Bill Henson revisited

11 Apr

I’m putting this upfront again because a new discussion has opened up as a result of my piece in the Drum yesterday on Robert Crumb and Hetty Johnson.

Bill Henson by publik 16 via flickr

Bill Henson has a new photographic exhibition at the Tolarno Galleries in Melbourne.

The usual suspects, who art critic John McDonald calls the “despisers of the body” (Spectrum, April 9-10, 2011) have taken up cudgels against Henson’s images.

Interestingly, two prominent objectors, journalist and media researcher Nina Funnell, and Christian conservative Melinda Tankard Reist, both admit they haven’t seen the exhibition, however Reist says she has seen previous works and she knows what Henson is up to.

I haven’t seen this exhibition either, so am in no position to comment. What I do object to, however, is the conservative attitude that any depiction of adolescent nudity is pornographic, and the implication that everyone who views the images of adolescents is doing so from the perspective of a paedophile. That is, the danger they perceive is that all viewers will be sexually aroused in an inappropriate manner, and will want to sexually engage with the young people depicted in the photographs.

Therefore, the photographs  are “a catalyst for forbidden desires” to quote McDonald again, and  as such, should be censored.

Objectors such as Funnell and Reist have as their basic assumption that the young person’s body can only ever be viewed as a sexual object when portrayed in Henson’s photographs, even when they haven’t actually seen them.  They do not allow for any other understanding or interpretation, such as those Henson himself has advanced that are to do with his interest in capturing the liminality of adolescence, and revealing the young person on the threshold of immense change, in the throes of  all the uncertainties and ambiguities that accompany this state.

In the world view of the protestors, there is no room for any interpretation other than the sexual, and they urge all of us to view the images through the eyes and with the imagined desires of the paedophile.

There is something very alarming about their perspective, and something even more alarming about their urgent need to thrust that perspective on everyone else. Funnell tells us breathlessly that Henson’s images are known to be collected by paedophiles. Well, so are Target catalogues picturing little kids in their undies. Does this mean we must order and censor the world around us according to the base desires of the perverted? Does this mean that anything likely to appeal to the paedophile’s gaze must be obliterated from our cultural landscape?

Or are they arguing that any gaze directed towards photographs such as Henson’s is inherently paedophiliac, simply because the owner of the gaze directed it there in the first place?

This attitude turns everyone who visits the exhibition into a vicarious paedophile. It defines all visitors as abusers. It suggests that all those who view the images are compelled to adopt the perverted gaze to the exclusion of any possible other.

And this is what makes people like Funnell and Reist dangerous. They see a world comprised of sexual predation and abuse, and are unable to allow the legitimacy of any other vision. For this reason alone, they should not be trusted in the matter of Henson’s work, anymore than one would trust a paedophile’s limited and distorted perspective.

67 Responses to “Bill Henson revisited”

  1. gerard oosterman April 11, 2011 at 10:11 am #

    K.Rudd’s comment at the time, was such a disappointment. I remember, many years ago, finally getting P.Keaton as a PM. He loved Mahler. antiques and Paris, good architecture. He , at one stage being exasperated with everything provincial, named Australia as being ‘the arse end of the world’. He was one of ‘us’.
    K.Rudd,s alignment with Hetty Johnston threw us back to the days of banning Portnoy’s Complaint.
    As a pre- teenager, I used to get raging erections sitting at the back of those vibrating double Decker diesel buses, especially the 402 to East Balmain… Luckily they did not ban buses then.


    • Jennifer Wilson April 11, 2011 at 10:15 am #

      Gerard, your last comment made me laugh out loud. I wonder if there was some exceptionally sexy quality about the movement of the 402 to Balmain?


  2. Tiga Bu April 11, 2011 at 10:48 am #

    I remember seeing my first Henson ‘mini-show’ at Plimsoll Gallery in Hobart. His images were truly moving, and I remember too the feeling of post-Apocalyptic mire that descended upon me in seeing them. They were, are, brilliant images; full of dirt, dankness, rancour and transfiguring angst. Just what adolescence is like in so many ways.

    My own children are now in this inbetweenness of life, the long, often awkward shuffle from childhood to adulthood, and there have been many moments when Henson’s images have come to mind when hearing how my children describe their mental state. To us looking in from the outside, they seem to be living lives of purity and light, while inside their lives are in turmoil, and resemble the picturescapes of Henson’s imagery.

    I showed my son one of my Henson books – he was gobsmacked; here, contained in Henson’s strangely disturbing but beautiful images, were the ‘words’ my son was looking for. “This”, he said, “this is how I feel most of the time…” And at last we had words we could understand.

    Funnell and Reist might like for us to not view these images, because these images from Henson can represent the inner hell that our adolescents are going through, and this, I suspect, is too much for their fundamentalist world view to take in.

    For me, Henson has given me my son back, when for many of us around him, we thought he was lost forever.


    • Jennifer Wilson April 11, 2011 at 2:11 pm #

      This is such a great comment on the power of art, and the love of and for children – thank you for posting this – thank you.


    • Dominic April 26, 2012 at 1:52 pm #

      His images are pedophiliac garbage.


  3. gerard oosterman April 11, 2011 at 10:53 am #

    The 402 to East Balmain was a long and torturous trip. Those old buses would lurch backwards and forwards. Of course, in time I came to realize there had to be more to sex than the double decker diesel.
    Enjoy your time in the US.


  4. PAUL WALTER April 11, 2011 at 11:19 am #

    Blame the press for running it.
    This emotive, prurient stuff appeals to the “tuned” masses. It’s a society suffering from tabloid induced attention deficit syndrome and shame on Fairfax and their coldly exploitative op ed pals for peddling it.
    Keeps the public steamed up, as good agitprop should, minds off real issues, but..


  5. Matthew April 11, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

    Can Tankard Reist and Funnell be charged with necro equine sadism? As soon as the Classification Board rated the Oxley9 exhibition photos “G” and “PG” and having a “mild impact” back in June 2008, it was all over. David Marr couldn’t find any former Henson models and parents of children who were treated badly or regretted being models. No one was charged in the Oxley9 incident, no artist has ever been charged of sexually abusing child models in this country. So, for crap’s sake, can they just give up already? It’s dead, so stop beating the crap out of the old mare.

    I think it’s rather telling that the only photos Tankard Reist can come up with to prove her point are the same two photos she’s been using as examples for more than a two years. The first is the Oxley9 invitation photo was rated “PG”, the second, the black and white image, is 25 years old. That’s it. That’s all they’ve got. I also tried to find evidence that paedophiles collected Henson’s work. Unless Funnell has got some inside info about this, there is no publicly available information which confirms this.

    The dills on her blog ask “Bill Henson has not photographed boys under the age of 16 totally naked and in sexualised poses”, yet a 30 second Google search brings up quite a number of Henson photographs of nude teenage boys. Arg, the stupidity, It hurts!


    • Jennifer Wilson April 11, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

      ha ha I like that – necro equine sadism –
      Like Keating said of somebody – Peacock I think – can a souffle rise twice, Nina?


  6. Steve at the Pub April 12, 2011 at 12:28 pm #

    Never heard of Bill Henson until the news coverage over the past couple of years. Never seen one of his exhibitions. Never likely to have the opportunity. Certainly never going to pay $25,000 for a print of one of his photographs (or for ANY OTHER photograph).
    He can show all he likes, & people can pay money to see his photographs all they like. I couldn’t care less.

    But if he enters the schoolyard of my school, looking at the kids playing, with an eye to photographing them naked, he’ll be gumming his food from there on in. Likewise the headmaster that allows/accompanies him would be well advised to be out of town (permanently) before nightfall.


  7. Arved April 12, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

    I posted a response to MTR’s article as a comment when I first saw it last week. MTR and her publisher (who seem to be different people) used to approve my comments and even answer questions I had about claims made in the articles.

    This is what I wrote on the 4th:

    Emily Sue, if you believe that, I strongly recommend you read ‘The Henson Case’ by David Marr, particular the chapter that deals with ‘N’ (the girl in the Oxley picture), and the lengths and depth of discussion that both Henson, her parents and her sister went to before a single picture was taken. He puts a huge amount of time and effort into reaching informed consent. The point of the work Henson does on this area, is to capture that period of transition in all our lives as we move from child bodies into adult bodies. It’s a period where we are generally uncomfortable with ourselves and our bodies, distance ourselves from our parents and experience large amounts of emotional turmoil. For parents, this time can often feel voyeuristic and distant as well. It seems to me that the only time that N was treated as an object was when her image was decried, described as absolutely revolting and otherwise denounced, without taking into account, or even considering, her feelings towards them or the deep contemplation she put into making the decision in the first place.

    Look, I agree this is a difficult area, but I see a huge danger in blindly condemning everything. If you’re going to say that no child is capable of making a decision on a matter like this, then you’re hard pressed to allow any child actors, singers, athletes, or any other ‘decisions’ that children make. Is the 15 year old champion gymnast really capable of making that choice and the years of training they must already have under their belts to reach that level of performance? Is the 11 year old cast in a movie as the plucky, smart alec kid really capable of making that decision? Consider also that the age of consent in the ACT is 10 years old, provided your partner is no more than 2 years older. While it may not be the choice parents would make, it is difficult to say that it is the wrong choice for everyone who happens to make it.

    The real problem is that this is all on a continuum. There is no thick black line between being helpless, and incapable of making any informed decision, and being capable to do so. Many 15 year olds who are fully capable of driving responsibly, while there are many 25 year olds who still aren’t. 18 is essentially arbitrary as a milestone for adulthood, and really only valid because it works well enough in the majority of cases.

    As to the second issue, I have big problems with the elevation of the pedophile gaze. I do not think it is helpful to take the stance that everything must be examined as a pedophile would see it to decide if it is acceptable. That forces me to think like a pedophile, which is not something that appeals or comes naturally to me. It inevitably leads to problems, like we are already seeing, of grandparents being charged for having naked pictures of their grandchildren playing in the bathtub. Problems like parents not being able to take pictures of their children playing in team sporting events. Problems like men no longer feeling comfortable going to the aid of a child in obvious distress for fear of being mislabeled. Personally, I never saw the Oxley pictures as anything approaching pornographic. Indeed, I’ve found them hauntingly beautiful. The closest they’ve become to pornographic to me, is when I see them reproduced with black bars, implying there is something that needs censoring underneath. (As to the other picture, I agree that looks more concerning, but I’ve never seen it anywhere in context.)


    • Jennifer Wilson April 12, 2011 at 5:12 pm #

      Arved, did MTR publish this?
      I think your comments about when these pictures become pornographic are spot on – when they acquire the black bars.


      • Arved April 12, 2011 at 5:59 pm #

        No. She used to publish my comments, but recently everything I’ve commented on has ended up ‘awaiting moderation’ indefinitely. But, hey, her space, if she doesn’t want to publish my comments, so be it. I just found it interesting as at least one comment asked to hear from ‘the other side’.

        I can’t take credit for it. It had been percolating in the back of my mind for a while, when it was crystallized by something I read. I think by Clarissa Smith, but I’m afraid I can’t find now.


  8. gerard oosterman April 12, 2011 at 1:05 pm #

    I suppose that’s why you call yourself Steve At the Pub. Have you tried Antabuse?


  9. Steve at the Pub April 12, 2011 at 4:38 pm #

    Er… Gerard, have I missed something. I am unable to grasp the connection between my chatname (taken from my profession) & being a diligent member of the P&C Assn.

    It is not only publicans who won’t stand for strange men (& the teacher who invited same)walking around the school playground looking for nude child models. It would be EVERY father here, regardless of occupation.


    • Tiga Bu April 12, 2011 at 4:59 pm #

      Steve, I agree; if it was a strange man that approached my children’s school, I too would have some concerns. Yet, Henson was not a random stranger that was there to perve or take photos so he could run home with them and get his rocks off.

      Henson’s intentions are honourable, and as I note you have never seen any of his work, I think that hardly makes you fit to pass judgment on some fantasy you have concocted in your head about the nature or intent of his works, even more-so on the finished works themselves.

      I am a father, and as one of an “EVERY father here”, should Henson have approached my ‘children’ (via the parents and the school; the ‘children’ are never approached directly), then I would let my adolescent children have a look at his work, see what he is about and then let them have a say as to what they would do.

      Knee-jerk reactions to this are never productive, and yours is a classic example of despising something out of hand without actually doing any real thinking or investigation about the issue. I’ve seen far worse ‘sex-ploitation’ in Big W catologues than you’ll ever see in a Henson photograph.

      Do yourself, and your children a favour; go see an exhibition of Henson’s work, talk to others that have actually seen it, read the stories from the ‘actors’ involved. I can tell you this now, if you then decide you were right, then I would respect your view, but until then, it’s all just ‘pish and wind’.


      • Steve at the Pub April 13, 2011 at 5:27 pm #

        Tiga Bu,
        I disagree with you on a couple of points:

        1/. I don’t care WHAT someone’s “intentions” are. If an adult struts around a school playground scouting for kids to take nude photos of, they are engaging in most inappropriate behaviour, and can expect to be “cleaned up” by alpha male fathers. Likewise for the teacher who escorts said person.
        If you feel that the bulk of the nation feels differntly to me, pick a school & scout the playground for nude child models. See how it goes down. If Henson & David Marr think it is okay (as they both did) they could pop along to a primary school in, say, Lakemba and try it. Just see what happens to them.

        2/. Not having seen Henson’s output does not mean I am unable to have an opinion on the probity of someone scouting a school playground for nude models.

        3/. I won’t be ever seeing an exhibition of Henson’s “work”. (a) Because I am not interested, if I am going to look at an exhibition of photographs it has to be something very interesting, & naked kids is not something I could be bothered to look at. (b) There has not been, & never will be, a Henson exhibition within a thousand miles of me. That sort of exhibition never makes it out of the big smoke.


    • gerard oosterman April 12, 2011 at 6:38 pm #

      S a t P
      You stating, never having heard of Bill Henson or seen his work is hardly an encouragement to take critique of him such as yours seriously. When combined with your ‘chat name’, I took some liberty in knitting both together.
      Somehow,I still think the school yard is a safer place for kids to be than pubs and would rather have Bill Henson around my kids than a strange publican…


      • Steve at the Pub April 13, 2011 at 5:34 pm #

        Of course I had never heard of Henson until he controversially made the news a couple of years ago. Neither had almost everybody else in Australia. His is a very niche genre. (Slim Dusty he ain’t).

        Schools are safer for kids than pubs? Hmm,.. kids get bashed in schoolyards, even bashed to death. Doesn’t happen to them in my place, & kids walk through every afternoon shortcutting home from school.

        Your thought processes are wavering perhaps, but nobody has suggested that I, or any other publican lurks around kids. Henson on the other hand has, without the knowledge of their parents, & certainly without their permission, scouted schoolyards for nude child models.

        Not sure how often Henson is in a schoolyard (scouting excepted) but I am often in one. The usual stuff, mowing lawns, putting up playground equipment, fixing the roof, etc. (I doubt Henson does any of this at his nearest school) I donate stuff for the P&C to raffle/sell, I help out digging garden beds, or new cricket pitches, fix leaking pipes in the dunny block, etc.

        Your suggestion that kids are unsafe around me is offensive & a stupid thing to say.

        How much do you help out at your nearest school?


      • terry ross February 20, 2017 at 3:06 am #

        the genius of bill is twofold
        1 his photography
        2 his method of gaining parental and teacher consent to get the child to consent easily considering the adult in their life approves of the said child undressing for an elderly male and being stared at through a lens for a few hours

        if bill was not well known no one would agree


  10. PAUL WALTER April 13, 2011 at 12:30 am #

    Arved, that means MTR is being a pig, to punish you for not having the same point of view as her. It’s a nasty and childish tendency that has crept in over time with blogsites.
    In short, you are being psyched out, guilt-tripped, don’t let them bug you with their cowardice, because it means they haven’t a ready answer for your questions and feel embarassed. But you needn’t suffer, for their lack of ability and consequent “transgression”, as they like to think of it..


    • Jennifer Wilson April 13, 2011 at 7:23 am #

      That nasty childish tendency will never creep into this blogsite! At No Place for Sheep, we’ll lambaste anyone! We have no favourites!

      Arved, if you ever feel like writing a post, guest authors are very welcome here – that’s an invite to everyone.


    • Matthew April 13, 2011 at 12:38 pm #

      No, I think MTR and her ilk live in their own little world where no one disagrees with them. When I discovered her about a year or so ago, I was amazed at how many comments got through which didn’t support whatever MTR was saying at the time. Those comments have been reduced to nil in the last few months, aside from the occasional short ones which say something profound like “You’re a dill” or whatever. But yeah, attack them with facts and logic and they’re pretty much buggered.

      This leaves her supporters to leave messages, which are kind of kooky for the most part. I particularly enjoy Jennifer Drew’s work. She loves the term “disposable sexual service stations” (in reference to how men treat women), and somehow manages to work it into anything she’s commenting about. I think MTR’s policy on publishing comments is pretty much silly for her in the long term. It just shows that her supporters are shrill bat shit insane loons. Comments on her articles outside her blog show that very few people agree with her anymore. And the ones that do agree are same few people that show up every time.


  11. PAUL WALTER April 13, 2011 at 3:58 pm #

    No, I was also wrong. These people are not individuated in the way that someone like Jennifer is, or for that matter someof the other more independednt woman working at blogsites. MTR is individuated to helplessness and cupcakery, emotional reactiveness and lack of self reflexivity and it’s its inevitable that she would become an accolyte to the likes of Devine.
    She’s the female equivalent of the dills at the Defence Academy who are also slaves to their own subjectivity and a good example of what informed feminists really dislike about the instilled state of mind of many women (and men) in culture and society.
    Paradoxically, it explains some some of the cold mercenary dishonesty common to the right commentariat. There is a typical inability to relate to people who are “different” to them and a lack of empathy for an “other”, derived of their inculcated lackof self understanding, ressentiment and disgust at this “other”and themselves.
    An emotional facility seems lacking and in some ways it’s to be regretted and to be sympathised with. They can’t help it any more than a road traffic victim can help luurching about on crutches. If these people have the courage to confront their inner fears, which their upbringing itself prevents them from doing, there is of course hope, but its hardly a full “lived live” to be hamstrung to a constantly defensive, fearful state of mind, short of a leap into the dark. as to learning to relate with other people.


  12. Tiga Bu April 13, 2011 at 6:21 pm #

    Steve, with apologies – I tried posting above…

    I refer you to my original reply for this story. I’d hardly call The Plimsoll Gallery in Hobart “The Big Smoke”, so yes, Henson’s exhibition did leave the safety of the Glitterati of Melbourne, Sydney and ‘The Wayside Tavern’ (somewhere) in Queensland.

    If by “Alpha Male Fathers” you mean blokes who like to compare dick sizes and punch first/ask questions later, then I’ll leave you to your puff and machismo. You, as an Alpha Male (read narcissist) are so sure that the rest of the nation agrees with you, perhaps you’ll go and ask Julia to step aside. Yet, I don’t think this is the real you.

    Maybe you should spend time talking to other folks outside your pub; a captive audience is rarely an objective one. My main point, Steve, is you can beat your chest all you like, but you don’t speak for me, and I highly suspect you’ve had nowhere near 8 million Aussie males through your pub.

    It’s obvious from your posting here, and on your own blog, that you like to see yourself as a caring man. I do see that you have a keen sense of humour and love what you do, but before you start thinking I’m pissing in your pocket and telling you it’s raining, think again. To pinch from your reply to Gerard, yes, I help out at my kids schools (two different grade levels), I teach, build, read and coach, but these are things done by my wife too. Small communities require us all to pitch in.

    Yet, to say that Henson must be some sort of twisted soft-cock for not doing these things (and how do you know by the by what he does and doesn’t do?) is to therefore equate men like my daughter’s best friend’s dad, who is a stereotypical computer nerd, albeit a very well-paid one. He is more of a danger to those around him with a hammer in his hand (O: At working bees, he’s in charge of the barby and drinks cart; he’s forbidden to touch anything resembling a saw or shovel, lest he take a hand or foot off.

    Just because all men can’t be hairy-chested and made of granite, doesn’t mean they’re not Real Men – it’s no the 1950s anymore, and we certainly aren’t in Kansas either. Is every Dad out there who is a photographer condemned to be labled a pussy in your eyes? You equate Henson’s work, by inference, with paedophilia and activities of that nature. Clearly, you either know something about both, or you know nothing about either, as the two are so far apart as to be night and day. Seeing as you’ve never seen Henson’s work, I expect it is the latter.

    Don’t condemn a man without establishing all the facts. You might be able to get away with that as licensee, but the bigger world looks unfavourably on such things, especially in a court of law, that’s why they call it circumstantial evidence.

    Not having seen Henson’s work means two things: 1/ You can safely bash him from a point of ignorance, and 2/ You don’t have the slightest clue about the ‘kids’ in his work. I reiterate my last point in the last post, until you’ve actually seen the work, which means letting down the Big Man front for a minute or two, confront the issues you have about your own fear of the unknown, you’re still just “pish and wind”.


  13. Steve at the Pub April 14, 2011 at 1:40 am #

    Whoa Tiga, Whoa!

    I’m not interested in bashing Henson (unless he won’t be warned off prowling my school playground). I’m not remotely interested in him. I couldn’t care less.

    I did not intend to equate Henson’s work with Paedophilia, though Henson doesn’t help his own case much by saying things like seeing kids nude (or is it photos of nude kids?) gives him a sense of erotica. (to paraphrase him). He seems to have ceased such statements since he made the news, so perhaps he doesn’t have as much of a tin ear for community standards as does his mate David Marr.

    Henson may take his roadshow to Hobart (hardly a village, but anyway) but he is unlikely to ever take an exhibition (a) out of the big smoke, & (b) within a thousand miles of me.

    There just isn’t a market for his type of stuff amongst the pragmatic. They aren’t interested in photos of kids with their kit off.


  14. Tiga Bu April 14, 2011 at 8:41 am #

    Steve, Giddy-up, giddyup! – you state “I’m not interested in bashing Henson (unless he won’t be warned off prowling my school playground). I’m not remotely interested in him. I couldn’t care less.” – and yet this is your fourth post on the matter, and each one more lucid and rational than the last, stating, at the very least, a desire to clarify your position on Henson, so I think you do care about Henson, or at least your interpretation of the perceived impact he is having on the ‘kids’ in the community. You care enough to stop sounding like an ‘A’ Grade arse hat ”But if he enters the schoolyard of my school, looking at the kids playing, with an eye to photographing them naked, he’ll be gumming his food from there on in. Likewise the headmaster that allows/accompanies him would be well advised to be out of town (permanently) before nightfall.” – just like the good Ol’Boys and the Sherrif’s of the Ilk of Earp.

    You don’t want Henson in your school’s yard; he might take questionable photos like this: School Yard or this School Yard Two. Ever heard of the ‘male gaze’, Steve, or been subject to the taint of accusation? It’s amazing what you can do when you take things out of context, innit?

    I’d be very interested to see the source of Henson’s statement that his photos “give him a sense of erotica” which, as you state, you’ve paraphrased, and is still miles away from “I like to photograph naked prepubescents because I find it dead sexy and I can sit in the dunny and have a wank over them” – the vast majority of Henson’s ‘kids’ are of consensual age, clothed or semi naked, and his ‘treatment’ of them is far more respectful than things I have seen done to ‘littllie’s’ in Fashion mags, sales catalogues and the various local skin mags and sites, also full of consensual-aged ‘kids’. There is a world of difference between the terms erotic, erotica and a galaxy when you begin to talk about pornography.

    Yes, Hobart is hardly a village, but it is still a minor outpost on the edge of the world. You’ve got small towns in FNQ with even greater populations, but the point is moot; Henson’s work has travelled to many regional galleries over the years, either solo or as a mixed showing, as well as many exhibitions overseas.

    Steve, your still doing the dick comparison thing when you state ”There just isn’t a market for his type of stuff amongst the pragmatic. They aren’t interested in photos of kids with their kit off” – so you’re pragmatic because you’re a Pub-owning, Alpha-Male who builds things for the local school and is Manly-man, and the rest, particularly those from the “Big Smoke” are all limp-wristed Nancy Boys? Is that the comparison you’re trying to draw here, Stevo? Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it. Once again, how do you know that any of the images created by Henson feature ”kids with their kit off” if you’ve never seen them? The linen of your protest has a few wrinkles in it, Ol’Son.

    Still, the main issue here isn’t you and I comparing ‘bra’ sizes; it’s the simple fact you will condemn a man to losing all his teeth through physical violence, rendering him incapable of ever enjoying your Salmon on Toasted Sourdough, with poached eggs and Hollandaise sauce, on heresay, and without ever having seen the work for which you would commit this crime against him.

    You’re obviously a real man, Steve; why not have the balls to take a look instead of hiding behind the ‘big blue shirt’, aye? Respectfully, you just might find something you weren’t expecting, like an informed opinion…


  15. Tiga Bu April 14, 2011 at 9:56 am #

    Lest I be accused of being an apologist for the man, I have to admit that I too have issues with aspects of Henson’s work (Shock, Horror etc., etc., I hear you say…) – Henson’s work is certainly controversial, definitely divisive, and absolutely stylelised. The formula that he has used remains essentially unchanged, and while this might seem like he has run out of things to say (I don’t think he has), my biggest issue is with how he chooses to say it.

    I don’t have issues with the nature, age or state of dress/undress that the ‘actors’ in his works are in, nor their settings, nor the emotive evoked by his use of the dark, dank, confusing, wretched settings that much of the work is set in. All of these things do speak to the place of adolescence that Henson is drawing our attention to, and it does it exceptionally well. The images are disturbing, not from a point of their being clothed/semi-clothed/semi-naked/naked, but because of the awkwardness of the settings. To look at Henson’s work is to see a stylelised representation of adolescent thought; midway through contemplating their navels, we see into a world we all remember well, while others of us still reside in this space.

    So, what’s my issue with his works? It is the type of physique that Henson continues to use. This has become his motif. The actors in his images are all thin, almost too thin, some looking deliberately drug-fucked which, rather than looking like an affectation, simply adds to the notion that the adolescent body is undergoing huge amounts of drug induced change, they just happen to be (mostly) drugs produced by the body.

    None of Henson’s actors/models are variously mesomorphic or endomorphic, they’re mostly ectomorphic, and this the one area where his work falls down. In attempting to create a representation of the changes occurring from childhood to adulthood, Henson casts them all as waif-like, and I think that this is, ultimately, the works undoing. My son fits the “mould” that Henson has cast for his oeuvre, but my daughter does not. When shown his work, her only comment was ”It’s all so repetitious; not all of us look like them, they look like skanks!” – and that pithy, straight to the point, assessment by my mid-adolescent daughter is the crux of the problem.

    Henson has committed the same crime that many have been accusing the mainstream fashion industry of for years now. Where are the slightly overweight, the overweight, the really struggling with their weight? Where are they? Henson takes even the study of adolescent angst and turns it into a Thinfest, and in doing so marginalises those who do not fit his ‘ideal’ of adolescent struggle.

    He may, and others might too, argue that this is how all adolescence see themselves, they all desire to be thin. To which I say, you obviously don’t have children who have come to terms with their morphology and the limitations that this imbues them with. Yes, my daughter would like to be thinner, but she never ever wants to be Henson’s version of it, and my cold-climate genes will ensure it.

    I know it is argued that he is attempting to catch the transition from youth to young adult to adult, and the cumbersome nubility that he attempts to create just doesn’t make up for the gross distortion of physical representation of young people in these age groups.

    Here’s the gotcha; I actually think that Henson has not been able to move beyond this stage in life; he is still an adolescent, a (late-adolescent) boy trapped in a man’s body, struggling to come to terms with his actual aging body, decrepitude creeping in, year by year.

    To Henson, adolescence were/are the Halcyon days, where the world was most interesting, it’s most challenging and it’s most rewarding. Of course the bloke is smart, intelligent, clever, a philosopher; he has made great steps into adulthood. I just don’t think he’s made it all the way. I can’t think why you would spend 30 years of your life ploughing the same, rich, rewarding, well-selling subject matter – he’s made his money, and will do for life. Unless of course you felt safe there; I think that’s the point. It seems that many people are happy for him to be there. I wish he’d let go and move on.

    For me, Henson’s failing isn’t anything to do with the supposed ‘sex-ploitation’ of these actors, rather it is his falling into (or, if I am kinder, is he commenting on) the same trap that Teen mags, mainstream media and the interwebs do when representing youth – thinness sells, thinness is attractive; thinness even if it’s covered in the dirt and grime of life, fetid and rank, still sells. There are are no alternatives, and this, I believe, is the real crime. Henson let’s down the very subjects he uses to tell his story, to sell his images, to pay for his next stylised trip down memory lane, and leaves in his wake all those who fail to conform to this view. In Henson’s world, we’re all at our dynamic best when we’re emaciated.


  16. Sam Jandwich April 14, 2011 at 5:36 pm #

    Tiga Bu, you may well be right. Bill Henson’s single-minded pursuit of his subject matter certainly suggets that he has trouble moving on from what may well have been the defining moments of his life. This is not unprecedented either… in my youth I used to enjoy an author called Yukio Mishima, whose idea of the peak of fascinating human perfection was a handsome young fellow on the cusp of manhood committing suicide by disemboweling himself with a sword (and we all know what happened to Mr Mishima… well, he waited until his early 40s, but still!).

    On that note, my intuition tells me that I wouldn’t be surprised were I to hear that Bill Henson had been put on underage sex charges. However that’s the problem with modern art: you can never tell what’s behind it. You can do anything as long as you can provide a convincing explanation for it, but what seems to be lacking is the overt earnestness or a clearly enunciated sense of purpose that existed up until, erm, well I don’t know precisely, because I don’t know much about art, but let’s say since the death of Picasso. I guess what I’m saying though is that it’s equally concievable that Henson has simply hit upon a formula that can make him rich with minimal effort, and like many aging rock stars he keeps churning out the same old stuff.

    But then, it does mean a lot to some people, which is why he can keep on doing what he does.

    But what I think is that, if he’s not contributing substantially to the general stock of cultural knowledge and understanding, then you have to start wieghing up the benefits and the drawbacks of having his stuff hanging around. Now I’m somewhat biased because I work in child protection, and every day I have to deal with the extraordinary damage that child abuse causes… and I have to say it makes me extremely uncomfortable to think that someone out there might see these pictures and decide that they want some for themselves. And the fact that Henson’s work isn’t particularly groundbreaking or meaningful kinda makes me think that its usefulness is outweighed by the possibility that just one child could be abused as a result of it…

    But then it’s not that simple, because if these pictures are not around to tip a child abuser over the edge then something else will. And so the reason I am supportive of the publication of these sorts of images is precisely because they cause controversy and public debate – because it is the controversy that prevents a culture of child abuse from developing (like it did in the late 70s/early 80s when David Hamilton was about. people thought that was art at the time…I think we learnt our lesson back then). It is the normalising of something that lets it get out of hand.

    And as for MTR et al, I read a very enlightening news story the other day which found a link between people’s psychology and their political leanings… and that conservatives tended to have a heightened response to being afraid of stuff! So that confirms what i’ve always thought… it’s her excessive fear of controversy that keeps MTR going.

    Um, does any of that make any sense whatsoever?? it’s been a long day.


  17. Sam Jandwich April 14, 2011 at 5:40 pm #

    Oh no, “it’s equally concievable”.

    I before e except after c, Sam Jandwich!!


  18. Tiga Bu April 14, 2011 at 6:01 pm #

    Thanks, Sam, and I concur with much of what you have said. With apologies to Jennifer, you might like to have a look my blog for a broader perspective on some of my feelings on this issue. Sound like a self-promoter, but I don’t want to be accused of overposting. Again, my apologies Jennifer (O:


    • Jennifer Wilson April 14, 2011 at 8:12 pm #

      Absolutely no apologies necessary, Tiga Bu – I put up a comment telling everybody to go have a look at your essay but I just realised I inadvertently put it in the wrong post – somehow went to “About” instead of Henson, because the ping ended up there for some reason –

      I love everybody sharing their stuff –


  19. Tiga Bu April 15, 2011 at 11:17 am #

    So, I have sent this comment for the third time in two days to MTR for posting on her Henson ‘article’, but she must be very busy at the moment:

    “Can we have a source and proof for this unsubstantiated statement, “Media academic and researcher Nina Funnell also reveals here that Henson’s images have been found in the collections of paedophilies”. Funnell doesn’t reveal anything, she just says it, which is, the last time I looked at the law, hearsay, and not proof. Will you reveal where she got this information from and ask her to provide actual evidence that this is the case? Thank you.”

    At least I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she is rally busy, and not just really bigoted.


    • Jennifer Wilson April 15, 2011 at 11:39 am #

      You are very generous, Tiga Bu –

      I’ll keep hoping – thus far nobody who’s asked for sources has ever been given one by that crowd, as far as I know!


    • Jennifer Wilson April 15, 2011 at 1:03 pm #

      Just got another piece up at the Drum opinion – fighting the good fight against those who would control us!


  20. dom June 13, 2011 at 6:27 am #

    I went to the VCA while Bill Henson was studying there.
    At that time he was taking pictures of
    underage ‘rent’ boys who came from abusive backgrounds. He was very proud of the fact that he made these boys ‘come/ejaculate’ on the lenses as he took the photos.
    He would show off these pictures to our then photography tutor, Mark Strisic who was in his seventies, a gentle and dignified soul. I sincerely hope he never realised what he was looking at. I found Bill Henson to be arrogant, exploitive, and totally unconcerned as to any negative effect he might be having on his ‘subjects’. Not only that, he blatantly ripped off his chiarusco style off one of my fellow students. At the very best, he is guilty of exploiting the young for his ‘shock’ art, and thats the best. I note that his subjects get younger. Ive mentioned this before and now again because in my experience his motives have nothing to do with ‘truth’ in Art, but its very difficult to say that without howls of ‘Censorship’.
    In the end it has to be approached as a case by case situation. If one looks carefully and takes it in context, the motivation of the ‘Artist’ is usually apparent. The notion of the Artist as some kind of ‘enfant terrible’ who can get away with exploiting others pain[and possibly their own psychoses] for their own self glorification, should perhaps be challenged- And the members of the ‘Art establishment ‘ as well as celebrities who cry out against censoreship might do well, not to leave their humanity and common sense at the door.


    • Jennifer Wilson June 14, 2011 at 7:22 am #

      Hi, Dom, I’m interested to read a perspective on this work I haven’t heard about before – thanks for adding to the comments.


    • ruth2graham April 25, 2017 at 6:02 pm #

      We can refer to psychology and expert advice on the Rights Of the Child and research tells us that child exploiters take a mile if you give them an inch so breaching boundaries is a massive issue meaning they’ll kill the kids who complain and rape babies internationally. They are sick people and pushy addictive types with no boundaries and that is the alcoholic druggy/ addictive behavior persona. Other people have no interest in pushing boundaries all the time trying to get more than their share. This illness is inter-generational and part of a whole scenario of abuse and murder in the broad international sphere leading to war and terrorism, hideous conflict on the home front and generally the pigs aren’t worth it. They’re time wasters with no sense of respect for anyone to continue such dirty conversation all the time. They give venereal diseases to little kids and make small children impregnated until they rupture, preferring burkas on heads and silence victims of female genital mutilation. Evil is evil. Can you all look into lecturers at our Unis who promote this idiot like at Flinders and Tafe SA please get rid of this cult of retards.


  21. Visitor August 22, 2011 at 5:41 pm #

    Dear Jennifer, I have just read your article at The Drum and find it amazing. And a long time ago I have up reading blogs, for the vibe, mainly, behind the postings and comments. Your blog here has been delightful reading, and informative, for an hour! Thank you for sharing.

    The reason I write is to add a thought to those here. It’s not to take away from any other perspective, in any way.

    One thing about Henson’s work which is not well noted or understood, is that any adolescent would surely feel vulnerable etc etc (all the things says he wants to capture, that is) when taking their clothes off and being photographed. That “art” focus on Henson’s work is not a difficult thing to capture. It’s made out as though it’s something elusive. It’s not. Understanding the simple logistics of the photgrapher’s agenda, with that subject matter, will yield it what.. every time! Henson’s best “art” quality, the true unuqueness, is in his photographic technique: the qualities of tone, light etc. Definitely not the subject’s qualities.

    Then, the ther thing not noted or appreciated in this debate, is that Henson stands to gain reward for his choice of adolescent nudity, to an extent any artist yearns for. Fame, fortune, the wider viewing of his work. To understand Henson, that context has to be understood. Many artists choose not to use the naked, vulnerable adolescent to express the qualities Henson says he seeks. Bluntly, it’s a short cut to reward, of a most definite nature (career path). That, rather than the subject matter per se, could be considered grotesque and abhorrent, especially if there’s any subterfuge about his reason for that subject matter, ie the art.

    Personally, I believe artists who capture those adolescent characteristics without nudity far more brilliant, far more worthy of the term artist (in that they seek and reveal), than Henson. Were this discussion to be had, much benefit indeed could be found in art, and us. And it would help us better understand Henson’s work and his place in our lexicon.

    This is not to take away from any art in Henson’s work, merely to provide other perspectives.

    Thank you again for your public efforts. All the best.


    • Jennifer Wilson August 23, 2011 at 6:45 am #

      Hello, Visitor – I’m really glad you’ve enjoyed the blog –
      I find your perspective on Henson intriguing. I’m not a great fan of his work, and you’ve probably explained to me why that is, at least in part. I do defend it against those who would see it censored because it offends their morality.
      I’ve experienced some of Henson’s adolescent images as bordering on the sentimental, and even a bit cliched.
      I think what you’re saying about his work is very close to what I wanted to say in the article – the “commodification” lies not in the “sexualization” of the subjects, but in the co-option of their bodies to the artist or the corporates’ agenda of promotion and profit. A much more interesting and challenging conversation, as you say.
      Thanks again for the compliments and the encouragement.


  22. Visitor August 23, 2011 at 11:00 am #

    Yes, it’s those elements which come across with Henson. You express it very clearly.

    One thing which is intriguing, too, is – excepting the zealous elements – the wider public can pick up on these things. Even if they are not used to reflecting on themselves, through art; and/or if not used to delving into art itself. I do think it’s provident to not underestimate the general public, given that public is not art conversant.

    Media, naturally, plays a role in this. The ingredient lacking, publicly, is the artists-of-commitment (to those or other contentious strivances) who choose not to take the easy/assured/cheap-shot path for reward. I do believe that, bottom line, it’s not Henson’s “art” elements which are the source of contention, but that sense there is exploitation there from a career perspective.

    After all, how many years must an artist pursue the same strivance, without showing signs of growth? Monet painted waterlillies for twenty years.. but look at what that seeking delivered. An artist knows when the work is not showing results of growth or development, so continuance of that theme can fairly be ascribed to other reasons for its pursuit.

    Enjoy your writing.. best wishes and thanks.


  23. Visitor August 23, 2011 at 11:40 am #

    ps.. if I may… would you like to run a mental experiment?

    Imagine you would like to capture the innocence, vulnerability, uncertainties etc of the adolescent.

    What process would you have to undergo?

    You’d have to source your subjects. The people who will take off their clothes and be photographed. Imagine, then, when finding possible subjects, the discussions you’d have to have: with them and their parents. Imagine the explanations you’d be making. Your tone of voice, what you say, your assurities, your concerns…..

    Some moments consideration of that, and can you imagine, then, the private “building up” of emotions within that child, through that drawn-out procedure? (As an aside, is that a form of abuse?) In any case, those children go to bed at night pondering the very elements which you, as their potential photgrapher, wish to capture. Are they able to process those elements? We could safely assume not, given the parents must consent. The parents process those elements on behalf of the child, and make their decision. That is further proof to the child they cannot handle what is coming their way, upon their “approval” as well, further building up those uncertainties and vulnerabilities.

    Would the child talk about it with his or her friends? “I’ve been asked to be photographed!” how does that make them feel amongst their peers. Wow! Would it not? Add perhaps “by a famous! photographer”. Imagine the complexities you’ll be able to capture once those emotional additions are made.

    By the time that process has unfolded, no matter the guise of the scene setting, that child is ripe for photographing and capturing those elements. Is Henson brilliant at unearthing these emotions? You tell me!

    As a counterthought.. Imagine merely asking a child to take their clothes off, no build up. Would you get vulnerability/uncertainty etc anyway? Any reasonable person would expect you would.

    Those logistics and processes are not widely considered, nor brought into the public realm, in consideration of Henson’s “art”.

    I’d be interested in your response, if this invites one. Thanks again.. it’s very difficult, nigh impossible, to have these dialogues reasonably, and your thoughts and efforts appreciated most certainly. It’s not a big thing for me, as the above seems very unfair artistically, as it’s reliant on other peoples’ processes and inability to process in order to obtain an artistic result, and therefore carries little respect for me. I prefer artists who do all that themselves!

    Best wishes.


    • Jennifer Wilson August 23, 2011 at 8:04 pm #

      I want to think your observations through before I respond to this post, Visitor.


    • Jennifer Wilson August 24, 2011 at 8:42 am #

      The question of a child’s agency in these situations is a thorny one. All of the considerations you raise are legitimate, and If I was the parent of a child in such a situation, I’d have some restless nights.

      I don’t perceive the body as needing to be concealed, as a site for the performance of modesty, as anything other than innocent. It is ladened and burdened with moral frameworks of various kinds, but these are an imposition, not inherent. So in theory I don’t see anything wrong with what Henson does.

      At the same time the adolescent, perhaps more than at any other time in our lives, lives in a world that can be extremely rigid, and demanding of conformity. So it’s impossible to make a decision without considering the habitus in which the decision is taken. While the parents may be fine with their child posing for Henson, public opinion, especially of the kind perpetuated by Johnson and MTR, will seep into the child’s experience. What effect does this have?

      The bottom line is, parents are responsible for making these decisions. There isn’t anything illegal about what Henson does. Some of his images are beautiful, others I feel are verging on the sentimental and cliched. As you wrote earlier, it is perhaps more challenging for the artist to convey what Henson seeks to convey without using nudity. The subject would indeed be in a different frame of mind if clothed. Then again, nudity itself speaks powerfully and provocatively.

      I have no answers. It’s a dilemma for the parents to resolve. The problem I see is essentially with moralistic attitudes to the human body. These are deeply ingrained and passed off as “natural.” While anyone might choose to conceal or reveal their body, neither can be done without incurring constructed value judgments. It is in this fraught atmosphere that Henson’s subjects and their parents agree to pose for the artist.

      The child him or herself is the arbiter of whether or not they have been abused and exploited, by Henson and or parents. For many, this aspect may not become apparent until later in their lives – obviously neither Henson nor parents consider this to be abuse, otherwise they wouldn’t do it. Would they? Society trusts parents to protect children from abuse and sometimes parents fail to do this in all kinds of ways. I have no idea what passed between Henson’s models and their families –

      Isn’t all photography dependent on the subject’s processes and lack of them? I’m thinking of Arbus, Adams, etc etc etc.


  24. Visitor August 23, 2011 at 8:37 pm #

    Appreciated, Jennifer. And I should add that the mental exercise proposed above is derived from a single media article about Henson, and by that measure is really in the land of assumptions and not clear fact. I don’t know how Henson operates. It is an interesting mental exercise, in any case.


  25. gettingreal12 November 10, 2012 at 12:02 am #

    Mr Henson has longstanding form as a kiddie photographer with evidence of that form mainly inaccessible to the public to examine for itself per favor his lawyers and publicists. McDonald and his ilk are either sycophantic dupes or dedicated foot-soldiers in an art world cover-up. The 2010 Sydney show, mostly innocuous landscapes, was cunningly submitted by Oxley to ACMA and passed, apparently leaving no legal requirement to submit the 2012 show, which once again depicted naked under-age kids (scattered among older teens) that were probably sourced offshore to minimise controversy. There’ll always be a market for pouty nymphets and fey rent boys: the 2011 Tolarno show was pretty rugged and caused a few ripples but his return to the establishment fold has been a triumph of after-care, smart marketing, media schmoozing and cronyism such that this creep is once more clear and free. It’s a risque boundary-riding game and it is what you don’t see – the patient grooming, studio processes and what is left on the roll – that really matters. One thing’s for sure – there’ll be a lot of embarrassment among the arty glitterati when someone calls game over.


  26. hudsongodfrey November 10, 2012 at 10:32 am #

    What’s this allusions to things that might be defamatory in relation to the Artist in question, wrapped up in a belated attempt to incite and rankle those of us who’ve seen through your taboos and prejudices an had the temerity to reject them.

    I’ll say it again. There’s nothing wrong or pornographic about admiring the human body at any age. There are just the misplaced fears and urges of those who project wrongdoing onto images of innocence. The art is beautiful in parts, challenging in others and rewarding in both aspects. Get over it!


    • Anonymous November 10, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

      It’s plainly ob\/ious that pedophiles and their supporters[of any stripe]
      can and will rationalize this garbage with any rhetoric they find usable.

      In the process,they use re\/erse psychology to defame and point the finger of guilt at those of us that still possess any sort of morality.
      typical of the Age we cureently exist in,where filth is exalted,and \/irtues are spat upon by the socalled liberals.


      • hudsongodfrey November 10, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

        You say all that while choosing to defame and deride with vitriol and invective rather than making a case for a morality you say you possess but fail so pathetically to defend.


        • Hypocritophobe November 10, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

          I suspect the pseudonym Getting real may point to the author.The following one is likely the same BACWA dweeb who forgot to insert the pseudo or email the second time around.
          Everyone is a paedophile until proven otherwise, according to the mentally challenged, tub thumping, Neanderthal, crucifier worshipping,,guilt tripping angst ridden, nimrods.

          Quite ironic considering the loudest critics of Henson are church affiliated, and at the end of the spectrum where the paedophiles are most rife,evil and protected.


          • Anonymous November 10, 2012 at 3:16 pm #

            Fuck you,and fuck hyper as well.


            • Hypocritophobe November 10, 2012 at 3:40 pm #

              Thank-you dear girl for your hearty endorsement.Another badge of honour to proudly display to the knuckle-dragger’s, like your good self.
              Give my love to your little inward voices.

              Or was your comment an invitation?


            • hudsongodfrey November 10, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

              I assume gettingreal12 and the two anonymous posters are the same person here.

              So I will say this for you, that it is seldom someone we might otherwise take for a troll goes screaming off into the ether yelling “F**k you”.

              It seemed to me that you set out to needle and possibly to offend the sensibilities of anyone inclined to support rather than condemn Henson’s work. I am one such person and thought to offer my counterpoint.

              Your response was as disappointing as it is surprising. Pity you never engaged in a discussion of your objections since I’d love to have known whether they’d any substance.


            • paul walter November 10, 2012 at 9:56 pm #

              Anonymous, that is not very nice language.
              Are you are a bigot?
              “Heretics” indeed, went out with the Dark Ages and witch burnings.
              Or, so we thought.

              It is lucky that delicate and sheltered Hypo does not know the meaning of these naughty words.


              • Hypocritophobe November 10, 2012 at 10:13 pm #

                I think I can grasp “Fuck you,and fuck hyper as well.”

                Being called a heretic is a compliment coming from an ignominious felcher.
                As I said,Olympic Gold in the honourable, principled arena.
                The particular anonymous above is affiliated with the biggest problem area of the thing they pretend to condemn.


                • paul walter November 10, 2012 at 10:40 pm #

                  Modest, too.
                  I suppose it is the same troupe that has visited every few months in the past after sex has reared its ugly head.
                  Actually, this is a red-letter day.
                  I had never, in all my various wonderings previously come across the term “felcher”.
                  Following a quick google, must say am now enlightened and surely better off for it.
                  One is never so old that one knows all.


                  • Hypocritophobe November 10, 2012 at 10:51 pm #

                    And PW I am sure that somewhere out there is a life form lower (but not by much) than a Christian Conservative crying foul over Henson et al,while claiming the moral high ground as church paedophilia/cover ups/deception continue.
                    Oh silly me,I forgot the even lower life form who deliberately troll the media and internet and then deliberately start spot fires on topics as close to paedophilia,but as far from the church as they can possibly muster, in order to protect their toxic mates, with a pissant contra diversion.
                    Felcher is generous.Very generous.

                    I’m pleased in the knowledge that the longer this premeditated deception campaign and church denial goes on,the more people will walk away from generational religious deception.

                    Good News Bible?


          • hudsongodfrey November 10, 2012 at 4:06 pm #

            Be that as it may rhetoric involving imagined guilt by association with somebody defamed as a pederast is about as useful as the famous leading question, “when did you stop beating your wife?”

            As for arguments like F**k you Heretics, well need I say more about the heights of intelligent discourse those have scaled!

            Mostly you just get “its disgusting” or “as only a parent knows” by way of reasoning as to why their view of the human body is so tainted by this sense of repulsion. When asked if given a choice whether to see ourselves as beautiful or as somehow ugly soiled and fallen, arguments for supporting the latter option are conspicuous in the absence given that the choice people make is so frequently this negative one. At best I tend to hear, “well of course I think of the human body in a positive light, but I don’t really trust what others are thinking.” I think we could do better than that!


            • doug quixote November 10, 2012 at 6:36 pm #

              Mostly it is because they see themselves as sorely tempted by the very thing they seek to ban. Banning it is a defence mechanism, like the Islamists demanding the women wear burqas.


              • hudsongodfrey November 10, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

                It’s a theory that appears to have a certain logic to it, but people who are religiously motivated are often responding more to their need to cling to tradition than to the original, often redundant, reasons for such practices. Whereas in this case I think we’re socialising people to taboos that can be as unhelpful as they’re hard to shake and have been for some generations. I think we have to look inside our own culture to critique that one!


                • doug quixote November 11, 2012 at 12:52 am #

                  It doesn’t need logic! It turns the argument back on them :

                  “What are you scared of, that you might see some 13 yo nipple and be incited thereby to run out and rape the first child you can find?”

                  Ask that of the next bacwa idiot you come across!


                  • hudsongodfrey November 11, 2012 at 10:57 am #

                    That’s a good point Doug. I agree, and maybe I should have said so sooner. I was only really responding to the religious factor in terms of how traditions can act to reinforce behaviours in an almost counter intuitive fashion.

                    As for how any of us react to the nipples of teenage girls I think that the problem we have in agreeing that seeing one would not inspire us to embark on a transgressive rampage is that parents in particular remain disinclined to believe it of others. So no matter what we say we can’t seem to displace their fears and protective instincts by what they see as wide eyed optimism on our part.

                    There is a serious argument to be had here about the basic nature of human behaviour as to whether it is characterised by good intentions that are rarely divergent or bad ones that are barely suppressed. Strangely the least optimistic about our better angels seem to be numbered among the faithful. They seem to view their divine creator as a celestial policeman without questioning why a being that is purportedly beneficent would create us fallen and command us to be good rather than just engendering benevolence among her subjects. It’s a worry!


                    • paul walter November 11, 2012 at 8:03 pm #

                      Headless chooks, Hudson Godfrey.
                      The sky will fall in, in this Manichean conception: the stern and capricious God(s) must be propitiated in the ongoing disciplining and sacrifice of the wicked and unworthy.
                      The peril is daily increased as slackers abandon their sack cloth and ashes and put down their whips.
                      A new Crusade is required but it will conducted against Hensonists furtively looking upon slightly naughty photographs, rather than any scene of real offence within such sacred bastions of the establishment as
                      churches and schools, involving actual real people, crimes and suffering.


                    • hudsongodfrey November 11, 2012 at 8:54 pm #

                      I sincerely hope few if any admirers of Henson’s work need to be furtive though. I see no shame in an appreciation of it.

                      As for the Manichean view of good and evil, it seems to have more to do with picking sides and deciding who are the members of your team that it does with any critical appraisal of the situation. Weird stuff indeed!


  27. The Pedophile disguised as the artist August 7, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

    I suppose Streichers human skin lamp shades were “art ” as well .

    Liked by 1 person

    • ruth2graham April 25, 2017 at 6:04 pm #

      Joe Felber says he’s great Bill Henson and Will Nolan (photography lecturers) supports him at Tafe SA can you deal with the menace.


  28. ruth2graham April 25, 2017 at 6:13 pm #

    He’s well and truly in the libraries Henson but we can handle it if the issue being observed is historical and mandated as intensely critical from people who are basically psychologists trying to rid society of the problem.


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