What is an appropriate photograph of a naked child? Naked ebony close up jock be permitted to create it?
Where might it be viewed? Who should be allowed to look at it? Definitions of art and pornography are never more contested as when discussions based on these kinds teen questions are played out in the public arena. It is a situation that seems to arise perennially and often runs a similar course.
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In May an exhibition by Henson at the highly regarded Sydney gallery Roslyn Oxley9 was investigated by the police before opening to the public. The exhibition closure and investigations were extensively sturges in the Australian national media with many prominent cultural and political sturges making their views heard on the issue.
He goes on to chronologically chart and consider the course of the subsequent media activity, police investigations, and the crisis management employed by Henson, incorporating eye-witness reporting and accounts derived from interviews with various sources. Including art parent of the young model depicted in the confiscated images, members of the police force, journalists, child abuse campaigners and Bill Henson himself.
The photographs that were confiscated are portraits of a 12 year old girl.
Anthony LuveraScandalous Photographs of Children - Anthony Luvera
She is depicted naked in swoon-like poses, her body appearing to jock out of a black background. Her posture and teen expression do not appear to be overtly sexual, nor does she mimic an expression of adult sexuality. However the chiaroscuro of the controlled lighting used by Henson to illuminate her naked body might be interpreted as imparting a sensuous or provocative tone to the imagery.
For over thirty years he has created a prolific body of work that predominantly depicts aestheticized imagery of young people juxtaposed with architectural studies and landscapes. He has also come under much criticism for what might be read as the disempowered representation of women and young people proffered in his imagery.
Often his models are naked or semi-clothed, nude in blood, dirt or sweat and pictured in postures suggestive of the aftermath of drug use, sex or violence. In providing an account of the machinations of the media and the spruiking of politicians and campaigners, and the symbiotic play of the two, The Henson Case presents an insightful snapshot of the manufacture of public nude around art issue of photographic representation of naked children.
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The presentation of the photographs obscured by provocative cropping, pixilation and black bars essentially transformed the images into something significantly different to the actual works of art presented in the gallery.
Western civilization has always relished the bodies of young people and artists will carry on producing representations of naked children.
How can we include the voices of children in this discussion?