Australian Censorship Board Rules 'Naked Kids' Photo Exhibit Non-Pornographic

Photographs of nude teenagers that prompted police to close a gallery exhibit in Australia's biggest city and launch an obscenity investigation were cleared Friday by censors as non-pornographic.

The ruling on leading Australian photographer Bill Henson's portraits came two weeks after police shut his latest exhibit just before opening night and confiscated dozens of photographs of naked adolescent boys and girls to investigate whether they violated obscenity laws.

A spokeswoman for Australia's Classification Board, speaking on condition of anonymity under board policy, said six photos had been referred to them. The board gave five of them a G rating, and one a PG.

The PG photo — of a 13-year-old girl — was used on the cover of the invitation to the exhibit. It was believed to have caused the initial complaints that led to the police shutdown of the exhibit and investigation into possible obscenity charges against Henson.

The image "creates a viewing impact that is mild and justified by context ... and is not sexualized to any degree," the board found.

Police did not immediately announce that they were closing their investigation, and it was not clear Friday whether the ruling would lead to the reopening of the Henson exhibit at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery. The gallery referred questions to Henson's publicist, who was not immediately available for comment.

Henson, 52, a renowned artist whose work is displayed in galleries around the world, has not spoken publicly since the controversy erupted.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported Friday that police were likely to drop their investigation of Henson in light of the board's ruling.

Police said Friday morning that they had no updates on their investigation.

The police investigation set off a debate over censorship versus art, with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd calling the photos "revolting." He was countered by actress Cate Blanchett and other artists, who argued that creativity was being stifled.

Rudd said Friday that he stood by his views of the work but that the matter was for independent bodies to decide.

"I ... said what my views are as a parent, I don't budge from that," Rudd told Nine Network television. "But I'm not about to go around and start dictating to the legal authorities what they should or should not do."

At least three other art galleries in Australia were contacted by police about their Henson collections, and some took the pieces down from the walls while the case was under investigation.

Henson's work, known for its use of light and dark shading, encompasses a wide range of subjects — landscapes, cloudscapes, suburban and rural life, young people and old people.