The police in Sydney Australia have raided the Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery and shut down the current photo exhibit of Bill Henson, whose works include nude images of 12 and 13 year olds. There is now a firestorm of debate over the pornographic nature of these images.

Without seeing the images it is impossible to make that judgment, and the central issue seems to be whether or not the images have been sexualized. At least one former Henson child model has spoken out in defense of the pure artistic nature of these photos and the conditions under which they were made.

As a photography theorist, my fascination centers on the primary argument being made by the Gallery owners and numerous members of the art world, including Cate Blanchett, that these photos are in the centuries old tradition of the classic art nude such as those made by Caravaggio and Michelangelo. Yet another example of the ebb and flow of the love hate relationship between photography and painting. Photography, once thought of as the mortal enemy of painting, has never hesitated to hide behind the protective skirt of traditional painting when under attack.

Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery

Bill Henson

New York Times Story

Sydney Morning Herald Story
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