Bill Henson Untitled 1990-91 from the Paris Opera Project series 1990-91

Untitled (1990-1991)

In 1990 Henson was commissioned by the Paris Opera House to produce a series of photographs inspired by either the music or environment of the opera. His response was to photograph the audience. Initially Henson produced photographs on location at the Paris Opera House, but these were too ‘documentary’ for his purposes. The portraits he subsequently photographed in his Melbourne studio possess an intangible quality – a sense of self-absorbed attentiveness that conveys the experience of watching a performance or listening to music. When the series was installed in its entirety, Henson juxtaposed the portraits with images of brooding landscapes. The placement of the photographs, including the repetition of a number of images, suggested the complex rhythm and variation underlying a passage of music.