Artist responds to claims child photos are 'semi-pornographic'


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The Independent Culture

Vee Speers has utterly refuted suggestions that her photos of children are “semi-pornographic”, calling them “a sensitive celebration of childhood”.

The Australian artist responded to an article in the Evening Standard today in which people living nearby to Speers’ latest exhibition at the Little Black Gallery in Chelsea, called her work “distasteful” and “semi-pornographic”.

The exhibition, titled The Birthday Party, features children in states of semi-undress. There have been complaints from neighbours about three particular images: one of a little boy in his underwear (above), another of a little girl who is topless and clutching dolls to her chest, and another of a boy with a gun.

Ann Nathan, told the Standard:  “The exhibition is distasteful, considering there are two schools and a church on the street. I don’t look up at the window when I walk past anymore.” Her neighbour, who asked not to be identified, added: “The stuff they call art is semi-pornographic.”

Responding to the article, Speers said in a statement: “Never has anyone suggested my images inappropriate or pornographic nor have I received any negative press."

Ghislain Pascal, co-owner of The Little Black Gallery, added: "These photographs are beautiful images celebrating the innocence of children. There is nothing remotely pornographic about them."

The Little Black Gallery received a visit from the police in 2010 after complaints about an image by photographer Bob Carlos Clarke exhibited in its window.Artist

The image, which appears to show a man having sex with a woman who is bent forward, was the source of complaints to the council from locals.

Speers is well-known for her stylised portraiture. The Birthday Party series was inspired by her daughter’s fancy dress party.

“I tried really, really hard to think back to my own childhood. I want people to see in the pictures some connection with their own experience. Perhaps half-forgotten or long-buried,” she told The Telegraph in 2008.

In 2009 a photograph of the actress Brooke Shields as a child caused controversy at the Pop Life: Art In A Material World exhibition at Tate.

The furore about the image by Richard Prince, in which Shields stands naked in a bathtub, was so intense the photograph had to be separated from the rest of the exhibition and placed on its own behind a closed door.

The artwork, titled 'Spiritual America', was actually a photograph of a photograph taken by Garry Gross in 1975 at the request of Shield's mother. The actress' first role was that of a child prostitute in Louise Malle's Pretty Baby.