Re: slightly OT - another photographic controversy
Well, Australia is no different than the U.S., really. Although the
article below is from a UK newspaper, there was much controversy here
in the U.S. over Annie Liebowitz's recent Vanity Fair photo of 15
year old Miley Cyrus. http://arts.guardian.co.uk/art/photography/
story/0,,2276876,00.html There are lots of blogs and American
newspapers talking about this, too.
No matter what side you're on, one thing is absolutely certain with
both these photographic "scandals." They each, in their own way,
help put all the players in the news. Liebowitz, Miley Cyrus, her
dad, and Vanity Fair are in the public eye (yet again). Vanity Fair
sells more magazines, Liebowitz gets her name out there--again (does
she really need it?), and Miley Cyrus continues to be over-exposed
(so to speak).
In Hensen's case-- well, I never heard of him or this particular
gallery before reading your post, and so now I have. If nothing
else, it gave them both some (international?) publicity. So his "big
dark moody C41 prints" of full frontal (?) naked adolescent females
causes an uproar, and the ensuing controversy gets his name, and his
gallery's name, out there. Do you think that's why he made the
images, and why they chose to exhibit them?
I remember seeing a retrospective of Sally Mann's early photos of her
children in NYC, many years ago. Though not all were shown, many
were, and I thought they were really just incredible. The ones that
had been the most controversial and questionable were not on exhibit,
but I do remember a friend telling me that when Mann's book of all
those images came out, she was at some book store in NY signing the
books. To help advertise the publication of the book, they (the
bookstore and the publisher with Mann's blessing, I guess) had picked
one of the really controversial images and had it blown up poster
size, and they were selling them as posters. My friend said she was
standing in line to have her book signed, and there was some guy who
was in line in front of her who (to her mind) looked seriously
deranged. He didn't buy the book, but he bought one of the posters.
She said she glanced at Sally Mann to see her reaction, and my friend
swore she looked sick to her stomach. I can only imagine.
Anyway . . . I'm guessing all the major players in these cases
subscribe to the belief that any publicity is good publicity.
On May 25, 2008, at 11:27 PM, Catherine Rogers wrote:
As things seem to be a little quiet on the list, and I am putting
off going into the studio to get down to some real work, I thought
I'd pass on some news on a photgraphic scandal now in progress here
in Sydney, Australia.
The list has had discussions about censorship and the photography
of children or minors or young or under-legal-age people in the
past. So if this is going to stir things up too much, please don't
read on. It is not my intention to make trouble, simply to point
out that, in this country at least, we have just returned to the
1960s - to a time when the police closed a shop in Oxford St in
Sydney, and confiscated a poster of Michelangelo's statue of
David! BIG sigh.
Anyway, late last week the police went to the opening of a show of
photographs by Bill Henson and closed it down, based on their
assesment of some of his images. The Gallery is regarded as a
leading Sydney Gallery (Roslyn Oxley9) and Henson is very well
known in Australia and was Australia's rep. at the Venice Biennale
some years ago. Henson's significant reputation was forged, in
fact, on the very stuff that has now been censored and taken away
in a big truck by the police.
Henson makes his own big dark, moody, C41 prints (so this is not
truly an alt proc item, but sometimes he tears the prints and gives
them rough edges like an alt print...), staged scenes, with the
main subjects of his work being mainly young people - adolescents -
often very vulnerable looking young people. Henson's new images,
which are frontal images of an adolescent female, have attracted
outraged allegations of pornography and pedophillia - attracting
bomb threats. Such are the kinds of people, who have not even seen
the images, but who have condemmed them. Sadly even the new Prime
Minister has weighed in with a stupid, ignorant comment, causing
many of us who had recently held some hope for the renewed
appreciation of the status of culture - totally degraded under the
previous conservative Government - to feel downright disillusioned
all over again.
It's a real ding-dong battle in the press, politics and the
community, with pages of the newspaper covering the issue. Anyone
interested can check out the (generally very parochial) Sydney
Morning Herald, and this article for instance:
Also the Australian newspaper for its articles over the last few days.
Interestingly, on the weekend, the Australian newspaper's magazine
featured an advertisement whcih, to my eyes, showed 2 young women
who could have been 14 years old - the same age as one of Henson's
Both newspapers also feature some good photographs of the whole
event including Henson's actual censored photographs - now complete
with little black rectangles over the 'offending' body parts.