Bill Henson (Australian, b.1955) is one of Australia's most notable leaders in Contemporary photography. Born in Melbourne in 1955, Henson studied visual arts and design with Louis Athol Shmith (Australian, 1914–1990) at Prahran College of Advanced Education. Other notable influences on his work include the famous Melbourne painter and his long-term partner Louise Hearman (Australian, b.1963) and the award-winning film director Paul Cox (Australian, b.1940). Although Henson did not complete his degree, Shmith showed his work to the photography curator at the National Gallery of Victoria, which led to Henson’s first solo exhibit in 1975. Since his first exhibit, the artist has shown his work in Australia and many other countries around the world. Some of his most notable exhibit venues include the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, and the Venice Biennale. Common themes that can be seen in Henson's work include Chiaroscuro (stark light to dark tonal contrasts), bokeh (blurry imagery), and a reflection of a strong sense of musicality.
As Edmund Capon (Australian b.1940), the art director of the Gallery of New South Wales, says: "Henson's images are carefully choreographed moments of suspenseful drama, veritable symphonies of decadence and beauty, of squalor and opulence, of mysterious darkness and ominous light, of quiet obsession and subversive ecstasy." One of Henson's most famous projects, known as the Paris Opera Project, was created in 1991 to give viewers a sense of listening to music. The project was produced in an attempt to generate images designed to show the feelings stirred by music.
In more recent times, Henson has shifted his focus to both urban and rural landscapes. His works portray a sort of Romanticism with dark and abandoned fringes of the city that often include lone figures tormented by longing and sadness. Henson's project entitled 3 Decades of Photography captures three decades of his work, and is meant to demonstrate that a series is never over, but is instead only a work in progress.