The recent interview and book about Bill Henson and the controversy in May has brought to light how Henson goes about searching for his models and has, in turn, caused it’s own furor of media activity. It appears that the powers that be are not content to have lost their favorite whipping boy and have dredged up all new ways to try to make Henson and his work shady and inappropriate.
the book, by Journalist David Marr, takes an in depth look at Bill Henson and some of his practices. I believe the interview in which Henson details how he chooses a model was designed to set people’s minds at ease, to show that it’s not arbitrary or sexual but a careful process involving the parents at every level. Unfortunately one of his methods has set off a whole new range of debates.
Henson was having trouble finding the models he needed for the Sydney exhibition due to open in May this year. Friends introduced him to the principal of a Melbourne primary school. This wasn’t the first time the photographer had been invited into schools in his search for models.
The media has been having a field day, asserting that Henson scoured the schools implying that no child is safe from the unsupervised depridations of deranged artists.
Australian Primary Principals Association president Leonie Trimper said it made no difference that the school principal accompanied Mr Henson, it was still wrong.
“It doesn’t matter which way you look at it, I think it’s still inappropriate,” she told AAP.
“Primary schools are not there to be a ready commercial market for individuals.
“I am not aware that parents knew this was going to happen, whether staff knew.”
Ms Trimper said the issue was a timely reminder about schools’ responsibilities to students and their families.
“I guess someone should sit down with the principal and have a talk about the protocols in their school and if it needs to be taken further, if there needs to be counselling for the principal, then I think that should occur.”
Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan said it was the ultimate betrayal of parents’ trust and someone ought to be sacked.
Mr Marr said Mr Henson was accompanied by the school principal at all times and he did not tell the children he wanted them to model for him or take any photographs.
“The only contact with the photographer was if the parents of the children wished to talk to him,” he told Sky News.
“The impression has been put about by Senator Heffernan and by others that he kind of roamed, roamed the playground unsupervised, perhaps interviewing children, perhaps photographing children.
“That is not the case. The impression that he is sort of loose in the playground is actually factually wrong.”
Mr Henson told Mr Marr he mostly found his subjects through friends or friends of friends.
The public outcry is what about privacy? what about our kids and their right to be kids? Now, I remember going to school and having talent scouts, model scouts and so on parading through, talking to the kids. it was highly competitive, a meat market if you will. I know that studios and actors still scout schools for likely children with differing levels of interaction with the kids. Henson, had no contact with the children. he was never unsupervised and never spoke to the parents directly. he pointed out the two children he was interested in photographing, the principal contacted the parents and the decision was left up to them- one family said yes and one said no. The boy who was photographed in the end was not photographed nude. there is a call for the principal to be sacked, for laws to toughen, but I don’t see that what he did was particularly wrong and definitely not illegal. what do you think?