David Marr’s Bill Henson


David Marr’s new book, The Henson Case, on controversial Australian artist Bill Henson is due out on Friday. This will be an interesting read and I’m hoping to scout a copy although I’m suprised at the speed of the production, considering the controversy was only in May this year. Henson’s gallery showing was shut down in Sydney when some viewers complained about the subject of his photography. You see, the figures in his portraits are naked pre-pubsescent young teenages. Following the hoopla was the resurection of the age old debate of what constituted as art. Some saw the photography as art and some saw it as child pornography. Marr’s book will detail the case.

I’ve read Marr before and I think he’s a fantastic writer/journalist. He co-authored A Dark Victory which investigated the Australian government’s dealings towards asylum seekers and the infamous Tampa boat incident. He sorts out the propaganda and story weaving from the truth and it’s heartbreaking how the ayslum seekers were (are) treated. Marr goes on to document the then-prime minster’s, John Howard, historic landslide win admidst the scandal. It was such an eye opener. I can’t believe that sort of political bullshit and propaganda still exists today, and worse of all, I can’t believe I was sat back and watched it happened. Although I was a teenager at the time.


  1. I was able to obtain a copy of David Marr’s book from Sydney Uni’s bookshop.

    I agree that the picture (which is reprinted in full on one of the inside pages of David Marr’s book) probably does not fall within the legal definition of pornography. However, whether you call it art or porn, the fact remains that a photo which depicts a naked underage girl has been published for commercial gain. I personally do not think the picture is revolting, but I do not think it is particularly pretty either. While I am not disgusted by the image, I do think it is inappropriate for an underage naked child to be subject to public scrutiny in this manner. If the author and/or publisher of David Marr’s book are adamant that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the photo, one wonders why they decide to use a “toned-down” version of the image (showing just the girl’s face and shoulders without her breasts) on the front cover of the book. The image as reproduced on the book cover, in my view, sufficiently captures the innocence of the young girl. Was it truly necessary for her breasts to be shown on the photo?

  2. I haven’t seen the cover yet, but I’m surprised that they censored the picture. I’m quite the fence sitter on this debate though. Perhaps ‘we’ are enforcing the sexuality onto these children. Children aren’t allowed to run around and enjoy being naked or even photographed now because we sexualise their appearance. But by saying that, I’m not too sure I’m happy that Henson was scouting schoolyards…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s