One of the Controversial works by Bill Henson
Photograph from the Age
Officers raided the Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, in Paddington in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, just before the exhibition was due to open on Thursday night. They seized 20 of Henson’s images which feature a naked girl and boy said to be aged 12 to 13.
NSW Police Force has said it intends to lay state and federal charges, and the investigation has also gone interstate as the young girl is understood to be living in Victoria. Rose Bay Local Area Commander Superintendent Allan Sicard said the seized images depicted a child under the age of 16 years “in a sexual context”.
Commonwealth charges could be laid over the gallery’s website with state charges applying to the pictures, he said.
The raid, and the prospect of an artist facing criminal charges, has reignited the debate about what constitutes art.
[From Law Society backs nude child pics artist – Breaking News – National – Breaking News]
I have been so angry about this whole mess that I haven’t been able to write coherently till now. I don’t know what has me more outraged. the police raid and seizures, the statement by Prime minister Kevin Rudd that these works are ‘revolting’, the galleries that are also pulling Bill Henson’s works from their collections or the constant newspaper articles referring to these artworks, by one of Australia’s premier artists, as ‘”art”‘. At the same time I am heartened by the reactions of the art community and the NSW law society that have rallied behind Bill Henson.
The fact that people can debate whether these works are art or not is an outrage. the fact that the PM of Australia has gone on record saying these works have “no artistic merit” is downright disgraceful. whether you like the pieces or not they are the epitome of art and artistic intention. they are beautiful and pure and definitely not sexualized in any way.
Henson has explored many themes in his long and successful career but frequently returns to the notion of innocence, coming of age, adolescence and the confusion, fear and emotion of that age. captured between the innocence of youth and the freedom of adulthood these teens are neither sexual nor innocent and uncertain of where they stand. the stark reality of Henson’s works is what is truly gripping. the uncertainty is palpable and it is probably that which has everyone in a bind. It’s honesty is so compelling.
the key word here is sexualized. and sexualization of minors is an issue. but these pieces are not pornographic, they are not titillating or sexy. I think they are the opposite in fact. Henson has always received permission from his subjects and their parents and is noted by other artists and his models for conscientiousness. the treatment of him in this case is disgusting.
29 thoughts on “Bill Henson’s Artworks are Innocent”
But Jennie, they’re naked, therefore it MUST be a sexual context …. right?
Nuditity = sex = sin = damnation. Very simple.
A pedophile might find this image arousing.
A dog-poopophile might find a picture of dog poop arousing.
Most people would see a beautiful image which might mean different things to different folks, but not in an arousing way.
Therefore, those who see this work as sexualized must feel the potential for arousal in themselves and can’t bear to be confronted by those feelings.
Ergo, all types of images should be banned lest someone find them arousing.
See? Simple. By keeping things simple we can all be simpletons!
Well, you said. You’re a simpleton. Iam an artist a photographer and a father and when i see this picture of the nude little girl, my first thought is, why do i want to look at a nude picture of a 13 year old girl, my second thought is, who else would want to look at this picture, then i think, what sort of delusional human would take such a photo.
How can anyone in their right mind view this as art, it’s anything but!
Let’s just say that i’m a paedophile. Now, I can buy a camera and entice young girls to pose naked and take lots of photo’s and it’s alright because, Iam an artist.
Get the picture. Come on, wake up! So you think that, as you put it, that I must feel the potential for arousal when I look at this photo.
I’ll tell what’s simple. There’s too many grey areas in the world. Keep it simple and in black and white. This is a photo of a nude 13 year old girl, there’s no grey area. Can i take a nude picture of your 13 year old sister or neice or cousin or daughter, because it’s art, right? Just because you’re a nudist, doesn’t give you the right to judge people who support this publicity exercise.
Cate Blanchett supports this idiot photographer too. Can I take nude pictures of her baby daughter in 11 years time?
well said. I look at this picture and am not at all aroused. Again… It’s art. It is, as someone else said, the nothion of innocence and sin and the very fine line that separates the two. If people want to make a fuss over something as little as a bit of flesh that happens to belong to a “minor” then they obviously find it arousing themselves and just cant deal with it on show if it’s still illegal… It’s all very much psychology. People dont like other people to see or own something they cannot.
Oh one more thing… Do these people have kids that they change and bathe??
come on people be sensible.
By the way, as naturists we see nude children all the time. They are beautiful as all children are. The’re not sexy, they’re just happy and having fun like all kids. They simply happen to be priveleged to do it without soggy swimsuits, chafing clothing, or the concerns about body image that most kids have to grow up with.
The only question I might have is the ability of these subjects to give informed consent. How may they feel about it ten years later when applying for a scholosrhip to Seminary? Or a job at an accounting firm. The world is as it is, and these images could come back to haunt.
But that’s a different subject. The issue here is art. I’ll go with Jennie on this one.
OMG just did a quick google on Hetty Johnson the person responsible for the raid on the gallery, what a nut job!
She is a completely psychotic, political situation twisting moron!
She even tried to get into the Senate 4 yrs ago but blew it when she showed what a complete idiot she is on National TV by yelling at the TV show that SPONSERED her candidacy during a interview whilst she was on that same show.
She is also a major lunatic when it comes to the subject of single male parents. According to her all male parents are likely to turn into child sex offenders.
This from a woman who gave her child up for adoption.
Plus it seems she has reacted not to the images themselves, she didn’t find them in seedy child porn websites, or even on the internet, it appears she found out about it through a positive article in Thursday morning’s Herald Sun art section. Then complained about it to the cops who then raided the place that evening ONLY because they got a complaint from someone whom they know will yell, scream and kick up a media fuss.
I bet this insane bitch is going to be all over the current affairs programs giving her spiel, and I bet it will be her publicist doing the asking not the channels themselves and they will take her on because its hot news at the moment.
She must need funding for her activist group Braveheart!
Look I sure the group does excellent and much needed work in their field but Artists should not be their target.
There is my little rant on the matter =p
If we lived in a perfect world, nudity on anyone wouldn’t be an issue.
Look around. It’s not perfect, not even close.
The authorities are doing the right thing, protecting the children.
your an idiot the authorities are doing nothing.
Do you know that by the laws of the universe that probably (AND I STRESS THE WORD PROBABLY, NOTHING IS FACT) 1 in 3 cops (the people who protect) take drugs, drink excessively, beat their wives and oh look at child porn.
gee if you really really really need under aged nudes hanging on the wall for “arts” sake
you need to re evaluate yourselves as art lovers
there are plenty of things to photograph without exploiting children
we are as adults supposed to care of our kids
the guy knew what he was doing when he too the photos
he knew what the reaction would be i am sure
children is not an area to “push the boundaries”
An excellent example of ‘child exploitation’ can be seen by following this link:
It not only has child nudity, but an adult exposing herself to the child.
The ‘artist’ didn’t consider it porn, but we know better. His name was something like, ah, Da Vinci.
Some people think it’s a masterpiece. Perverts, obviously. No respectable gallery would exibit it…
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hows this for child exploitation – Imagine if they had one of these in Brisbane – Kevin Rudd would have a fit.
Looks to me like, in the case of Bill Henson, they are as much about protecting the sensibilities of religious fundamentalists from themselves as they are about protecting children from perverts.
Take an aspro and have a good lie down
Paintings are a whole other subject entirely.
No child was sought out or photographed. There isn’t a comparison.
“Looks to me like, in the case of Bill Henson, they are as much about protecting the sensibilities of religious fundamentalists from themselves as they are about protecting children from perverts.”
What’s wrong with both?
First, paintings are not an ‘other’ subject entirely. Law does not distinguish painted from drawn, cartoon from photograph. Kidde porn is kidde porn, a live subject is not required. I understand what you’re saying, but legally there is no difference as to presentation.
I agree that children have no real ‘informed consent’, but the issue here is the perception of the depiction (is it porn or art?), not how the depiction was obtained. Separate issue. I personally have serious problems with the use of children as nude models, no matter how well intended the artist is.
Secondly, is it the responsibility of you, or me, to decide how to protect those who chose to believe in something that causes them to be offended by that which you or I are comfortable with? Do I shave my beard because some folks find it offensive? Must you shave your legs becaus some people find leg hair disgusting?
Must we live our lives worrying about offending people who object to the very fact of our existance because we aren’t just like them?
I think not. Protect the children, yes. Protect the sensibilities of others? No. THEY are grown-ups. They can protect themselves. Head-in-sand works very well for that purpose.
By the way, most of Jennie’s work could be considered ‘porn’ by someone so inclined. Shall we censor her to ‘protect’ them from themselves? Or maybe, if they don’t like it, they don’t have to look at it.
@Barbara Paintings frequently refer to live models or to photographed models so I think the same level of exploitation applies – or is it that most paintings are less realistic and therefore less confronting? I think they have to be treated as the same as the intent is still the same regardless. I do wish we lived in a perfect world though – or at least a less puritan one.
because the fundamentalists can protect themselves,insulate themselves away from everything they consider offensive and lead generally happy lives – it’s when they try to enforce their beliefs on me that I get upset.
@Allnudist lol! I guess that’s why myspace toasted me (not that I’m still bitter..) but yes noone can decide for anyone else what is appropriate or offensive, we have to decide for ourselves and the joy of living in a free society is that we can. we can choose not to look. we can choose not to like something – but we can’t choose that for someone else – and boy I wish people would stop trying!
love the links too 🙂
Worth a thousand words…
Link to interesting video about Bill Henson’s photographic work:
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Irrespective of what percentage of the population that views the image finds them erotic or not, I can see a basic problem with the fact that underage people stripped naked in front of a stranger and then were photographed.
Imagine I put an add in the paper “45 year old fun loving male is looking for 13 year old girls to visit him and strip naked so he may photograph them in a non sexual way”. Even if I never published the thousands of photos I take during a photo shoot, I am sure the police would be really interested in what I took and may press charges anyway.
Considering Bill probably did not publish every single photo he took, can we be certain that some of them did not have a hint of a seductive nature? Child pornographers get busted for the images they take and have in their posession, not for the images they publish to the public. If I was running the investigation, I know where I would be looking for further evidence.
Lol From those of you kept on saying ” we should protect the kids”‘s point of view, all underage nudity should be banish under any circumstances. Interesting… funny how there are ads of a dozen babies showing their butt and tits and you bare them just fine. if today i took a photo of a babies dick and make the picture 10 times larger, would u call that porn then? Get a life.
You see what you see, if you look at them artistically, these are beautiful, crafted, artworks. if you look at them with dirty mind, any thing not just those showing in the gallery, but anything, could be pornographies for pedophiles to you.
As for those who has a problem with young girl stripping in front of a PHOTOGRAPHIC ARTIST, and not just a random, a RENOWNED one, without any mean of force and contact being made to the kids that were photographed , I hardly see it as a problem. But again, if the guy starts masturbating half way through then we might have a problem.
“I know where I would be looking for further evidence.”
In London they would go through every single little bit of data on every computer and data device they could find.
“Ergo, all types of images should be banned lest someone find them arousing.”
In London we kind of started with Bill Henson’s kind of photos. That kind of works out as a good way of keeping things nailed down. Which is why Bill can’t exhibit his little girl photos there.
“I bet this insane bitch”
Because I really can’t be bothered going back to each individual post to followup the comments I want to follow up, I’m going to do it here (I’m lazy like that)
As for the suggestion of portraying adolescent fragility and vulnerability by taking photos of naked parents/grandparents/etc with clothed children … how would this be less “pornographic” or “paedophilic”? In some ways it seems worse. If you take the point of view that the kids don’t know any better and the adults do, then isn’t it worse that there is the charade of keeping the kids “pure” by them remaining clothed whilst all the adults are waggling their rude bits at these minors? In some ways, this might be considered far worse as the parents/grandparents/whatever are taking a very active role in this, rather than just allowing permission.
The statement that art is not needed and other animals survive without it … is that what you want from humanity? Mere survival, without taking into account any of the psychological aspects that make us different from any other life form on Earth? Being married isn’t needed for survival, yet married men live longer than single or divorced men. Having a pet isn’t needed for survival, but the general health and wellbeing of pet owners is measurably superior to that of those who have no animal interactions. Keeping an active mind helps to fend of dementia, the colour of your bedroom walls affects how you sleep at night, yet crossword puzzles and blue paint aren’t needed to survive either. And these are just some scientifically studied, measurable differences that aren’t based on “needs” (if you don’t believe me, go search PubMed).
There are a few other things to add, but I’ll do that later. Right now I need to have another coffee before I go to work, not for my own wellbeing and survival but for the wellbeing and survival of anyone I encounter while by caffeine levels are sub-optimal.
I’ve made more money than Bill from the same thing, art, what NAVA and Bill are asking for are the pimping rights, so the idea of agency is out the window if only NAVA and Bill get to do the pimping.
If they have agency, then a group of 13 girls can sack their pimp, be it Bill Henson or whoever, and go into business themselves. What’s a gallery web-site, how’s it different to Bebo or whatever? That’s just posing for the Oz rustics!
I’m from a history of heroin chic, manufactured gender, the latter, means surgery, or even suicide as art, which in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, was as diverse as one needed to go. But, Bill in using kids in his corpse photos, or child erotica, it is too much. But don’t call me a conservative.
The main prob for Bill or NAVA, is that, hick thing, they’re not good enough for New York, and too strange to stay in cow-town.
I am against exploiting children in any manner, but I can see Mr. Henson’s point of view. The pictures shown are of nude adolescence. But there is no theme of seduction. I am certain however, that Mr. Henson is pushing the limits, merely in a grey area.
I believe the real issue here are the parents. It is a parent’s obligation to guide their children to a right and safe path. I am not saying that these pictures are wrong, but I am suggesting that the parents have full control of their children’s perceptions, and mostly at that age of adolescence, and that it is wrong to place their child on the spot like these parents have.
The real question here is whether the parents have the right to showcase their children to the public, in a manner that may cause harm to them in present or future. Or whether it is us, as a community’s choice, to determine whether what is right and wrong without afflicting the rights of others, as should a democratic community.
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I was thinking the same, but again we know better now and all these priests and nuns must have been perverts !Next we have to request that boys and girls wear a burka and a candelabras ! and no more swimming please ! What a world !
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