Australian government publishes up-skirt photos…

Through regulation, restriction, misguided legislation and baseless fear, the documentary photographer’s world is shrinking apace. Corporations and government instrumentalities have commodified our landscape in ways that make spontaneous photography in many precincts illegal.

National parks, beaches, shopping centres, rock concerts, railway stations, airports and schools are all off-limits for a variety of reasons, some of which I have touched on elsewhere (Uluru and photography restrictions…). Throw in an ill-informed public, uneducated security guards and police misquoting half understood laws and no photographer today raises his or her camera without a sense of unease.

Which makes the publication of these photos in 1991 by Australia Post, as part of an issue of five stamps, to celebrate 150 years of photography, all the more ironic.

Bondi Beach, 1939 photo by Max Dupain

Bondi Beach, 1939 photo by Max Dupain

The beach photograph by Max Dupain epitomises the Australian beach lifestyle. It rightly occupies a place of honour in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria. But can you imagine shooting something like this today without being pounced on by over-zealous beach inspectors or the police being called?

In 2006 Max’s son Rex was detained and threatened with arrest for shooting pictures on Bondi Beach.,23599,20895457-2,00.html

The Wheel of Youth, 1929 by Harold Cazneaux

The Wheel of Youth, 1929 by Harold Cazneaux

Crouching down low to capture the curving energetic sweep of The Wheel of Youth, as he did in 1929 at Dee Why, would almost guarantee Harold Cazneaux’s arrest if he was making that picture today. After all there are children in the frame. The pedophile alarm bells would be ringing loudly.

The reality is, that no photographer in 2009 could expect to make pictures like this and not be challenged. But were times so very different? I’d be interested in your thoughts…



Filed under art, Australian, Opinion, Photographer, Photographers' rights, Photography, Photojournalism, Rob Walls

3 responses to “Australian government publishes up-skirt photos…

  1. That these pictures, and many like them, were taken back in the mists of photographic time is precisely the argument the wowsers posit for banning such salacious shutterbugging now. We now, apparently, should be better informed and better behaved, and we now recognise the irreparable harm that can be caused by prurient photography such as this. Poor Dupain; poor Cazneaux. They were uneducated innocents carried away by the need to make a decent photograph rather than thinking “is this suitable for adults to see? Will I contribute to a paedophile’s distorted and sick mind by showing this?” Yes sir, the only way to deal with the ever growing mountain of muck out there is to legislate. And write a strong letter to the Times. Frankly, I wish I’d never handed my brace of sidelock Purdeys in to the police during the gun moratorium – some of these so-called artists out there (chap called Henson, specifically) would soon feel the sting of saltpetre if I had my way….

  2. Too right colonel! In the absence of your favourite artillery, you could always resort to a good horse-whipping, should Henson cross your path.

    Mind you, as far as I’m concerned he’s well to the back of a long queue of politicians when it comes to the lash, in this country. No names, no pack-drill, but they know who they are!

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