The Henson Case

6 01 2009

David Marr - The Henson CaseBy David Marr
ISBN 978-1921520037  (Text)
Paperback, 2008

On Thursday 22 May 2008, Bill Henson, was preparing his new Sydney exhibition. It featured photographs of naked adolescent models. That afternoon, triggered by a newspaper column and outrage of talkback radio, a controversy exploded in response to these images.

The exhibition opening was cancelled. Police raided the gallery, seized photographs and indicated that charges were imminent. On national television the Prime Minister described censored versions of the works as ‘revolting’. Public galleries began to remove Henson photographs from their walls.

Were these pictures art or pornography? While the artist remained silent, a national debate raged about paedophilia, censorship and the internet, about the police, the media and the morality of art. David Marr, one of Australia’s leading journalists, tells the story of this dramatic public trial. The book features eight photographs from the Sydney show.

My Take:
I thought the story was told well. At the time I read/watched little of the news related to the controversy, so David’s chronicle of events was helpful. The pictures don’t do anything for me, but seeing the originals (hanging in a gallery) might give a new perspective.

Last words (from the book):

Whether we enjoy such pictures has always been a matter of taste. Disputes over taste are not trivial. They involve complex contests of values, moral as well as aesthetic. But tastes differ. There are no final conclusions in this territory, no absolutes.

No pictures have been destroyed. They’re hanging everywhere. Public galleries are still buying them.




One response

6 01 2009

I see nothing wrong with nude photography, but don’t agree with using adolescents. Surely there are enough models around, not at such a tender age.

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