Bill Henson’s ‘art’ is sick

June 3, 2008

Bill Henson, and most of Australia’s ‘artistic’ community, thinks that it is ‘artistic’ to take naked, sexualised pictures of children. It isn’t. From the Bravehearts petition to the Prime Minister:

We are appalled by the level of support given to Henson in light of the police seizure of his photographs, which has been issued primarily by people defending the rights and freedoms of artists at the expense of the rights and freedoms of children. There is no denying that art has an important role in society. But artists, like every other adult, have a responsibility to protect children from exploitation. The artistic pursuit of personal emotion, curiosity or expression cannot be sanctioned where this pursuit violates existing human rights and betrays the same laws by which the rest of society lives.

The sexualisation of children and young people for the alleged purpose of art – or any other purpose – is counterproductive to the best interests of child protection. It plays directly into the hands of those who want to liberate children and young people from the laws which protect them.

Sign the Petition against Bill Henson’s child pornography.

What I noticed about his photographs is the fact that all of his models are white. They are pimple-free with glossy hair. The female children sometimes wear make-up. The male and female children are photographed together in sexualised senarios. None of the children are fat, none of the children are happy or playing. They are often photographed in a studio with no or few clothes on, few props and dark lighting. The female children have long hair, the male children have short hair.

An example of Henson’s ‘art’:
Bill Henson


  1. I think you mean Bill Henson.

  2. Thanks for highlighting, it is very disturbing. Can non-Australians sign the petition.
    This is something I feel strongly about, for when I lived with my stepdad I was surrounded by “artistic” photos of children in sexual poses, clothed or unclothed. My stepdad was a professional photographer, so as a hobby he took many photos of children.
    The thing was that most adults consider his work to be beautiful and a work of fine art. Which of course boosted his ego. They would refuse to see the abuse.
    I still go into houses and there are portraits of me hanging on walls. They sickened me, I refuse to acknowledge their existence. But they dig into my heart.
    For example, he took one of me clothed climbing a tree. My godmother has it on her wall, she thinks it is beautful. All I see is that the camera is angled to show my knickers. It gave me nightmares when I saw it again.
    So, I get angry and saddened when child abuse is framed as “art”. For it only the point of view of the artist and the viewers, there is no consideration for the “models”. It not ask if they fully understood how the picture may be viewed. Whether they understood the viewer and the artist may see them sexually. Without that understanding, how can there be real consent.
    Art should take responsibilty for how it viewed, and not always hide behind the “anything goes” philosophy.

  3. anon, Whoops, yes I do!!! Fixed.

    Rebecca, how awful. It is so sickening how much men can get away with under the banner of ‘art’. How triggering and humiliating it must be for survivors, like you, seeing this shit being shown as ‘art’. This isn’t art. This is pornography and exploitation.

    Yes, I think non-Australians can sign the petition.

  4. I signed the petion. He’s also come up in conversation a few times and I’ve been quick to say ‘I don’t care if its art or not, artists should be responsible for their creations, and taking sexualized photos of underage girls is _not_ responsible” and people who’ve heard me have been oretty receptive to that line of argument.

  5. I actually do feel sick after reading that. Too many people seem to actually believe that children have no rights, that they are somehow just miniature adults and should be treated as such. You hear all the time about human rights and women’s rights, but where are the children’s rights? And those poor children in the pictures – how can they give meaningful consent? And how will they feel about it when they are older? Paedophilia is paedophilia, there’s no two ways about it. If an ordinary person (ie not an ‘artist’ ) had images like that on their computer it would be seized and they would be arrested. What is the difference between that and this ‘art’?

    That petition is really well worded – I’m going to sign it now.

  6. I don’t know what that winky smiley’s doing in my comment, by the way – I didn’t put it there I’m sure! :/

  7. I’m sorry, i have to weigh in. I need to know what you think about Miyazaki’s overt misgynism, his use of small girls in dangerous roles, and his constant portrayal of them being happy as servants, slaves, and prisoners.

  8. As I was saying the other day, there was a case very similar to this a month or two ago, also in Australia, where a fashion magazine was facing prosecution for publishing photos of two underage models, one male and one female, that were heavily sexualised, one of which showed the female model’s breasts, and others which implied drug use. No one gave out a big hue and cry about protecting ‘art.’ It was generally agreed that the photos were inappropriate and exploitative.

    But suddenly it’s okay when Bill Hensen does exactly the same thing?

  9. It may not help for a non-constituent from another continent to petition your prime minister, but if a letter of concern goes around online for global citizens against child porn masquerading as art by patriarchal definition, then I’m in.

    My thoughts and concerns with you on bringing awareness to this evil, and your working for change.

  10. It has already been prohibited in Britain as child pornography.

    I’m surprised his agents haven’t published their legal advice from London. Bill Henson was one of the reasons the Brits re-vamped their child pornography laws, no hobbies, no research, no art, no excuses. It’s just illegal and anybody with two brain-cells would know that.

    That’s why no USA or UK artists have intervened! It can’t be defended, it just can’t. Henson has to rely on the Oz intellectuals speaking sheep-like to defend him, because the gold-plated people in LA and London, they don’t want to know.

  11. Alix, I’m not sure why you are sorry, nor why you think asking a question is weighing in. Is Miyazaki the dude who made Spirited Away? If so, I have serious problems with the potrayal of girls in that movie. I can’t comment on any of his other work as I have not seen it.

  12. The classification board has just cleared the uncensored photographs. They’d previously cleared the censored material.



    05 June 2008



    The Irish Anti-Trafficking Coalitions is dismayed that the Australian authorities have cleared for publication an uncensored nude photograph of a 13 year old girl. This closely follows the Classification Board’s green light for photographers to take pictures of naked under-age models after backing down on an investigation into a fashion magazine. Australia is closely emulating Japan in its failure to regulate indecent images of children.

    The decision by the Classification Board is in violation of Australia’s obligations under the UNCRC, CEDAW and ICCPR. This is the first occasion anywhere in the world that a nude photograph of a female child who was subject to a police investigation relating to a sexually motivated crime has been cleared for publication. This decision is also a fundamental breach of Australia’s reponsibilities as partner nation of the Virtual Global Taskforce.

    /// END

    Gregory Carlin


    Irish Anti-Trafficking Coalition
    4 Downfine Walk
    Northern Ireland

    (UK) 44 (0) 2890 963164


    U18 topless photographs are classified as child pornography in the United Kingdom.

    The IATC was a consulting partner with the UK govt. in relation to the SOA 2003

  13. Thanks for the update Gregory. There has been so much pressure from the ‘artistic’ community in Australia around ‘censorship’ that I am not surprised that this is the result. It is deeply saddening and traumatic to the survivors of child abuse, trafficking and incest that this ‘art’ is deemed acceptable.

  14. I am outraged at the decision of charges against Bill Henson dropped. He has definitely crossed the line and so have the rest of his “art-world” supporters. They are all sick perverted individuals. To You all I say woe to you, shame on you, you absolutely disgust me. May God have mercy on you all

  15. For fair warning for other readers, given that this is a feminist blog, “lifesitenews” is a forced-birther website.

  16. Addit: and it’s full of anti-lesbian hate speech, as well. Blecch, I think I need to go take a shower.

  17. Sorry Lauredhel, I had no idea. The comment has been deleted.

  18. I’m curious – what exactly is objectionable about Hayao Miyazaki’s work (I assume Alix didn’t mean another Miyazaki?), especially since his films are all animated. Are Disney movies misogynistic as well? It would be nice to have examples.

  19. Lise12,

    Of course Disney movies are misogynist. My goodness. As if that is even a question that needs to be asked.

  20. There is a VGT conference ( global child protectionists) about Henson tomorrow.

    Most child pornography is sold via adult sites. If you want to see sex-posi feminism on steroids, you need to read the following.


    ‘Genuine child pornography, Jenkins concludes, is made, shared and consumed by a very small underground circle of people who are almost all male. To give another example of the scale of the problem, in 2004 the biggest police operation ever mounted in Australia to target consumers of child pornography netted 194 men out of a population of 20 million. ‘

    So if one cuts through the propaganda one has to ask why ten times that number were connected to a little nook on the net hidden in Croatia, the actual number is not going to be less than 300,000 active peophiles in Oz.

    ‘In the 76 hours that the images were on the website, it received an extraordinary 12 million hits from almost 150,000 computers from 170 countries, including more than 2800 from Australia.’


    So even in an article about thousands of IP addresses in OZ, they still plant that 194 figure as if it means somethings.

    (Kath Albury, Catharine Lumby and Alan McKee are shameless about insulting the intelligence of their readers.)

    What’s the total for all the intrenet services if a single tiny one in Croatia (directly connected to Oz) is getting as many hits as the very largest of the Oz news web-sites? Kath Albury, Catharine Lumby and Alan McKee are not going to tell you.

    The corresponding position for the UK, based on an analysis of a small number of images was 14 million transactions over 3 years. Itself only the tip of the iceberg.


    In Australia, you have at least 300,000 men who are activly collecting child pornography, and they’re in remarkably little danger of being arrested.

    The pedophiles in Australia, don’t have to mainstream pedophilia, they’ve done that, they now need to make it legal, and they’re halfway to that goal. It’s a numbers game.


  21. Cate Blanchett isn’t going to have a Disney problem, I’ll fix that for her, I can save her from the misogyny. Are there any other film careers you need cared-for? It’s a free service.


  22. Really shocking stuff there Gregory. Very sickening.

  23. Well I googled images of this Henson creep’s “art” and all I can say is:
    what a fuckin pedophile! It is unbelievable what passes for “art” these days. I work in an art gallery. I know.
    Rich white people will make any kind of misogynist racist BS and slap the label “art” on it and get away with it. Rich white people’s misogyny and paedophilia is “artistic” and “philosophical” while Black people’s misogyny is just “plain old sexism.”
    And interesting too how this is immediately framed as a censorship issue, when really, this is an issue of: does the Australian government tolerate and thus endorse misogyny and paedophilia? Or does it not? The whole claims of “censorship” are to distract from the fact that we are defending the idea that girls are little meat socks that exist for the eyes of pervy rich white men. It’s all just liberal theory bullshit. They complain about not having their ridiculous excuses for art exhibits to go to while the “art” they celebrate so much acts as fodder for pedophiles and legitimates the sexual objectification of pre-adolescent and teen girls. Disgusting. And fuck liberal theory. That’s all it is: theory. No recognition of the lived and daily realities of girls and women everywhere.
    Argh, okay I am done with my rant.

  24. SILENCED…..that is what I have felt ALL of my life..I would like all people who have been abused by an adult to stand up and SPEAK OUT..about BILL HENSENS (‘WORK’)..!

    AND I WANT TO SAY “THAT I BELIEVE, THINK, FEEL THAT Henson’s work is advocating that THE ABUSE OF childrens sexuality is OKAY to be used under the BANNER OF ART..! AND the outcome of this issue will confirm that child pornography is OKAY… and this will confirm in an already deviant mind that the (person’s!?) desire is ligitimate..”that if they were living in a different culture where it was accepted to have young children”..blah blah they don’t need much more convincing..!”

    A (man?!) once said to me that “all men were Pedophiles..it’s just that only some men act on their thoughts”…! What do you other men think of that comment???

    When I was 6 and probably left alone for the first time with a couple of friends the same age at a park…a man came out of the bushes with his penis sticking out between his fly (I didn’t even know what it was, and the first time I’d seen one)! AND he asked us if we wanted some sweets..luckily, somehow, we knew to say NO and left, I told by sister when I got home but never my parents.
    Then at 13 I was left alone again with a friend at a sideshow, on holidays, we were in the toilets and I could here my friend talking to a woman at the basin. When I came out my friend said that the woman had said that there had been a few rapes along the road we needed to get back to the caravan park and she would give us a lift..!! This time I didn’t know better, confused by the threat (not even sure I knew what ‘rape’ was then either) she led us to the car in the carpark, opened the back door, my friend climbed in first, me second (it was then that I saw a man in the drivers seat), then the woman got in next to me!
    He turned and said “where to” (the woman made no explanation to him why we were there (pre-planned!)
    We gave the address and he started the car. Driving up the main road the woman started stroking my leg and said “what lovely jeans”… (I elbowed my friend and started to laugh a bit-nervously).. and then realised he had passed the road he needed to turn down, and told him so. He said he knew another way and a block further down turned to the left…there were bright lights to begin with, from bingo halls, and then it got DARKER AND DARKER, with very little street light and woods to the right hand side. LUCKILY…!!! something must have triggered inside of me because I yelled out “HERE IT IS…STOP HERE”.. and he did..!! My friend got out of the car and as I went to get out the woman caught my arm and said ‘HOW ABOUT A KISS BEFORE YOU GO…!!!! I said “no thankyou” and got out. We took the road to he left and hid in a front garden behind some bushes for some time..until we could hear no car sounds, then ran down the road, and somehow we ended up back where we were staying..!! (AND NEVER MADE ANY MENTION OF IT TO MY MOTHER OR ANYONE ELSE…I CANNOT BELIEVE IT!).
    I cringe today to think of what may have been our fate that night driving off into the woods.!

    MY POINT: I wonder how many children have been under the threat of sexual abuse or sexual abuse…


  25. Henson also has ‘artist’ colleagues in the pre-teen market. Amazon provide a great criminal profile service via their customer X will also buy Y facility. Much of this material is off the High Street because of police actions and also out of the malls. It’s sold on its core territory, ‘the net’.

    Editorial Reviews
    Book Description
    Why bubble baths? Because I, like everyone else, wanted to see what happens behind that door when a lovely girl undresses and takes a bath. It is a time of intimacy, privacy, and vulnerability, not often seen by others. These girls came by in cute little outfits that showed off their personalities. They wore t-shirts with kitschy phrases written on them, or short flowery dresses that were easy to remove. Sometimes I had the girls get out of the tub soaking wet, run to another room, pose for some photos, and then run back to the tub. The girls brought over props too–jump ropes, toys, hats, tiaras, guitars, bubbles, hand puppets, miniature pumpkins, a yorkshire terrier, an iguana, and a duck made out of soap. There’s nothing like a beautiful young woman, wet and playful.

  26. So, let me understand Gregory, that book review is describing the artist and his “colleagues”?
    That excerpt was one of the creepiest and most disturbing things I have ever read.

  27. Well it is about Amazon really, if you go to a kiddie fetish photog and type in his name, you get a lot of stuff that relates to fetish stuff.

    I mean, when I was told Bill Henson, well, was not sexual, I was able to pull a file with virtually every one of his notables talking about his sexualized work!

    (It was sad to see the luvvies lying blatantly, or back-tracking, or obfuscating etc.)

    I remember getting child pornography legislation passed in Britain and I asked myself ‘Who is the worst” and it was BILL HENSON.

    I’ve asked, how can it be art IF YOU CAN’T SELL IT IN LONDON!

    Sorry to captitalize, but you see my point, if you had a decent Elizabethan cabinet, a bit of paperwork, the legit gig,

    and I could sell it for ya in London, no prob, however, I can’t sell stuff that will get the rozzers around my door.

    So, whatever it is Bill does, you can’t just wrap it up and send it to Hong Kong, or Malta, or Poland or Britain, IT ISN’T THAT KIND OF ART.

    It’s G/PG art, serious trouble if you get raided.

  28. At least one Australian schoolkid managed to spot the sex. If we can tune-in the adult population we may be able to get somewhere.


    “I went to Bill Henson’s latest exhibition with my school today and the pictures he displayed of 11-15 year old girls having “sexual intercourse” with 18year old boys was disgusting. Most of the girls didn’t even have breasts yet or pubic hair which made me feel ill in the stomach that people actually like this. One particular photo of a teenage guy probably about 19, had a strong grip around a little girl who had no breasts at all or even ‘nipple fat’ or pubic hair and he had his penis inserted in her from behind. I do NOT on any account think that is acceptable. I do not call them “works of art”. I am not against all of his artwork, as I think he has taken amazing landscape shots that really grabbed my attention. He definently has talent for photography. But I only saw 3 photos in the whole exhibition of adults and of course they were not alone, but with children. I will once again state he does beautiful landscape shots, but I do NOT like his portrayel of the human “childs” body, very disappointed.”

  29. holy crap–this guy provides whack off material for child abusers, and people are defending him?!? ^*($%#$@#$@#$

  30. I just found this blog. I went to the VCA while Bill Henson was studying there.
    I was 19 and he was several years older. At that time he was taking pictures of
    underage ‘rent’ boys who came from abusive backgrounds. He was very proud of the fact that he made these boys ‘come’ on the lenses as he took the photos.
    He then would show off these pictures to our then photography tutor, Mark Strisic who was in his seventies, a gentle and dignified soul. I sincerely hope he never realised what he was looking at. I found Bill Henson to be arrogant, exploitive, and totally unconcerned as to any negative effect he might be having on his ‘subjects’. Not only that, he blatantly ripped off his chiarusco style off one of my fellow students. At the very best, he is guilty of exploiting the young for his ‘shock’ art, and thats the best. I note that his subjects get younger.

  31. Thanks to Dominic for this insight and for drawing my attention to this post. Great job, allecto. Has anyone read David Marr’s book on the topic, The Henson Case ? I’m scared to pick it up because I have some inkling of argument contained therein. If you want to get annoyed, check out this video of Marr talking about his book at Melbourne’s Cinema Nova: http://www.themonthly.com.au/david-marr-henson-case-1268
    Marr also speaks supportively of the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe whose work The Black Book has been criticised by men and women of colour as racist and whose photography also documents sadomasochistic acts.

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