The gallery, which was due to open the exhibition on Thursday night, said later it would withdraw the controversial images from the show. -- PHOTOS: REUTERS
SYDNEY - AUSTRALIAN police have shutdown a photographic exhibition that includes images of naked children amid complaints that the pictures breach child pornography laws, a spokeswoman said on Friday.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Friday led public condemnation of the images by renowned photographer Bill Henson which were due to go on display at the Roslyn Oxley9 gallery in Sydney.
'I find them absolutely revolting,' Mr Rudd told the Nine Network.
'Kids deserve to have the innocence of their childhood protected. Whatever the artistic view of the merits of that sort of stuff - frankly I don't think there are any - just allow kids to be kids.' Police refused to comment on whether the images, moody portraits of a boy and a girl aged 12 and 13 taken against a dark background, run foul of child exploitation laws.
But they said they had spoken to Mr Henson and the gallery about one image.
'All parties have agreed to temporarily suspend the exhibition to allow inquiries to be made, including speaking with the subject of the photo and her parents,' a police spokeswoman said on Friday.
The gallery's website, where the images were on display, has also been shut down and is being investigated by child exploitation detectives, she added.
The gallery, which was due to open the exhibition on Thursday night, said later it would withdraw the controversial images from the show.
The photographs, which feature shots of the children taken separately and include full-frontal nudity, have sparked debate about art and censorship.
'It's child exploitation, it's criminal activity and it should be prosecuted,' child protection campaigner Ms Hetty Johnston said.
'They are clearly illegal child pornography images. It's not about art at all.'
But senior curator of photography at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Ms Judy Annear, said Mr Henson's beautiful works had made him the 'whipping boy' for a social problem.
'People should be focusing on the main game... if it has to do with pedophilia and the abuse of children they need to be focusing on that,' she told national news agency AAP.
'Bill's work isn't the problem here, it's just a convenient kind of whipping boy at this particular moment in time.' -- AFP