Henson and art vs pornography as viewed through the photographing of children, naked or otherwise

Rarely have I seen an interviewer deliver a knockout punch as did Leigh Sales on Lateline last night when interviewing David Marr. Henson has been making a bit of a name for himself as photographer of naked children. Apparently this is sometimes paeodophilia and sometimes art. Marr, amongst others, sees Henson as falling into the art category and he’s even written a book about the Henson ‘case’.

I can’t resist recording the Lateline moment here:

LEIGH SALES: In the book you criticise Kevin Rudd for using the word “revolting” to talk about the Bill Henson images, saying he lost an opportunity to bring some calm and nuance to the debate. This morning in the Sydney Morning Herald you criticised a cartoon by the Australian’s artist Bill Leak. And then described that same cartoon as “revolting”. Why is it now a double standard for you to label Bill Leak’s art “revolting”, when it offends you, but to criticise Kevin Rudd for calling Bill Henson’s art “revolting, when it offends him?

: I thought Bill Leak’s cartoon revolting because it was making a joke of the accusation that Bill Henson was a predatory paedophile and I think that is without any kind of foundation in fact. And is astonishingly that a national newspaper would print such a thing. I may have misunderstood Bill slightly. I understand Bill is saying he was ridiculing people who thought that of Henson. It did not come through to me from the cartoon.

LEIGH SALES: Doesn’t that go to the heart of this issue which is about perceptions and the way you perceive that cartoon, as oppose to other people the way perceive Bill Henson’s work as art and others perceive it as child pornography?

DAVID MARR: That’s true but we are talking about a Prime Minister who has now for the third time described these photographs, the photographing of children and now allowing a photographer into a school as revolting. It’s extraordinarily powerful language. When as we’ve seen from your report tonight there is a very wide range of respectable opinion about the quality of the photographs, about Art Monthly magazine which was the seconds cause of the revolting and about the notion of talent spotters like film makers going into schools. Kevin Rudd is not entering a debate here. He is just absolutely slamming it in these very, very strong terms. My job is to bring nuance and I think it would help if he brought a little nuance to this as well.


Oh David, I do believe you genuinely think callling the work of a premier Australian cartoonist ‘revolting’ is bringing a little nuance to the argument. Shame on you. This is the cartoon in question, which seems pretty amusing to me:

Bill Leake cartoon in The Australian 6 October 2008

So there we have it. David Marr is for the compulsory silencing of one of our most important political cartoonists when he says something with which Marr disagrees. To think this forms part of his argument for free speech and against censorship….it truly beggars belief.

I’m guessing Marr must be left-wing…it is always Labour voters who are most fascist in their views.


3 thoughts on “Henson and art vs pornography as viewed through the photographing of children, naked or otherwise

  1. Unlike those who are calling for Henson’s photographs to be banned, Marr isn’t calling for Leak’s cartoon to be banned. He is simply criticising it — which even Marr admits Kevin Rudd and every other Australia has the right to do. It’s when they want something banned just because they don’t agree with it that’s the problem, especially when it doesn’t break the law.

    ‘Compulsory silencing’, I don’t think so.


  2. But, Michael he said it is ‘…astonishing that a national newspaper would print such a thing.’ If that isn’t a call for a newspaper to censor free speech what is? I would be shocked that an academic who is for free speech would say such a thing…but in fact from what I can gather this is typical of Marr. He is doing EXACTLY what you say he isn’t – ie calling for something not to be aired with which he disagrees.


  3. I’m astonished that a national newspaper would print an article like this http://www.smh.com.au/news/opinion/sex-sells-and-so-does-henson/2008/10/08/1223145443041.html — But that doesn’t mean I want it banned, removed or unpublished.

    Just as I’m astonished by the trash tabloid TV runs at 6:30 PM on TT and ACA. Nevertheless, I don’t want it banned or taken off the air, just the right to criticise it.

    I believe the same applies to Marr. He has criticised something, questioned the newspapers ethics, but he hasn’t called for censorship.


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