Sunday, October 05, 2008

The bigots are at it again - Henson seeking photographic subjects

The artist Bill Henson's visit to a school to find young children he could potentially photograph is entirely innocent and the hysteria being generated by all sides of politics about it should stop.  What is happening is a Salem-type witch-hunt cloaked by claims of 'protecting children'. Now the unfortunate school master who apparently approved the visit is being persecuted.  There is no connection between the attractive art work produced by Henson and pornography and no link between  artistic interest in photographing children and pedophilia - the association being suggested by the bigots.  Henson is an artist who makes us aware of the ambiguous beauty of sexually immature children.  This is not something to suppress but something that, as a community, we should seek to understand.

It is unambiguously wrong to treat young children as sexual play-things but this is no argument for promoting hysteria about images of less than fully mature human forms who are of artistic interest. Moreover, to condemn an artist for openly seeking potential models - with both individual and parental approval - is unbalanced hysteria.

Liz Conor made perceptive remarks about the previous bout of Henson hysteria.

Bigots such as the anonymous Currency Lad make their usual sorts of claims. They apparently see the issue as one of 'children's welfare'. I think it is really their own narrow view of the world and possibly their upbringing.  What creates their fears? Tim Blair in an astonishing piece seems pleased that the principal concerned has apparently been sacked.

What children have been harmed by Henson in any way?  What harm is there in openly seeking subjects for photography?

Is it not true that children are beautiful and their bodies worthy of artistic interpretation and portrayal? Is the only response to Henson's art that which might be suggested by a police force or a criminal prosecutor? People who see things in this way should examine their own visions and guilts. Even if their desire is to protect children they do more harm than good by suggesting that merely portraying the human form is something wicked and to be eradicated. These bigots diminish us all.

Update: Peter Craven gets it right - Zealots rule.  Julia Gillard is more stupid than usual - it sends a shudder up her spine to think that people might visit a school to look at children.

26 comments:

Apu said...

HC- I find myself in complete agreement with you.The value or otherwise of Henson's output is not the issue,the standard to be applied for considering something obscene is the issue.
When the IOC can mandate the size of bikinis/underwear being worn by athletes and it does not raise any ire, when 18 is ok and legal to be a pole dancer and photographs at 16 is taboo, society needs to have a long cold shower before condemning the poor principal.

Spiros said...

Good on you Harry. This hysteria, unfortunately, reflects poorly on us as a nation. The politicians have been just appalling. I see even Malcolm Turnbull has joined the braying pack, after being good on the issue earlier in the year. Rudd has stayed true to his roots as a socially reactionary Queenslander. Gillard, cravenly, has missed an opportunity to be independent of her leader. As Peter Coistello can attest, that can be career-limiting.

Henson should sue anyone and everyone who has linked his photography to pedophilia.

Sinclair Davidson said...

"Henson should sue anyone and everyone who has linked his photography to pedophilia."

He'd have to bring the action in a jurisdiction that doesn't require a jury in defamation trials.

jc said...

Harry:

just out of curiosity could you articulate the difference between creeps getting jailed for having pics of naked kids on their hard drive and Henson's pics of naked girls hanging on a wall in a gallery?

I really don't see that much difference between the two other than the surrounds and the story that goes with them.

Henson obviously sees sexuality in young girls which is why he takes the pics. He's just as big a creep as the porn merchant peddling in pics of naked kids.

Spiros said...

"He'd have to bring the action in a jurisdiction that doesn't require a jury in defamation trials."

I agree.

Fortunately, the ACT has judge-only defamation trials.

Sinclair Davidson said...

How would the mechanics of that work? He's not normally resident on the ACT; he'd have to find someone in the ACT to sue. There is only one deep pocketed person in the ACT to go after, and that would be very, very risky.

Best to let it all blow over.

jc said...

Spiros

He takes pics of naked kids all too often. He's a sick fuck and ought to be treated like that.

But I guess hanging a pic of a 10 year old Romanian girl (that's where he goes to escape potential prosecution) in a gallery is art. Hiding one in your hard drive is a criminal act.

Yep that's a perfectly plausible explanation.

Spiros said...

"How would the mechanics of that work?"

Very simple. Nowadays, with the internet, everyone reads everything everywhere. This means you can sue for defamation anywhere. This is not my opinion. The High Court said so in Gutnick.

When Peter Costello and Tony Abbott were defamed in the book Goodbye Jerusalem, they successfully sued the publisher in the ACT in a judge-only trial.


"Hiding one in your hard drive is a criminal act."

In cases where people are prosecuted for having child porn in their hard drive, the photos are much more than just naked children, or so I am led to believe. The photos are of children engaged in acts of sex. There is a big difference.

jc said...

The coward goes to places like Romania to take pics of naked kids in order to avoid criminal prosecution in a regular western country. He also does it because he knows he has a better chance of success in places like that when he rolls out the cash.

Showing kids in suggestive poses is wrong. They're not adults and are not expected by the law to be making these sorts of decision.

It's not art. It's porn hung in a gallery to pretend it's art.

Spiros said...

"The coward goes to places like Romania to take pics of naked kids in order to avoid criminal prosecution in a regular western country"

JC, neither the national chief censor or the NSW DPP think Henson's photos are porn, and they ought to know.

"They're not adults and are not expected by the law to be making these sorts of decision."

Which is why it is always their parents who make these decisions.

Henson has been taking these photos for decades. Is there a single case where a child or their parents have complained about the images, or where the child some years later has expressed regret?

Jeez Louise, what a storm in a teacup. And what brilliant work by David Marr to get publicity for his book.

jc said...

big deal if the chief censor doesn't think the pics are diabolical.

It shouldn't be censored anyway.

However to present this nutball as some sort of artist is laughable.

What's amusing about the left is its inconsistencies. A few years ago we had the other nutball, Hives Hamilton, accusing David Jones of child exploitation for catalogues containing kids in swimwear.

David Jones is criticized while this nutcase is treated as some sort of artist.

jc said...

This is kid by the way, Spiros. Not an adult. A kid.


http://www.roslynoxley9.com.au/artists/18/Bill_Henson/458/38786/

It's also pretty lame of you to suggest the parents gave their consent. Is it Ok for parents to give their consent for a kid to have sex with an adult?

Spiros said...

JC, are you are equating posing for a photographer with having sex?

Let me spell it for you. In the one instance, one person stands still while the other clicks the shutter on a camera.

In the other instance, there are acts involving penises, vaginas, anuses, ejaculation, etc. Not the same thing at all.

jc said...

Ok Spiros;

Here's a deal for you. Lets see you go to a teenage girls dressing room at a local school, bring the camera with you and start clicking away. When the cops show up just let them know it was artistic expression.

Hansen was clicking away at naked young kids for so-called artistic expression . He's a sick fuck and deserves to be scorned not treated as some artist because he isn't.

And no, kid porn doesn't have to be about sex acts, Spiros. Naked kid pics are also considered porn and illegal.

But Hey, Romanian kids don't count.

Spiros said...

JC, for the 1001th time, Henson doesn't just click away, he gets the parents' permission. And the kids aren't forced into it either. So your scenario unfortunately doesn't wash.

"Naked kid pics are also considered porn and illegal."

You are wrong.

From the advice given to the NSW Parliament on 29 August 2008. http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/publications.nsf/key/ChildPornographyLaw

"Definitional issues: Definitions of child pornography can vary considerably, both in a legal context from one jurisdiction to another, and between legal and non-legal approaches to the subject. One source of ambiguity is that the legal definition of a ‘child’ varies between and within jurisdictions for various purposes. In Australia, child pornography legislation in some jurisdictions defines ‘child’ as a person under, or who appears to be under 16 (NSW, Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia), in others as a person under, or who appears to be under 18 years of age (Commonwealth, Tasmania, Victoria, the ACT and the Northern Territory). [3.1.2]

A further complicating factor for any definition of child pornography is the varieties of behaviour depicted. The narrowest definition would cover only depictions of actual children engaged in explicit sexual activity. In Australia, the various legal definitions of child pornography seek to accommodate the broader view of child pornography. For NSW, the relevant definition includes reference to depictions or descriptions of a child ‘engaged in sexual activity’ or ‘in a sexual context’. The NSW definition of child pornography also makes reference to a third category of prohibited material, relating to depictions or descriptions of a child ‘as the victim of torture, cruelty or physical abuse (whether or not in a sexual context)’. [3.1.8] "

Mere nakedness isn't covered in any of these definitions. If it was then TV commercials for talcum powder and nappies which show naked babies would be pornographic. I presume not even you thinks that.

jc said...

Sporos:

Do you friggen understand anything, or are you just a kneejerk lefty? Parents don't have a right to allow their kids getting their pic taken in he nud by a stranger after which that pic is sold either by way of a kiddie porn site or a gallery.

I gave you a link of the nude Romanian kid Hansen photographed. Why would it be altogether different from a kiddie porn site? I haven't been to those sites, but I couldn't imagine it is any different.

Please explain.

And stop using the parents consent billshit, as that doesn't come into it. Parents have no right to abuse their kids and if they are the kids a removed from their care by the state.

jc said...

Mere nakedness isn't covered in any of these definitions.

Exactly, but showing a teenager Romanian kid in the nud in a pretty explicit display is both unpleasant and creepy.


If it was then TV commercials for talcum powder and nappies which show naked babies would be pornographic. I presume not even you thinks that.

this is the most idiotic comment you've made so far.

Spiros said...

You do think that talcum powder ads are pornographic?

Dude, you've got to get out more.

It's been a pleasure corresponding with you as always.

jc said...

Stop trying to twist my words Spiros. If you can't discuss something without poisoning the well with dishonest attribution then take a bloody hike.

Hansen is no better than the pimp and his child pics are nothing less than porn pimping to the latte set.

It's disgusting without being prudish to hear this creep is trawling around schools looking for 12 year old kids to photograph in the nud.

It's probably not illegal but it makes it no less disgusting.

jc said...

Maybe he ought to go back to Romania, where I'm sure he can bribe the parents with a couple of Euros.

via collins said...

Good on you Harry, terrific passion, with you all the way.

And fer chrissake JC, Henson has a massive catalogue of works covering decades. He works the margins, has done so artisically & financially for a long time. I admire a lot of his work, don't others.

But to reduce his work to one picture, and reduce his practise to "... trawling around schools looking for 12 year old kids to photograph in the nud." is disingenuous at best, ludicrous at face value.

Read letters pages in both papers in Melbsville today - Fairfax and News - ALL parents supporting the principal. She's well liked, well respected. Her career should not be threatened by the sort of knee-jerk reactionism we're seeing & hearing.

jc said...

via collins:

Fine then. you support the decriminalization of child porn sites as long as they are not showing sex acts and just kids in nude and suggestive poses?

Spiros said...

JC, you have no idea, none at all. Photos of naked adolescents aren't porn.

There was a story today about a man who was before a magistrate on child porn charges. Some of the photos he'd been caught with involved a 2 year old girl and a dog. It was explained exactly what was happening in the photo but the implication was that she was being raped by the dog.

Now that is child porn.

via collins said...

"Fine then. you support the decriminalization of child porn sites as long as they are not showing sex acts and just kids in nude and suggestive poses?"

Part of me wants to ask how you came up with that description of my position JC, but common sense will prevail in this case.

I'll let it go.

jc said...

Spiros:

I guess if Hansen had taken the pic and stuck it up in an art gallery for sale at 10G you would consider it art, right?

jc said...

It is defining your position, Via. You just don't like it and feel uncomfortable with it. However it basically right and certainly far more consistent than the racket you're trying to pull.