law, they only have to lose once, and Bill has already been more lucky than his circumstances warrant. bill will be more interested in staying out of jail and hoping his LA, NYC and London visiting rights are repairable, he’s a lost cause for Cambodia.

  47. Keep Bill In Oz says:

    So long as Bill is kept in Oz, that will be something, we just have to live with fruitcake jurisdictions allowing kooks to flood the net with photos of naked 13 year old girls, doesn’t Oz have socialized medicine, is it not possible for Henson to be put in a clinic?

  48. Kiddie Erotica Collective says:

    We ur schoolgrrrls in Oz, we want to cut our pimp (Bill) out of future biz,

  49. ronna says:

    I would have to guess that anyone to come up with the idea to say that naked human bodies are a form of art expressed by any artist, has had some connection to an immoral or sex crime act somewhere. They are guilty for something. Just, a good guess, from a former police officer.

  50. […] be an idea, at first, to keep your child’s age quiet (children and art have been quite a sensitive area on the creative scene lately) as Kalashnikova did, a decision she defends even now the cat is out of the bag. As she points out, […]

  51. maggie says:

    hi everybody. um i came across this website as im doing some research on an art essay. after reading through all these posts im shocked and horrified at how narrow minded the majority of them seem. please consider the following before being so stuck in your ways-
    :has anyone stopped and realized that this is art? art is about making people question. whats right or wrong? where does one draw the line? whats the purpose? what is it representative of?
    :what is it that makes one decide that henson’s (beautiful and haunting) images are pornographic and exploiting the human body, and yet pornographic industries out there are legally thriving, mostly without reprimand, on selling images of people actually being violated.
    :has anybody bothered to ask henson his conceptual reasons? or better still, asked the models how they feel?
    :i am a 19 yr old girl. i have been awed by hensons imagery and technique since about grade 10. i dont see that they are violating or exploiting young people. they are amazing and inspiring creations that have succeeded at what they do. they have confused so many people out there with what is and isnt real. don’t you understand that hensons photographs are staged? and therefore dont you understand that the models are giving henson permission to ‘exploit’ and immortalize their bodies in this way.
    :there have been much more confrontational artworks that have received much less public attention
    So therefore i beg you, please don’t be so quick to be so negative. dont beat the messenger. because that is what henson really is. he is only triggering what is already in your own mind. in which case, where does the shame really lie? personally, i raise my hands to freedom of speech and freedom of imagery. i applaud the fact that i can go to an art gallery and experience a whole range of emotions, just through looking at different types of works created by different types of geniuses. these pictures have harmed nobody. they have merely added to a wealth of art history. and no doubt are more innocent than what many australians get up to in their own homes. you want to stand up and fight against something immoral? picket pornography. petition politicians. make business honest. scream out about violence against women. fight for freedom within our community.

  52. maggie says:

    ps. spend some time with children of the age of the models in there natural surroundings. you will be shocked at the things they get up to. im not getting into wether thats right or wrong, but how can one reprimand an artist for reflecting reality? these images are more tame than what i’v seen of children of the same ages in school. and christ, its just nudity. what are we teaching the younger generation. one minute we’re rioting against images in the media teaching children that they have to fit into a mould, the next we are teaching them ourselves to cover up and fit into a mould. will you start censoring your child in shower? sorry… im ranting and getting carried away. it just shocks me though to see people be so definite and closed minded.

  53. maggie says:

    pps :)
    some of the most revered art works employed very young models. michaelangelo’s ‘david’ was prepubescent.

  54. skankymac says:

    In case no one was looking, Maurice O’Riordan (editor of Art Monthly Australia who published the provocative Papapetrou cover photo last year) has just published a blatantly pro-Henson promotional piece by the ubiquitous Canadian naturist Paul Rapoport together with a set of images of nude girls (excerpted from Frank Cordelle’s ‘The Century Project’ of which Rapaport is the publisher) in the April edition of AMA.

    According to O’Riordan’s somewhat cynical editorial, Rapoport generously paid for the submission of the images to the Classification Board to facilitate their publication in his magazine, which he states (tongue-in-cheek) also conforms to new Arts Council protocols.

    Apart from the article comprising little more than pseudo-libertarian naturist apologetics posing as arts journalism, it is disappointing that images of vulnerable young children are still being disseminated by individuals in service to their own interests and agendae – whether it be to flog naturism, or photo-anthologies, or art magazines, or to fulminate upon some imaginary new era of art censorship. Gratuitous publication of juvenile nudity merely normalizes fetishistic, voyeuristic or paedaphilic appetites that seek to erode amenable social boundaries and structures in place to protect vulnerable children.

    What adults get up to together is one thing and what children get up to together is another, but (harmless and eccentric naturism aside) when an arts community sanctions the ghoulish exploitation and abuse of children (which is in turn sanctioned by the wider community), then what faith can these kids have in the adults they rely upon to protect them?

    What has been so often conveniently forgotten in this debate are the predatory conditions surrounding the making of these images that require the co-operation of parents and adults: the perverse grooming of children and that of their families over time, the incestuous character of art world and school networks, the frankly irresistible character of glamour and celebrity, and the distorted notions of adult freedoms and rights invoked to justify carte blanche access to kids.

    Are children not entitled to be free from adult invasions of their psychological integrity?

    Child experts are now identifying a trend they call “the grooming of the community”.

    As a gay artist friend commented during the Henson affair last year: ‘Apart from the usual cant that “he is one of Australia’s greatest artists, blah blah”, I think the arterarti held back in defence of Henson’.

    ‘So he can take a good photo? Patrick White could write, but if he took young boys back to his house in the name of research for his next novel, are we then supposed to say “but just look at the prose and he does have a Nobel prize, so get back in there boys and be thankful he chose you!?”.

  55. Sy Rogers says:

    skankymac, does your artist friend’s homosexuality endow him with special credentials in regards to this topic?

  56. Paul Rapoport says:

    Skankymac writes: “Gratuitous publication of juvenile nudity merely normalizes fetishistic, voyeuristic or paedaphilic appetites.”

    Apart from the spelling, Skankymac seems clueless about paedophilia. There isn’t any reputable research in the past 40 years to substantiate such claims. There certainly is some to suggest that the opposite results.

    Skankymac is implying that most Australians either are or are potentially pedophiles, that photos of nudity of minors increase crime against them, and that censoring such photos out of existence protects them.

    Experience in other western countries not afflicted with so much of his baseless fear-mongering proves all that to be nonsense. His rant, to quote a well-known writer in this field, is just so much “propaganda from the sexual disaster industry.”

    Australia’s erroneous and dangerous dalliances with censorship as in the Henson case of 2008 exceed those of even the deeply fearful and censorious officialdom of the USA.

  57. skankymac says:

    Well I in turn wonder what endows a Canadian professor of music with special credentials to review The Henson Case…

    Given that Professor Rapoport is also the publisher of such naturist gems as ‘The Funny Side of Going Naked: The First Nudie Toons Collection’ by Ron Coleman and Jan Crimmings, ‘Au Naturel: The History of Nudism in Canada’ by Jim Woyke, ‘Theatre Au Natural: A Collection of Naturist Plays’, edited by Mark Storey, ‘Bodies and Soul’, and ‘The Spirit of Lady Godiva’ by Harvey (sic!), certainly his impartiality seems questionable.

    Professor Rapoport pounced upon a simple typo as a sign of my “cluelessness” about paedophilia and distorted my meaning, substituting “increases” for the word “normalizes” so as to have something to refute and to depict me as a fear-monger “from the sexual disaster industry”. The observant reader may observe that I have not asserted nor implied anything remotely like “most Australians either are or are potentially paedophiles, that photos of nudity of minors increase crime against them, and that censoring such photos out of existence protects them”.

    I was trying to make a point about normalization, that I regard it as being inherent in the gratuitous publication of child nude photography.

    ‘David’, who blogged on this site on May 24th, 2008 understood the concept of ‘normalization’, a term in the psychiatric and child protection literatures associated with the psychodynamics of child abuse. It refers to an idea, concept or behavior that is sought to be an accepted part of societal culture.

    ‘Normalization’ is probably more insidious than ‘grooming’ because it seeks broader social acceptance of adult/child sexual relations, often couched in pseudo-libertarian language. It refers to a category of strategic behaviours (intentional or otherwise) that seek to undermine social, psychological, generational, familial, ethical, and professional boundaries established to protect children from violations of their physical, sexual and psychological integrity and safety.

    While ‘grooming’ is the thin edge of the wedge and full of predatory intent, ‘normalisation’ is a rationalizing, sectarian strategy seeking general acceptance after the fact.

    My assessment of The Henson Case is that it amounts to little more than an elaborate attempt to normalise child sexual abuse. Marr re-exploited the child in the republication of her exhibition photographs (whether passed by the Classification Board or not) in service to Henson’s defense (who had somehow transmogrified into a hero of the libertarian left) among other liberties taken.

    With no special credentials to qualify him for the task, Marr’s hastily compiled, sensationalist book was a provocative and contemptuous “two-fingered salute” to anyone whose primary concerns happened to be for a child.

    Similarly, Professor Rapoport’s inclusion of the Cordelle images in his partisan review was in service to the normalization of Henson’s enterprise in a disingenuous and fallacious comparison with an ‘ethnographic’ naturist context. There is no escaping the fact that, whatever their motives, both The Henson Case and Professor Rapoport’s AMA review incorporated photos of child nudes in service to their own agendae. They certainly were not, by any stretch of the imagination, published in the interests of the child. As such, the publication of these photographs was ipso facto exploitive and normalising.

    What Professor Rapoport conveniently failed to mention in his review was thatThe Henson Case was commissioned from David Marr by Michael Heyward (a buddy of Henson) – while Henson was still under Police investigation – as part of a larger, normalizing public-relations enterprise (catocounsel.com.au). Marr and Heywood’s re-publication of the child’s photographs was thus part of a larger overall strategy integral to an elaborate defense of Henson’s child art and constituted, by logical extension, endorsement and normalisation of the abusive conditions of their initial production, exhibition and dissemination.

    Ergo the collapse of just about every ethical and protective boundary you can name.

    Sadly, I am not clueless about paedophilia. People I love were sexually abused as children by adults entrusted with their care and education. Priests, judges, parents…ingratiated themselves into these vulnerable children’s lives, violating their trust and devastating their fragile, fledgling selves. The traumatic impact was so ruinous to their lives and those closest to them that, decades later, it remains incalculable and ongoing. As a psychologist specializing in the treatment of adult survivors of child sexual abuse, I am familiar with their stories from the inside, stories that emerged through the reliving of the terrors, fury and overwhelming pain of their destabilized and isolated childhoods. I have worked in the prison system and have encountered the murderous rage felt by criminals towards their abusers. I am therefore only too familiar with the trail of broken hearts and broken minds these ‘lovers’ of children leave in their wake.

    But out of all their painful experiences the most devastating cause of intractable despair was the failure of families and communities to protect them – the parent that turned a blind eye and the community that failed to intervene. Although nothing at all felt okay, those they depended upon to keep them safe insisted that they were.

    It was this final abandonment that broke their spirit.

  58. DC says:

    To William L: you are too disagreeable. Please learn to loosen up.

  59. Charlie Louise says:

    This debate could go on forever. I am a year 12 student (and aspiring photographer) studying censorship and the commentry on this site, considering diverse opinions, has been extremely helpful.

    I belive art is and has always been subjective; it invariably provokes varying and conflicting ideas due to the diverse perceptions of humankind. Just as some may find Henson’s work creepy, art lovers can understand the aesthetic beauty and reasoning for the explicit imagery captured by Henson; art is often created to raise questions within society – just because some may not understand this, is not a justifiable reason to terminate Henson and his art.

    Nudity is not obscenity. The law is very simple; if you display a child in a sexual context, it is classified as child pornography. These photographs did not do that. The law still provides a framework for the expression of ideas thus Bill Henson should be allowed to continue taking photos as he has done for the past 30 yrs.

    To place restrictions of Henson’s expression through art is the puritanical repression of healthy and natural occurances within the lifespan. When did the naked body become a bad thing? As a teenager myself, I believe we should be accepting of external appearences, including the human figure, not deny the right to reveal such normalities.

    Bill Henson: “I’m not interested in making art about art. For me it’s about the essential and important things that effect out lives; I’m interested in the sense of ageing, desire, attraction, beauty, love and death. These are at the centre of everyone’s lives and these are what drive the work.”

    For those who do not have a creative mind or whose aesthetic nature doesn’t come naturally, often intentions, descriptions, objectives, details, explanations and metaphors regarding subject matters need to be outlined and elaborated. For Kevin Rudd to comment critically on Henson’s work without background research into the artists or his works, simply isn’t fair. The work is mild and justifiable by context and is not sexualised to any degree.

    Each to their own, I say. ART is about diverse interpretations. That’s what makes it so powerful.

  60. Cate Vail says:

    I think that Bill Henson ought to know better than to exhibit these kinds of images, child pornography is NOT Art, and not justifiable in the art community in any way shape or form, or representation. Pedophiles are attracted to these kinds of imagery. To exhibit and display this kind of pornography only normalizes fetishism and pedophilic perversions. I think that all photographers and artists for that matter should be heald to the same standard of conduct that we all respect: Child pornography, or even imagery that is suggestive of child sexuality is illegal. I dont quite frankly care for liberal attitudes that try to pass it off as being “art”, its obvious to me that Henson is making a statement with this type of imagery. Intent is the underlying issue here: naked photographs of teens and pre-teenage children that are obviously meant to arouse the viewer; I think that Henson stands on a slipperly slope, and I believe he is pushing the boundaries, which in turn will give him the exposure that was his intent in the first place. I see it as a means of exploiting these children for serious profit, and the fact that they are nude, makes it not only a crime, but a sad commentary about where we are headed as a culture.

  61. […] in the media for weeks after Henson was cleared of any wrong-doing and Design Federation’s coverage of the story continues to draw interest to this day. But after examining Audrey Kawasaki’s illustrations, one […]

  62. Michael says:

    Charlie Louise – you have not understood what people have been writing and from your ideas you do sound like a young person. Please remember what you wrote here and see if you still agree with it in 20 years.

  63. Volker says:

    Dear all, I have not read every single entry in this comment list, but I might as well make my own point here. First of all, I think there is a misconception about the term porn. Porn is the explicit display of intercourse. A naked girl in whatever pose has nothing to do with porn. When somebody like Bill Henson decides to try and capture the beauty of youth displaying a young girl in the purest of ways, the naked body, then it doesn’t mean that every male automatically gets an erection. There are less primitive individuals out their who can in fact distinguish between porn and the act as an art form. I think the problem many Australians have is, that they have a disturbed approach to their own sexuality. Maybe it stirs something in them emotionally that makes them try even harder to ignore it. This might have it’s source induced by the church, their parents or other authorities who proclaim that nakedness is something dirty. I feel sorry for the parents of the young girl who may have thought that she did the right thing in the name of art. Now she might be surrounded by people spitting at her or calling her names while the exact same people secretly keep their “dark desires” in a pile under the bed or boxed in the far end of their WIR.

    It’s a strange world…

  64. ariel says:

    Good art is powerful because it circumvents cognitive function and goes straight to the soul. As such, Hensen’s work is great art in my opinion, but i still hate it.

    I hate it because it dredges up feelings of vulnerability, fear, confusion, and all the stuff that makes me sick. If the images were shot in bright white light, with an air of confidence, poise, permanence…they would have a different meaning to me. These dark images make me feel like my mind is being raped.

    So as i say, it’s fantastic art, but I HATE IT…and great artist’s take all deep reactions as a compliment… i’m an artist myself. :)

  65. ariel says:

    BTW just want to add that nobody can say that these images are NOT sexualised, or that they ARE. Interpretation belongs to the viewer. And what does it mean for an image to be ‘sexualised’ anyway? Some people perceive sex as a euphoric emotional experience. Other people perceive it as mere physical action.

    All I can say is that when it comes to condoning or censoring, art is produced for society. If the majority of society like it, fine. If not, put it away. Art isn’t some magical thing that we should all bow down to.

  66. Mayhem says:

    Standard-issue moral panic. Shame on you all for buying into it when there are genuine problems which demand our attention.

  67. Hawky says:

    there are some very interesting views on this topic, some of which i disagree to. in terms of bill, in this recent work i believe he has found the line for what is acceptable in society and crossed it. this is not an appropriate representation of how an artist should comment on society. those out there who think this sort of thing is appropiate should be prosecuted along with henson, as their view of what is right is also corrupted. henson should be prosecuted for this work which crossed the line, but continue to make art, as he is still a very well respected artist. this is my opinion. interpret how you may.

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