Bill Henson

As part of my feedback on my assignment 4, my tutor signposted me to the work of Bill Henson.

Bill Henson is an Australian Photographer famous for his low light, painterly images. Many of his images are taken using the ambient twilight to create a painterly ‘chiaroscuro’ effect.

Chiaroscuro ‘is an oil painting technique, developed during the Renaissance, that uses strong tonal contrasts between light and dark to model three-dimensional forms, often to dramatic effect’ (Wikipedia). I understand this to mean the use of light and shadow to give a three dimensional ‘solid’ appearance to a subject.

Henson produced much of his work using ambient twilight to create ‘otherworldly’ emotional images. This twilight light was also used to suggest the ‘twilight’ boundaries between male and female, child and adult.

His book ‘Particle Mist‘  is a collection of images of ballerinas as they practice their dance.

Image 1

These images show dancers ‘lost in a reverie as they practice dance in a dimly lit studio; but through Henson’s lens they could just as well be the protagonists of a 17th century Dutch masterpiece’. (Woodward 2017)

Henson (in Woodward 2017) says: ‘When I first encountered ballet, as depicted in these works, it wasn’t so much the dancers that struck me as the light and atmosphere of the space in which they were rehearsing. There was an otherworldly twilight created by the darkened and dusty windows in this old studio which seemed to hold the dancers in thrall. Gradually I came to realise that these spaces and the people who inhabit them start to become one’. (Woodward)

To me, these images are portraits that show the feelings and thoughts of the subjects and show them as inseparable from dance, almost as if the portrait is not about the individual but is about her mental connection with and total absorption in  her physical expression through movement. These images are soft, conveying a gentle emotion and a blurring of the boundary between the dancer and the dance.

I am particularly interested in Henson’s images of industrial landscapes, taken at night.

Image 2

I would be interested to combine my work on assignments 4 (night photography) and 5 (industrial images) to capture images of Sheffield’s E.ON power station at night. I find it particularly striking at night because of the orange ‘fire-glow’ effect from the main building. This would be an interesting contrast to my daylight images of the site.

List of illustrations

Image 1: Henson, B (2015) Photographs from Particle Mist at: (Accessed 8 May 2017)

Image 2: Henson, B (1998) Photograph. ~31 untitled. At: (accessed 14 May 2017)


Woodward, D. (2017). Bill Henson’s Bewitching ‘Anti-Portraits’ of Ballerinas. [online] AnOther. Available at: (Accessed 8 May 2017).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s