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Sydney Censorship?

I’m sorry, but there is going to be nothing funny about this post.  I have posted before about child pornography.  That was about a US case where teens were charged with possessing child pornography – that is photo’s taken of themselves willingly and for their “own use”.  This is about a much more serious situation in Sydney.

Photo: Sahlan Hayes

In Sydney on Thursday (22-5-08) there was a police raid on an art gallery, and 20 photo’s of a naked 13 year-old girl were seized.  These photo’s were the work of an “internationally acclaimed” photographer, Bill Henson.  It seems likely that the gallery will be charged over two matters: displaying photo’s of naked children on the Internet; and, displaying indecent material.

Three issues concern me, and should concern everyone else.  First, why would a gallery consider risking it’s reputation by displaying such work?  It doesn’t matter that it is the work of an internationally acclaimed photographer.  These are photographs of a naked child; regardless of anyone’s intention they will be seen as being of a sexual nature by some people – society does not approve of children being exploited. 

Second, who was looking after the model’s interests?  A minor cannot sign a release, the very piece of paper that the “professional” photographer would require to sell the works.  The child’s parent would have had to sign the release, how can they consider this display as being in her interest.  This could very well be the undoing of an future reputable career, something to try to hide from, or to be ashamed of.

Finally, what was Sydney’s artistic community thinking?  We have other artists and gallery patrons publicly saying that they saw the police’s action as being “censorship” (The Age [^] and ABC [^]).  Their implication is of petty officials in an unquestioning adherence to an unjust law.  However, censorship is defined as being “suppressing parts deemed objectionable on moral, political, military, or other grounds” ( [^]).  They are right, society finds this kind of material objectionable on moral and legal grounds.  This is the same society that the artists are a part, the society that gives these artists their freedom, their rights and their obligations.

Any self-respecting artist or gallery should be self-policing and self-censoring.  Bill’s fellow artists seem almost uniformly in favour of this work as being “artistic” and not sexualising children.  Do these artists not realise that western society emphatically disapproves of depictions of naked children?  How can they be so detached from the society in which they live? 

Judy Annear – senior curator of photography at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, “His work, in my opinion and in the opinion of my colleagues, … is [that it is] unfortunate if people confuse it with pornography”.  ABC [^]

Unfortunately pornography is in the eye of the beholder, and a lot of people find this material objectionable.  Yes, there is a line between art and pornography, but there is a massive grey area between the extremes.  It would be easy to say that society is over zealous in some aspects of child photography, with parents being banned from taking photo’s at their children’s sports days or on the beach. 

But this isn’t a borderline case, and would the artistic merit of the work be any different if the model was an adult? Discuss the border between art and pornography with adult subjects, and let the kids grow-up in peace!

Rose Bay – Sydney Seaplanes

Rose Bay Seaplane
de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver – VH-AQU – Sydney Seaplanes

I have had this as the title image for this site for a while now.  I thought that it was time for an explanation.  Rose Bay is the site of Australia’s first international airport – a seaport.  When we went out on a Harbour cruise to see the passing of the Two Queens on Sydney Harbour we managed to get down to Rose Bay, in Sydney’s Inner-Eastern suburbs.  While we were there we saw a couple of Sydney Seaplane’s flying boats come in to land.

In 1938 Qantas Empire Airways launched it’s luxurious flying boat service to England from Rose Bay.  The 15 passengers onboard paid a little more than the average annual wage of the time for the privilege of a ten day flight rather than a six week voyage.  The flight took ten days and had 31 stops.  As would be expected with the price they had paid the guests were pampered all the way with meals being served on china and there was enough room on-board to play quoits, and the nights were spent in top hotels on land. 

Today Qantas is gone from Rose Bay, but there is a regular flying boat service to Palm Beach, Gosford and Newcastle, as well as Sydney joyflights (Sydney Seaplanes [^]).  On the tourist-busy weekend that Sydney was experiencing with the two Queens in town, it seemed as though Rose Bay was busier than Sydney’s “real” airport at Mascot.  Even with this steady flow it was still hard to get a good photo.  This one had the bonus of having the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House in the background, making this unmistakable photo of Sydney.

Sources: Sydney Seaplanes [^], [^], Airways Museum [^], Afloat Magazine [^], Qantas [^].

The Age Has Googled A Ferry Disaster

The Age is running a story about Google Maps at the moment and the apparent “ferry disaster” in Sydney Cove: 

The Age “Ferry Crash” in Sydney Cove from Google Maps

The ferry “collision” appears right beside a giant cruise liner – either the Queen Elizabeth 2 or Queen Mary 2 – which was docked at Sydney Cove when the photographs were taken.
The image appears to show a ferry travelling at full speed colliding with a smaller boat. Metres away, another boat appears submerged under water except for the tip of its nose. Source:

Google have said that this is just an image stitching issue.  The interesting thing is that the Age couldn’t be bothered to research their story properly.  Two things indicate that the Liner in question is in fact the Queen Elizabeth 2: the fact that she is berthed facing out into the harbour, whereas the Queen Victoria was facing Circular Quay; and secondly, a quick Google revealed that the call-sign on the roof of the Bridge “GBTT” belongs to the QE2. 

Link to Google Map [^], with the QE2’s call sign clearly visible.

Sydney – Two Queens

QV and QE2 CrossingThe CannibalRabbits are just back from Sydney.  We headed up there to see the passing of the two Queens – Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth 2 and the new Queen Victoria.

Two Queens Crossing

There are more photos on the Photo Gallery [^]

We were lucky enough to have booked a harbour cruise for the big event.  This meant that we had grandstand seats to watch the passing of the two Queens.  It was amazing the number of people that decided to join us the shores of the Harbour all around Mrs Macquaries Seat and Cremorne Point and Ashton Park on the north side of the Harbour were absolutely crowded.  On the Harbour itself had every size of vessel from ten-foot tinnies up to the 90,000 ton, 965 foot long, 179 foot tall Queen Victoria.

The passing was billed by Cunard as a Royal Rendezvous.  This was the QE2’s 29th and final visit to Sydney, and marked the 30th anniversary of her first visit to Sydney on the 24th February 1978.  Once this world cruise is over she will be turned into a luxury floating hotel in Dubai. The Queen Victoria was on her maiden world voyage.  While passing on either side of Fort Denison the liners sounded a whistle salute, which could heard 16km (10miles) away.

 Cunard Press Release [^]

Sydney Morning Herald Photo Gallery:
              Queen Victoria [^]
              Queen Elizabeth 2 [^]