I had put this on the back burner, but a recent article on Polixeni Papapetrou has prompted me to bring it forward. Polexini is an artist who got into the usual strife over taking nude photos of her daughter Olympia. This was all part of the Bill Henson furor and it erupted because Art Monthly Australia weighed into the debate by publishing one of Polixeni’s photos of Olympia on its cover.
The photo is only nude in a series based on the work of Lewis Carroll; in this case Beatrice Hatch by the Seaside. It is the only nude in a series titled Dreamchild from 2003
In the greater context of the naked child in art this image is mild. The pose is coy. Yet some of the extremists claimed this image was ‘sexualised’. Even more amazingly, the Australian Prime Minister of the day, Kevin Rudd, declared the image of Olympia ‘disgusting’ and raised the possibility of withdrawing the funding of Art Monthly. This was pure populist politics from an openly conservative Christian politician. It was also a display of his shameful ignorance.
Olympia would have none of it and bravely decided to speak out, telling Rudd that she was offended by his outburst.
Once again we have an example where the subject of the nude photo has spoken out in defence of the photo. Shouldn’t we listen?
Unfortunately apparently not. The critics argued that Olympia had somehow been brainwashed or coached by her parents. They could not allow the possibility that children might enjoy participating in the creation of art and have no problem with posing nude.
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