Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Photos of nude kids in an art gallery. Obscene or not?

Posted By on Wed, May 28, 2008 at 6:01 PM

There’s an obscenity brouhaha brewing in Australia over a prominent photographer’s use of 12- and 13-year-old models for a series of nude pictures that were hanging in a Sydney gallery until police seized them last week. Authorities are considering initiating an obscenity prosecution against photographer Bill Henson.

The Australian arts community has rallied to his defense. Among others, Cate Blanchett signed an open letter that said, in part, “The work itself is not pornographic, even though it included depictions of naked human beings …”

Here's a link to the only online image that I could find.

Some of Henson's backers have claimed that the photos are not sexual. I'm not buying that one. The pic I viewed didn't do anything for me, but to my eyes it's clearly sexual.

Is it obscene? I believe in the adage that you know obscene when you see it, and in this case, I do not see obscene. I don't think Henson, who has shot a lot of stuff other than minors in the buff, should be hauled into court. As far as whether the 20 nudes should be hanging in a Sydney art gallery, I'm not so sure about that one.

But one of my colleagues did make an interesting point: That by seizing the artworks and condemning them, Australian authorities have sensationalized these photos. In effect, they've turned them into kiddie porn.

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