This is a photo taken of me when I was 14. It was taken at the social nudist club to which my family belonged, in a quiet area of bushland, and I was nude. It was part of a photo-shoot by a fellow member of the club who was a serious hobby photographer, I gave my permission for him to take photos of me and my parents agreed and gave their permission as well.
My father was with us while the photos were taken. My father and the photographer were also nude, as were various other members of the nudist club (duh) who walked past on the nearby bushland track while the photos were being taken. I think my younger sister, aged about 8 at the time, may also have been there for at least part of the photo-shoot, and that it may have been her who drew my hair back from my neck for this particular shot. There was a piece of cloth drapery involved in various positions, because the photographer was going for the look of a classical painting, so sometimes the cloth was draped over one shoulder, sometimes around my hips, sometimes over my hair.
This was a profoundly non-sexual experience for me, and I’m pretty sure for everyone else involved, and yet I’m sure that part of what the photographer wanted to capture was that sense of awkwardness about my developing body, and the sense that people were starting to view me differently as my body changed. I couldn’t avoid feeling awkward and self-conscious about my body at the time, just like most other teenagers, whether or not the actual circumstances of the moment were sexually charged in any way.
I’m equally sure that this experience, which produced some lovely portrait shots that I’m proud to own, colours my reaction to the Bill Henson photo furore. The above photo is not pornography just because I was naked when it was taken. The other photos from the same session that do happen to show a nipple or two are not pornography either. That doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for some of the pictures taken of under-age models by Henson to be pornographic, of course. Just because my experience of such a photo session was entirely positive doesn’t mean that my experience is a benchmark of any sort.
But I can’t deny that the existence of this photo and the memories I have of how it came to be do tend to pushing me to giving Henson the benefit of the doubt. I may be utterly wrong to do so – the man who photographed me never once looked “pervy” as these photos were being taken, and Bill Henson might well be entirely the opposite. But I know from personal experience that it is very possible for a minor to do a nude photo shoot with a trusted family friend, with a parent there for reassurance, and feel entirely unexploited by the incident.
Make of that what you will.