Photography. Truthfulness. Propaganda.

The bellow is a short essay I wrote for my degree back in 2016. I is about photography, truthfulness and propaganda in art and I used my favourite artist, Bill Henson as the example in this piece. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Photography. Truthfulness. Propaganda.

 
I’ve worked with people this age for many, many years. They seem to be the most effective vehicle for expressing the things that interest me about humanity and vulnerability and our sense of ourselves living inside our bodies.
— Bill Henson, 2008
 

Bill Henson is the biggest inspiration to me. Not by way of photographic style or imagery, but an inspiration of life. Throughout my teenage years and still today into my young adulthood, I am obsessed with his photography, the ideas he experiments with, but more so the way in which he does it. With no regard to societal norms or how the public would perceive him or his photography, he created and still creates bodies of work that speak to adolescences and young adults, that truly–I believe–only adolescent and young adults can understand.

 
Bill Henson’s work is publicly showcasing the issues facing adolescence, that the advertising industry is creating
— Nick Jeremiah

I’m talking of course, about his images of children, adolescent and young adults. The images are a truthful visual representation of the way teenagers feel. Darkened by criticism, forced to society’s idea of gender and behaviour, treated with no responsibility, and yet expected to be responsible. It is this visual vulnerability that is raw, truthful and accurate by all means. 

 
Look, for example, at the way children are used in advertising and dressed by their parents.
— Anna Schwartz, 2008

The propagandist editorials and advertising depicting unrealistic or unnatural models, beauty, clothing and more is a far more damaging form of photography. The advertising industry is projecting unrealistic expectations into the minds of children and teenagers and causing the issues that Henson’s work is trying to bring to light. 

 © Bill Henson "Untitled" 2009/2010

© Bill Henson "Untitled" 2009/2010

 © Bill Henson "Untitled" 2009/2010

© Bill Henson "Untitled" 2009/2010

 
It’s a dark day for Australian culture, in my view … it is an indictment of a culture when an artist of the integrity and stature of Bill Henson isn’t free to show his work.
— Anna Schwartz, 2008
 © Bill Henson "Untitled" 2009/2010

© Bill Henson "Untitled" 2009/2010

 © Bill Henson "Untitled" 2005/2006

© Bill Henson "Untitled" 2005/2006

 
 © Bill Henson "Untitled" Year Unknown

© Bill Henson "Untitled" Year Unknown

Henson’s work has been widely criticised for decades for depicting children in sexualised contexts. In 2008 his exhibition at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery in Sydney was temporarily shut down after police seized a number of works of nude children. Then Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the images were “revolting” and “devoid of any artistic merit”. 

My interpretation of Henson’s images is probably different to his own, however they are wonderfully ambiguous yet still obvious at the same time. The dark tones, sickening greens and yellows and silvering skin tones all plays on the darkness, angst and frustration children experience in this transition period from childhood to adolescence and into young adulthood. The nude bodies are an interpretation of that vulnerability. Henson’s work is the most truthful and effective use of psychological art photography to date and I am yet to find another artist that explores and represents such issues as accurately and beautifully as Bill Henson.

 
 © Nick Jeremiah "Untitled #12" 2016

© Nick Jeremiah "Untitled #12" 2016

Truthfulness and propaganda in my own works is very different to Henson. My commercial work is very much playing off the propaganda ideology. Studio fashion, hair and makeup, skin and beauty retouching. My architecture, photographed during the best light, retouching out imperfections or distractions in the area surrounding the property; it’s all very false and controlled to persuade your thinking that what you’re looking at is desirable and will make you want it or believe it. However, my personal work–portraits, landscapes, conceptual series’–are all very truthful by their nature.

I shoot film when I’m undertaking a personal project. I like the slowness and the time it takes, not just in the taking of a picture, but in the processing and developing. I have to wait a day or two before seeing my images after finishing a roll, and this gives me the chance to forget what I shot and look at the images with fresh eyes. I don’t like to alter my film photographs, even though there’s a lot I can do with them in the darkroom, I feel changing the way the scene was captured onto this piece of film takes away from the truthfulness of the shot. No matter the subject.

From the very beginning, I was all about the commercial genre of photography. I taught myself photography by watching a commercial photographer and wanted to go down that path. Commercial photography is propaganda, it is advertising. It is showing you something that you don’t have and telling you that you want it. Art and conceptual photography on the other hand, makes you think about ideas, concepts, issues and so on. I’ve only really started to explore that side of photography this year, but I’m finding it to be a refresh. Getting away from the telling and moving more into the showing and the stimulating.

© Nick Jeremiah, 2016

 © Nick Jeremiah "Sleeping Suburbia" 2016

© Nick Jeremiah "Sleeping Suburbia" 2016

 © Nick Jeremiah "Mourning Light" 2016

© Nick Jeremiah "Mourning Light" 2016

Quotes and fact checking resourced from Art or porn? Photographer facing obscenity charges article in The Age, May 24 2008 [Accessed Tuesday, October 18 2016] – http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/art-or-porn-photographer-facing-obscenity-charges/2008/05/23/1211183108411.html

Images and image information sourced from www.tolarnogalleries.com/artists/bill-henson [Accessed Tuesday, October 18 2016]