By Tim Waggoner
ALBURY, Australia, May 27, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Ongoing criminal investigations into the works of artist Bill Henson have resulted in more of his photographs being removed from an Australian art gallery. Police have since said that they intend to use these photographs to press charges against the artist.
Public complaints made to the police regarding “inappropriate” artwork resulted in three of the controversial artist’s photographs being taken down from the Albury Art Gallery. The photographs featured images of a young woman in the nude and one such image was used on the front cover of invitation cards for Henson’s photographic exhibition. The Sydney Morning Herald reported the police are intending to press charges regarding such photographs.
While the police only advised the gallery to take down the photographs, the news service also stated that last week, the police led a raid into the storerooms of another Australian art gallery, the Roslyn Oxley9, and seized several other Henson photographs of naked 12 and 13 year-olds.
In light of these events, including comments from Prime Minister Kevin Rudd describing the works as "absolutely revolting”, a letter supporting Henson has been endorsed by several members of Australia’s artistic community, including celebrity Kate Blanchett.
"The work itself is not pornographic, even though it includes depictions of naked human beings," the letter reads.
"It is more justly seen in a tradition of the nude in art that stretches back to the ancient Greeks, and which includes painters such as Caravaggio and Michelangelo."
Yet, Peter Baklinski, a PhD candidate specializing in the theology of the body, recognizes a difference between paintings and modern nude photography.
“Despite there being a significant difference between the naked body captured by the artist’s paintbrush on canvas and by the artist’s film or digital technologies, the underlying issue is that a body of a human person has been transferred out of its ontological identity as the body of this man or this woman and into an abstract dimension where the body begins to lose its connection to the gift-dimension of the person.”
Responding directly to Henson’s work, Baklinski emphasized the lack of context in the artist’s photography, which is needed to help viewers identify the “whole truth” of the human dignity present in all persons in photographs.
“Instead of seeing a young girl created in the image of God, many will see an object with breasts, an object that can arouse desires of the flesh. Nakedness without any context becomes an inhibition to viewing this young woman in the beauty and dignity of her femininity.”
The PhD candidate then commented on the fact that the young nude woman on the invitation card was presented in a “provocative” manner.
“Harsh lighting on the naked body has always been a trick of the porn industry to emphasize sexual aspects so as to achieve super-sensuous and erotic images. Viewers of this photo might find it difficult to disassociate the overall style of this image from that of pornography.”
Gregory Carlin, an international campaigner against child pornography, definitively stated his concern that such photographs promote pedophilia.
"I am of the view galleries publishing sexual photography of pubsecent girls via the internet are facilitating pedophilia".
“In particular, when they are placed on the internet, you know they’re flashed around the world within hours and even though the website from the gallery in question has been taken down, the images of this girl who is about 12 we believe, are all around the world and can be used for all sorts of unpleasant purposes.”
Baklinski also alluded to this fact, saying the intention doesn’t change the impact such photography has on society.
“Regardless of his intention, Henson’s photo lessens the distinction between art and pornography while providing further occasion for the sexualization of our children.”
For more on the subject from Peter Baklinski see: