The Use of Light in Bill Henson and Caravaggio's Work Essay

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Through the use of light, artists continue to receive a strong emotional response from the audience. This is an essential element of an audience’s perception of a work – it may determine whether the artwork is perceived as happy or depressing, or even provides the difference between whether the work is friendly and welcoming, or shocking and confronting. Artists have used light for a long time to stimulate the emotions of the viewer. Two artists that have used this technique are Bill Henson and Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, or more simply known as just Caravaggio. Bill Henson is a contemporary Australian photographer, born in 1955, while Caravaggio was an Italian painter (1571 – 1610).
When Henson’s photographs are viewed through the
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He attracts the attention of audience and raises their awareness of a situation and his view of it, yet he still leaves his work open for interpretation and analysis.
In a way, Henson’s work is almost haunting. It allows the viewer to feel as if they are almost spying on the subjects of Henson’s photographs. This is achieved by the way his photographs seem to stare right past the viewer, carrying on with their actions. This forces the audience to consider whether these are really models or actors, or if they are real life, documented figures. This is seen in his photograph of the girl in Untitled 2000/01. Through the use of chilling tones and contrast, along with his use of bokkeh, Henson allows the viewer to interpret the image in several different ways. The soft, pastel blue tinge on the girl’s skin suggests an almost unhealthy and dirty look, while the blurred city lights in the background aid with the image’s sense of mystery. This feeling of “spying on the subject” is also seen in Henson’s work Untitled 1994/95, as well as Untitled 1995/96 series where Henson’s use of white space highlights the possibility of a peephole or vantage point of sorts into the image’s environment. This is also a prime example of how Henson uses light to stimulate the emotions of the viewer.
Surprisingly, during the time of their exhibition, Henson’s works did not spark much controversy, despite the particularly touchy subject of nude adolescent girls being