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Old 23-05-2008, 04:11   #1 (permalink)
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when does art become something else?

Gallery to withdraw controversial photos

A Sydney art gallery says it will withdraw controversial images of naked children from a photo exhibition shut down by police.

A storm has erupted over the exhibition by leading photographer Bill Henson, which features photos of naked 12 and 13-year-old children.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Thursday labelled the images revolting and police launched an investigation into the exhibition, which was due to open on Thursday night.

The Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery said on Thursday it would now withdraw a number of works that have attracted controversy, and re-open without them.

"Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery will remain closed while the current exhibition is re-hung," it said in a statement.

The statement, jointly released by the gallery and Mr Henson himself, defended the photographer's reputation as an internationally acclaimed artist.

"Bill Henson is one of Australia's leading contemporary artists and is internationally respected," it said.

"His works are held in every leading art institution in Australia and are included in the collections of a number of the world's most prestigious art museums.

"The Art Gallery of New South Wales and the

National Gallery of Victoria have both recently held a retrospective of 30 years of the artist's work."

Meanwhile, critics of photographer Bill Henson are using his artwork as a "convenient whipping boy" for wider problems in society, a past curator of his work says.

Judy Annear, the senior curator of photography at the Art Gallery of NSW, curated a major Henson retrospective in 2004-2005 that included similar images and was viewed by 65,000 people with no complaints.

She said people were wrongly deflecting the current concern about paedophilia and child abuse onto his work.

Henson was a major artist who had been exhibiting nationally and internationally for the past 30 years and who represented Australia in the 1995 Biennale, Annear said.

"When we did a major retrospective of Bill's work ... 65,000 people saw that show in Sydney and we had not one single complaint," she said.

"The question has to be, why now and what actually does this furore have to do with Bill?

"People should be focusing on the main game ... if it has to do with paedophilia and the abuse of children they need to be focusing on that.

"Bill's work isn't the problem here, it's just a convenient kind of whipping boy at this particular moment in time.

"To take cheap shots at artists ... won't change whatever the problems are in our social fabric."

Annear said from her experience Henson always sought the permission of his young models and their parents before a shoot.

He found his models "all over the place", she said, including supermarkets, art openings and from personal friends and friends of friends.

Annear said she would never have worked with Henson if there was any concern about his motives or work practices.

"I couldn't work with Bill if I thought he was abusing children," she said.

Annear said despite the public backlash, artists like Henson needed to keep pushing the boundaries and should not be swayed by public opinion.

"The day art museums and artists decide that the only thing they can do is react to public opinion is the day that we are in the same scenario as people were in the 1930s in Germany," she said.

Ms Annear described the controversial images as beautiful and compared them to looking at an ancient Greek vase.

"They're very beautiful, they're very, very still, they're very formal, they're very classical. They're a bit like looking an ancient Greek Attic vase," she said.

My first inclination is to say - yeah close it down but on reflection - if tastefully done with parental /child consent ...but I'm really not sure - what do others think?
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Old 23-05-2008, 07:12   #2 (permalink)
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Re: when does art become something else?

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My first inclination is to say - yeah close it down but on reflection - if tastefully done with parental /child consent ...but I'm really not sure - what do others think?
Always difficult in these circumstances - I guess it depends on the images; if there's an implied 'spying' to the shots then should be withdrawn.

If, on the other hand as seems to be the case, they're natural images of kids playing around, then I can't see any real justification in closing it down. To suggest otherwise is implying the photographer, the exhibitor and the public who go to view the pictures, of being perverts

Must admit that I give in to the paranoia sweeping the world and tend to put my camera away when there are kids about. Very sad that some people view everyone else with such suspicion
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Old 23-05-2008, 07:27   #3 (permalink)
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Re: when does art become something else?

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Must admit that I give in to the paranoia sweeping the world and tend to put my camera away when there are kids about. Very sad that some people view everyone else with such suspicion
It's getting ridiculous, my 8yr old daughter is racing in her first triathlon next weekend and shall be wanting to take some photos of her but I must admit to being a bit nervous about taking the SLR in case the other parents decide I'm some sort of pervert.

Of course, they'll all have their camera phones and P&S cameras and not think twice about that.

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Old 23-05-2008, 09:21   #4 (permalink)
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Re: when does art become something else?

Maybe I'll get slated for this but I think as far as that Sydney gallery showing photos of naked kids is concerned it's not art.
Call me old fashioned if you like but my idea of art is where the artist has painted or sculpted something by his/her own hand ie Monet, Picasso, Salvador Dali etc, not a mechanical/electronic device afaic they produce art.
Henson produces photography which shows he has a skill like a lot of members here with a camera but also perhaps with a good business sense on making money, I don't believe it should be labelled as art. He is labelled as a photographer not a artist.
The arty farty culture have produced things to the extreme nowadays and we have local councils/art galleries paying obscene amounts to so called artists who might display a pile of old bricks in the middle of a floor and give it a strange title in the name of art. These people must be laughing all the way to the bank.

If the naked kids had been a hand painted paintings done from memory then I probably would'nt have a problem with it. If it is illegal and immoral to view/post photos of naked kids on the internet for public view then someone please explain to me why a art gallery should be different. Jeez! the gallery would be heaven to a paedo',
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Old 23-05-2008, 11:00   #5 (permalink)
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Re: when does art become something else?

The other weekend I was staying with my brother and I wanted to try out his Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 as I was planning to order one (due to arrive today as it happens ). We were taking the kids to the local park - my lad is 8 and their daughter is 2. I decided to take my camera along with the lens to try it out. I ended up taking very few images because of how uncomfortable I felt with this big camera/lens and all the other parents looking at me.

Personally I think the issue is what goes on in people's heads when they look at a picture, not the image itself. Sure there are some images that are downright unacceptable but for the rest well, they are just pictures, the interpretation is down to the viewer. What does it say about society that people can look at an image of an unclothed child and instead of thinking about childhood innocence they think about ... other stuff.

A couple of years ago I remember a guy locally who went to collect his prints from a 24h photo kiosk and was promptly arrested by police who were lying in wait. On the film had been a couple of pictures of the guy's two children playing in the bath. Perfectly healthy family snaps (I have plenty of similar ones myself) but he spent a day being aggressively interrogated by Police and child protection officers over suspected child porn.
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Old 23-05-2008, 12:47   #6 (permalink)
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Re: when does art become something else?

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Maybe I'll get slated for this but I think as far as that Sydney gallery showing photos of naked kids is concerned it's not art.
Call me old fashioned if you like but my idea of art is where the artist has painted or sculpted something by his/her own hand ie Monet, Picasso, Salvador Dali etc, not a mechanical/electronic device afaic they produce art.
Henson produces photography which shows he has a skill like a lot of members here with a camera but also perhaps with a good business sense on making money, I don't believe it should be labelled as art. He is labelled as a photographer not a artist.
The arty farty culture have produced things to the extreme nowadays and we have local councils/art galleries paying obscene amounts to so called artists who might display a pile of old bricks in the middle of a floor and give it a strange title in the name of art. These people must be laughing all the way to the bank.

If the naked kids had been a hand painted paintings done from memory then I probably would'nt have a problem with it. If it is illegal and immoral to view/post photos of naked kids on the internet for public view then someone please explain to me why a art gallery should be different. Jeez! the gallery would be heaven to a paedo',

its in the eye my friend, not the brush or the lens, photography is a very powerful artform, there is no question of that, after all, wouldnt we gladly exchangh every sculture, drawing, painting and model every made of Jesus Christ, for one simple photograph of him. that bholds truth and power, not understanding it is not ignorance, but to ignore it, is.

as for the problem with photographing children naked, obviously im not talking about some stranger going around photographing children, but in this context, this is not the problem of the artist, but one of the authorities, who have no idea how to deal with the problem of child abuse, so they cause blacket concern, everyone be on the lookout, so it has now become society problem, another example of authorities passing the buck on a problem they simple cant solve.
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Old 23-05-2008, 12:54   #7 (permalink)
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Re: when does art become something else?

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wouldnt we gladly exchangh every sculture, drawing, painting and model every made of Jesus Christ, for one simple photograph of him.
Wow! Would you? Emphatically not!

Anyway, cameras didn't exist then!
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Old 23-05-2008, 14:29   #8 (permalink)

PLEASE NOTE

I TYPE USING CAPITALS DUE TO A DISABILTY

THANKS FOR YOUR UNDERSTANDING
 
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Re: when does art become something else?

AS THERE ARE COUNTLESS AMOUNTS OF WEBSITES AND PHOTOGRAPHY FORUMS,ALL SHOWING PHOTOGRAPHS OF CHILDREN, WHERE DO YOU DRAW THE LINE.

WILL IT SOON BE THE CASE THAT YOU CANNOT EVEN SHOW PHOTOS OF YOUR OWN CHILDREN, AS ANYONE CAN GET ON TO A WEBSITE OR FORUM , NO ONE KNOWS WHO THEY ARE THEY ARE ANONYMOUS, THEY ARE NOT VETTED IN ANYWAY TO SEE IF THEY ARE PAEDOPHILES. THERE ARE NUMEROUS PHOTO SHARING SITES, SUCH AS PICSA,
FLIKR, PHOTOBUCKET, ETC WHERE PEOPLE INNOCENTLY DISPLAY PHOTOS OF CHILDREN, HOW DO THEY KNOW WHO IS VIEWING THEM.

I LIKE TO TAKE PHOTOS OF MY GRANDCHILDREN, BUT IN A LOT OF CASES NOW, THIS HAS BECOME IMPOSSIBLE, AS AT THE SCHOOLS THEY ATTEND, WILL NOT ALLOW YOU TO TAKE PHOTOS AT SCHOOL EVENTS SUCH AS SPORTS DAYS, PLAYS OR OTHER EVENTS, AS THEY SAY OTHER CHILDREN APART FROM YOUR OWN WILL BE IN THE PHOTO, WITHOUT THEIR PARENTS PERMISSION.

SO BASICALLY WHAT APPEARS TO BE ART TO SOME PEOPLE,IS CLASSED AS CHILD PORNOGRAPHY TO OTHERS. I JUST THINK IT IS A SAD DAY, WHEN YOU CAN NO LONGER PHOTOGRAPH YOUR OWN CHILDREN OR GRANDCHILDREN, WITHOUT BEING SEEN TO BE A PERVERT. POLITICAL CORRECTNESS HAS A LOT TO ANSWER FOR.

OFF OF SOAP BOX NOW
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Old 23-05-2008, 14:43   #9 (permalink)
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Re: when does art become something else?

I am just waiting until someone goes round all the art galleries and rips out all the madonna and a naked cherub paintings - It is just crazy
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Old 23-05-2008, 16:44   #10 (permalink)
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Re: when does art become something else?

My own feeling is that 12 and 13 year old's are of an age where they would not normally or naturally go around naked! and therefore it is odd, shall we say, to display photographs of naked 12-13 year olds in a gallery. 2-3 year olds perhaps, even 7-8 year olds maybe. But not 12-13 year olds who are reaching puberty.

I wouldn't care how acclaimed the photographer is, he is not beyond reproach, and being acclaimed does not give him a licence to exhibit contraversial photographs - or art - without expecting controversy
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Old 23-05-2008, 17:03   #11 (permalink)
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Re: when does art become something else?

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I wouldn't care how acclaimed the photographer is, he is not beyond reproach, and being acclaimed does not give him a licence to exhibit contraversial photographs - or art - without expecting controversy
Totally agree - and in that respect we're discussing the controversy.

But the fact that I may not like, say Big Brother on TV (which is true, on grounds of taste as well as morality), doesn't mean that it shouldn't be shown. Some very sad people watch, and even enjoy, BB!
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Old 23-05-2008, 23:43   #12 (permalink)
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Wow! Would you? Emphatically not!

Anyway, cameras didn't exist then!

no....WOW is there a reason for that, wouldnt the evidence factor be of such importance
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Old 24-05-2008, 07:53   #13 (permalink)
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Re: when does art become something else?

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no....WOW is there a reason for that, wouldnt the evidence factor be of such importance
Whilst the evidence might be of some importance, I don't think it's worth the cost that you suggest. After all, those that believe will believe with or without your evidence.

The utopia described in 1984 was devoid of the arts and I know you're not suggesting all art but it's the thin end of the wedge - what else will you be prepared to 'trade in'?
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Old 25-05-2008, 05:47   #14 (permalink)
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Re: when does art become something else?

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My own feeling is that 12 and 13 year old's are of an age where they would not normally or naturally go around naked! and therefore it is odd, shall we say, to display photographs of naked 12-13 year olds in a gallery. 2-3 year olds perhaps, even 7-8 year olds maybe. But not 12-13 year olds who are reaching puberty.

I wouldn't care how acclaimed the photographer is, he is not beyond reproach, and being acclaimed does not give him a licence to exhibit contraversial photographs - or art - without expecting controversy
You make an excellent point Charlotte - our family (me , husband and 21 yo daughter) had a lively debate about his and decided the pics should not be shown because the issue of the consent of the child is difficult to ascertain - even though he had the consent of the children;s parents and supposedly the children - its impossible to say if the children would be able to give "informed" consent.

Also, there's the issue of the "slippery slope" - if his naked images of pubsecent children are OK then where does that end.

I think this is a very different situation to kids at school events, parks etc where the thought police seem to be taking over. I haven't encountered that here in OZ but then the "kids" are 18 and 21 so maybe I was fortunate to miss that development.

The police in Sydney plan on laying charges against both the gallery and the artist.

In the end I have come to the conclusion that they are not appropriate and I think Charlotte has really nailed it - kids this age do not want their bodies viewed ....

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Old 25-05-2008, 11:27   #15 (permalink)
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Re: when does art become something else?

any one seen these photo's? is there a link or something? and anyway - all the jesus crap is way off topic!
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Old 25-05-2008, 11:42   #16 (permalink)
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Re: when does art become something else?

It's been very interesting reading all the differing opinions on this, my own is that as a reflection of our society I feel it's all a bit of a shame.

There are quite a few societies around the world where the sight of naked people (of all ages) isn't even given a second glance, it's normal. There's even a good few in our own society that are like that, the infamous nudists for example. During their get togethers adults and children of all ages enjoy doing the same activities that you or I do, except they do them without any clothes on... it's all very natural and normal to them.

Then we get to our society, where images of children playing naturally are labelled "disgusting" and banned from view just because said children arn't wearing clothes. Art exhibitions closed down, police investigations, Prime Minister making statements, all for what? A few photos of children playing without wearing clothes.

To any parents here, when you see you children naked around the house as often happens, do you think of them as disgusting because they're naked? I doubt anyone would say yes to that. Then why is it in our society that once the human body is shown naked in public it is immediately looked on in a very negative light?

I fully understand our need to protect our children, but i feel that as our paranoia over paedophilia and other sexual offenders has reached new heights in our sex obsessed media hyped culture, our over protectivenesses is now causing us to lock away the thing we strive to protect the most... our children's innocence itself.

My personal view would be to change our mindset and not look at these shots as the worst (very small) minority in our society might, but as the regular people we are, looking at innocent shots of innocence itself.
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Old 25-05-2008, 16:40   #17 (permalink)
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Re: when does art become something else?

What Sonsey said...
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Old 26-05-2008, 00:07   #18 (permalink)
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Re: when does art become something else?

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any one seen these photo's? is there a link or something? and anyway - all the jesus crap is way off topic!


The pictures have been removed from the gallery web site but if you google Bill Henson and have a look at the wikipaedia entry you'll get some links to other work he's done with young models (generally clothed)
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Old 26-05-2008, 00:10   #19 (permalink)
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Re: when does art become something else?

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It's been very interesting reading all the differing opinions on this, my own is that as a reflection of our society I feel it's all a bit of a shame.

There are quite a few societies around the world where the sight of naked people (of all ages) isn't even given a second glance, it's normal. There's even a good few in our own society that are like that, the infamous nudists for example. During their get togethers adults and children of all ages enjoy doing the same activities that you or I do, except they do them without any clothes on... it's all very natural and normal to them.

Then we get to our society, where images of children playing naturally are labelled "disgusting" and banned from view just because said children arn't wearing clothes. Art exhibitions closed down, police investigations, Prime Minister making statements, all for what? A few photos of children playing without wearing clothes.

To any parents here, when you see you children naked around the house as often happens, do you think of them as disgusting because they're naked? I doubt anyone would say yes to that. Then why is it in our society that once the human body is shown naked in public it is immediately looked on in a very negative light?

I fully understand our need to protect our children, but i feel that as our paranoia over paedophilia and other sexual offenders has reached new heights in our sex obsessed media hyped culture, our over protectivenesses is now causing us to lock away the thing we strive to protect the most... our children's innocence itself.

My personal view would be to change our mindset and not look at these shots as the worst (very small) minority in our society might, but as the regular people we are, looking at innocent shots of innocence itself.
Whilst I agree with you on most points, I have seen version of these shots (with black spots on them) - they are not shots of children "playing" in an unselfconscious way. Check out the Wikipaedia entry and then extrpolate the style of his shots without clothes and you'll get an idea of the pictures.
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Old 26-05-2008, 00:17   #20 (permalink)
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Re: when does art become something else?

Iain, I think you've seen "Logan's Run" once too often
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Old 26-05-2008, 00:40   #21 (permalink)
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Re: when does art become something else?

The picture that Sonsey has painted of "children playing happily, innocently" etc. definitely does not relate to Bill Henson's work! Had a quick google, and his work is very sombre - no smiles from the models - with a dark, and even sinister, air to them. No, it doesn't make them "porn" but the brief editorial that I read certainly indicates that his intentions are to show adolescent sexuality, rather than "children playing innocently"
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Old 26-05-2008, 04:31   #22 (permalink)
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Re: when does art become something else?

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Whilst I agree with you on most points, I have seen version of these shots (with black spots on them) - they are not shots of children "playing" in an unselfconscious way. Check out the Wikipaedia entry and then extrpolate the style of his shots without clothes and you'll get an idea of the pictures.
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The picture that Sonsey has painted of "children playing happily, innocently" etc. definitely does not relate to Bill Henson's work! Had a quick google, and his work is very sombre - no smiles from the models - with a dark, and even sinister, air to them. No, it doesn't make them "porn" but the brief editorial that I read certainly indicates that his intentions are to show adolescent sexuality, rather than "children playing innocently"
My apologies, my children playing innocently statement was made due to reading a comment from someone who had seen the shots in question, along with other shots from the artist. Having now seen several of the "black spot" versions of these shots my "playing" comment may not be accurate as the models were not playing but just standing there, however there is still no sexual activity going on in the posed shots I saw so I feel the spirit of my statement is still valid.
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the brief editorial that I read certainly indicates that his intentions are to show adolescent sexuality, rather than "children playing innocently"
I'll highlight this part as it covers part of what I've been saying, this brief editoral is just of course a person's opinion of what he/she sees when they look at some of his photos. From reading into this further myself there seems to be many that see things differently when looking at his work.
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Iain, I think you've seen "Logan's Run" once too often
Lol... I havn't seen that film in ages but I did get pretty deep there I guess... normal service has now been resumed
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Old 26-05-2008, 09:21   #23 (permalink)
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Re: when does art become something else?

OK - I'll play...

This character Henson reminds me of David Hamilton and you might want to see what the CPS and Surrey Constabulary said about his pictures...

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Prosecutor Simon Connolly told the court that Loam's home was raided as part of Operation Ore, after receiving a tip-off from the US Postal Investigation Service. He argued that the images, including those by Hamilton, "are plainly indecent. The content cannot be described as artistic and is plainly of a sexual nature." The court heard the images seized were of the lowest indecency rating - category 1.

Speaking after, DC Simon Ledger, of Surrey Police, said: "It is no defence in law to say pictures of naked children are 'artistic'." Whether Hamilton's images are widely available or not, he suggested, they are clearly unlawful.
There will always be a spectrum of behaviour ranging from "absolutely acceptable" to "absolutely unacceptable". People edging towards the dodgy end of the spectrum have frequently tried to wrap themselves in the big flag marked "Art" in the hope of getting away with their, otherwise unacceptable, behaviour.

At the end of the day, I reckon a Jury should decide, because that's the least imperfect way we've found to deal with these issues.
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Old 28-05-2008, 12:47   #24 (permalink)
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Re: when does art become something else?

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Lol... I havn't seen that film in ages ...
What a coincidence - Logan's Run is on TCM tonight
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Old 28-05-2008, 17:43   #25 (permalink)
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Re: when does art become something else?

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What a coincidence - Logan's Run is on TCM tonight
Lol. Damn I'm going to miss it, off to see the new Indy film tonight... might set the Sky+ though!
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