Graham Ovenden

The Guardian have leapt to the defence of convicted paedophile Graham Ovenden. They say we should forget Ovenden’s crimes against children, and appreciate his ‘art’ ,which includes images of child sexual abuse, on its own merits. The author of the article, Rachel Cooke, says she wouldn’t feel any differently about  Ovenden’s work “even if the children were naked”. Read more

Graham Ovenden

The Guardian’s favourite paedophile artist

This follows on from Jon Henley’s deeply sinister article ‘Paedophilia: bringing dark desires to light‘ which was published in the Guardian in January. This article used former chairman of the Paedophile Information Exchange, Tom O’Carroll, as a source, and peddled PIE’s old lie about child sexual abuse causing no harm. The article linked to a sympathetic biography of O’Carroll, but failed to mention that he was convicted for possessing 50,000 images and films of child abuse, including children as young as six being raped and tortured.


The Guardian’s favourite child rape enthusiast

The Guardian refuse to cover the Elm Guest House story or any of the other new investigations into historical child abuse such as Lambeth and Kincora.

Most worryingly of all, they won’t cover the Peter Righton story despite being in possession of all the information that has been handed to the current police investigation. This was revealed earlier this year by the source of Tom Watson’s PMQ. The Peter Righton paedophile network preyed on vulnerable children in care homes and schools for decades. It’s a national scandal involving some of the most powerful people in our society exploiting and abusing some of the most vulnerable.

The Guardian used to lead the way on covering child abuse with a series of powerful articles by Nick Davies in the 1990s. When did that change, and why are they priorotising the rights of paedophiles over the rights of abused children?

Western Morning News (Plymouth), 22nd October 2009

A leading artist and photographer created child pornography on a home computer in a file titled “Destroy it” – but claimed it was art, a court heard.

Internationally-acclaimed Graham Ovenden, 67, of Bodmin, North Cornwall, was found with indecent pictures in the file on his PC and despite trying to delete it claimed it was “work in progress”, Truro Crown Court was told yesterday.

Ovenden is a painter, fine art photographer and writer, who has displayed in the Victoria and Albert Museum, The Tate and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Officers found 16 separate images Ovenden had created and 121 other indecent images stored in files in his computer’s memory, the court heard.

Officers found the files when they raided his Gothic mansion in November 2006 and Ovenden admitted he made the images on his computer.

But Ovenden – whose major works feature young girls – said the pictures were all being used to create an “end product” for artistic display.

He does not deny making the images but has pleaded not guilty to 34 different child pornography offences.
Ramsay Quaife, prosecuting, said the images were found on a Photoshop program despite Ovenden previously deleting them from his computer.

He said: “There was a folder on the computer called ‘destroy it’ and no record of the images the police subsequently found were obvious on the computer. What we say is that the original images have been deleted, erased – they’re gone.
But whenever you do anything on a computer, a cache file is automatically created and whatever is being done on that computer, is being automatically copied into the cache. So on that computer, was a copy of exactly what Mr Ovenden had been up to. What the police found was a graphic application called Adobe Photoshop, and it’s the use of the file browser in this programme to view the images which led to the cache files being created.”

“You can be sure that the copy of the images in the cache is the same as the image made by Mr Ovenden – he was making these images, and a virtual trace or footprint was left on the computer. Through what the experts found on the computer and through admissions of the defendant, you can be quite sure the defendant was making indecent images on this computer.”

When officers stormed Ovenden’s home, Mr Quaife said he immediately admitted they were his pictures.
He said: “When first asked about the images, Ovenden said they were deliberately intended so we should find them, and that he had been working on his creations for about a year.
“He added ‘I am totally responsible in every way’. Mr Ovenden said to police, ‘the process of the image making is actually to create corruption, then overlay corruption’.”

The court heard that in a police interview, Ovenden quoted Shakespeare’s Hamlet to explain why he made the images.
Mr Quaife said: “He told officers, ‘it is but skin and film, an ulcerus place, while rank corruption lies within’.
But what the Crown says is there can be no doubt these images are indecent – indecent pseudo images are indecent.”
Robert Linford, defending, argued his client had the images as a means to create his famous artwork. He said his client had shown completed work to officers which appeared to show the image of a young girl, with words of poetry superimposed over the image.

Mr Linford said: “My client repeatedly wrote to the police and showed them these images of his final pieces of work.
“He has repeatedly argued that the images seized from him were very much a work in progress, and that these were the final outcomes, the prints were the finished products.”

Ovenden has pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of making indecent images of children, and 16 counts of making indecent pseudo photographs of children.
He is also charged with two counts of possessing 121 indecent photographs and “pseudo photographs” of children.
The trial continues.

Daily Mail, 13th March 1993
by Peter Rose

A SOCIETY photographer and an artist were at the centre of a major child pornography investigation last night.
Up to 100 children – many from upper-class families – are thought to have been victims of a porn ring which could have been operating for 15 to 20 years.

Ronald Oliver, whose photographic studio is patronised by the rich and famous, was arrested and questioned about allegations that indecent photographs of children had been taken and distributed.

Artist Graham Ovenden, 51, who received world-wide publicity in 1980 when he was accused of an elabo-rate hoax on the art world involving photographs of Victorian-style waifs and strays, was also arrested and questioned.
So was another artist, Terence Walters, and a photographer Gregory Potter. All four have been released on bail, pending further inquiries.

The four men were arrested after a secret two-month investigation by Scotland Yard’s Obscene Publications squad, which seized hundreds of photographs, along with letters and diaries. Backed up by child protection teams, they carried out raids in West London, Cornwall and Kent.

The alleged victims of the ring are believed to be aged eight and upwards. Last night detectives were trying to identify them, so that their parents could be informed.

The Independent, 15th February 1994

ART / Portrait of the artist as an accused man; Graham Ovenden paints young female nudes, like the one on this page. Photographic studies for this portrait were removed from his house by the police. So were two photographs by Lewis Carroll, also reproduced here. They are now being exhibited under the title The Obscene Publications Squad Versus Art. Iain Gale reports

Early in the morning of Wednesday 10 March 1993, officers from the Obscene Publications Squad of the Metropolitan Police burst into a house in Liskeard, Cornwall, which they believed to be at the centre of a child pornography ring. They came away with one suspect, 28 boxes of negatives, 67 videos and a large quantity of photographs. Losing little time, they announced that they had ”smashed” an extensive paedophile ring which involved hundreds of children and had been carefully built up over 20 years.

As it turned out, what they had ”smashed” was the life of an artist – their suspect Graham Ovenden – who had built his international reputation on sensitive paintings and photographs of children, some of them nude. The so-called paedophile ring was in fact a loose association of artists, including Peter Blake, Graham Arnold and David Inshaw and the photographer Ron Oliver, who had himself been the subject of a similar raid two months earlier.

Typical of the videos removed by the police were Little Dorrit and Miss Marple; the most outlandish was Star Trek II. Apart from a small group of Ovenden’s nude studies, the photographs that were removed to Scotland Yard were mainly early photographs of children (mostly clothed) by such as George Bernard Shaw and Lewis Carroll.

The works were recently returned to their owner. As in the case of Ron Oliver, no charges have been made against Ovenden, and no apologies offered. The confiscated photographic exhibits are now about to go on show at a London gallery, enabling the public to judge for itself whether or not they are obscene.

”I’m going to be showing the stupidity of it all,” says Nicky Akehurst, owner of the London gallery putting on the exhibition. ”The art world is tackling this issue head on.” (A petition signed by Sir Hugh Casson, Laurie Lee, Peter Blake and Lucinda Lambton was important in persuading the police to return the photographs.) ”But it needs to be addressed by politicians and the public generally. That’s what I’m trying to do. We’ll show a few of Graham’s nudes, but apart from those it will be what the police took.”

What they took was part of the extensive collection of Victorian photographs that Ovenden and his wife have assembled over the past 20 years. Ovenden is a world-recognised authority on the genre and has written books on the photographic work of Lewis Carroll, D O Hill, Robert Adamson and Lewis Hine. His Pre-Raphaelite Photographers is the classic work on the subject, displaying his consummate knowledge of the work of such as D G Rossetti and Julia Margaret Cameron. It was through his study of these artists that Ovenden found the inspiration for the painted and photographic portraits of girls with which he has made his name.

Born in 1943, Ovenden trained as an artist at the Royal College of Art and in 1975 was one of the founding members, along with Blake, Inshaw and Arnold, of the Brotherhood of Ruralists, a loosely-knit group of painters who found inspiration in the rural mysticism of William Blake and Samuel Palmer and the ideal of ”truth to materials” expressed in the work of the late Pre- Raphaelites. Ovenden’s own style owes something both to the Pre-Raphaelites and to the modern French painter Balthus, whose chosen subject matter he also shares. Ovenden depicts the nude female figure just at that point at which it is beginning the transformation from girl to woman. They are difficult images which do not suit the conventional taste of much of the British public. Nevertheless, the developing female form has long been a legitimate and valid subject for art, from the nymphs of Italian Mannerism to Gauguin’s smouldering Tahitians.

Ovenden began to explore this perilous territory in a series of paintings and photographs which he made with Peter Blake in 1970, on the theme of Carroll’s Alice. Whereas Blake moved on to other themes, Ovenden chose to delve deeper into the pre-pubescent subconscious, producing numerous paintings and photo-graphs of children, naked and clothed. Among them were commissioned portraits, many of them of the children of distinguished parents. Now, under the ambiguous 1978 Protection of Children Act (which states, ”It is an offence for a person to take, or permit to be taken, any indecent photograph of a child”) Ovenden’s erstwhile clients are also liable to prosecution.

That this is iniquitous is born out by the few photographic works by Ovenden that are included in the exhibition of formerly confiscated material. In what amounts almost to a pastiche of its Victorian antecedents, one of the works on view in the exhibition – a photographic study for the painting Elinore (see main picture, right) – depicts a girl, side on, in gentle chiaroscuro. The initial focus of our attention is her face – a mask of contemplation in which the artist has attempted to capture the confused emotions present in his sitter’s mind. The pose is relaxed, her own. Here, as in all his images, painted or photographed, Ovenden takes great care with light. His intention is not to expose his subject to the viewer, but to enable us to understand her predicament, to create what he sees as a reflective, poignant eulogy to fleeting innocence and beauty.

Graham Ovenden’s art lies on a meandering art historical line which runs from the putti of Raphael, through Millais’ Bubbles and the bohemian nudes of Augustus John and the Bloomsbury artists. In their painted state, Ovenden’s girls, like those of John, can be classed as high art and by virtue of this are deemed acceptable. But any artist crossing over into the medium of photography immediately invites the accusation of pornography. It is significant that a sizeable chunk of the booklet that Ovenden has written in his defence should be devoted to the ways in which he alleges the police have re-photographed and cropped his photographic prints in order to deliberately distort the images for production as evidence for any subsequent trial.

The raids on Ovenden, and Oliver before him, amount, says Akehurst, to a ”witch hunt”. ”The police have targeted photographers,” Akehurst says. ”Artists are so vulnerable. And it’s never just one person. There’s got to be a ring.” For Akehurst, those who see a paedophile at work in the art of Ovenden are simply seeing what they want to see. Their view may yet prevail: while no charges have been made, Ovenden, given the outspoken nature of his own defence, believes they cannot be far off.

You might choose to call Ovenden’s work many things – tender, charming, kitsch, sentimental, mawkish, even inept. But pornographic, degrading and obscene? What Ovenden’s nudes really demonstrate is not a covert perversity but an openness and honesty which disappeared with Victorian hypocrisy. The Victorians ignored the difficult sexual questions present in the growing child by denying them, by covering them up. For Ovenden each one of his young female nudes offers a means to explore fundamental mysteries within the human condition.

Ovenden’s paintings and photographs are no more indecent than the other works on show at the Akehurst Gallery, which also helped the police with their enquiries – a portrait by Lewis Carroll of the Archbishop of Canterbury, snapshots of Ovenden’s fellow Ruralists, a photograph of the artist’s daughter in a Laura Ashley dress, one of Peter Blake’s Alice photographs from 1970 and, the piece de resistance, an official photograph of the young Princess, now Queen, Elizabeth.

News of the World, 8th April 2001
by Rob Kellaway & Peter Rose

A SOCIETY photographer on the run from child porn cops for seven years may be extradited to Britain after the News of the World tracked him down to a French mountain hideaway.

Ron Oliver, 41-whose clients once included comic Les Dennis -fled the UK after Scotland Yard’s obscene publications squad raided his studio and seized 20,000 photos.

Since then a warrant has been issued for his arrest and cops want to question him over allegations that he took indecent pictures of children aged six to ten.

Before dad-of-four Oliver became a fugitive from justice, he was the darling of British high society, charging £4,000 a time to snap the children of lords, MPs and stars.

He even bragged to police about working for Michael Heseltine-a claim the top Tory strongly denies.

When we traced Oliver to the French Riviera, where he lives in a £500,000 villa and STILL works as a child photographer, he said: “My defence for not returning to England is that I could not receive a fair trial there.”
But now he may have no choice. We told police the exact location of his home in the village of Magagnosc, near the city of Cannes.

A Scotland Yard source said: “We shall be liaising with Interpol. We’d like to extradite Mr Oliver back to Britain to stand trial.”

There is no suggestion that Oliver harmed Les Dennis’s son when the star commissioned him to photograph his boy. But Les, 46, was horrified to hear about the photographer’s flight from justice, saying: “I am shocked and dismayed.”
Mr Heseltine was also shocked to hear about Oliver’s claim that he had once worked for him.

The former cabinet minister told the News of the World: “I have no knowledge of this man at all and have never heard of him. He did not take any photographs of my family.”

Oliver’s successful west London business collapsed when he was arrested in 1993, along with his assistant Greg Potter and artists Graham Ovenden and Terence Walters.

The arrests followed the discovery of an alleged child porn ring involving hundreds of young victims. Police swooped on addresses in west London, Kent and Cornwall and seized photographs, letters and diaries.

It then emerged that Potter, who comitted suicide last year, was a convicted child molester who had sexually assaulted nine children in his native Zimbabwe.

Oliver, who was on police bail, fled to Holland and later moved to Paris. He has always insisted his work is “art” and once spent Pounds 30,000 having a book of his pictures of naked children published.

In a bid to drum up support, he sent copies to several peers. One, Lord Renton, wrote: “I am shocked by some of the photographs. I do think that anyone who publishes them deserves a jail sentence.”

Oliver moved to Magagnosc three years ago. His home is protected by high fences and alsatian guard dogs and he would only speak to our men via an intercom.

He said he would only answer written questions, but he ignored the 12 we delivered to his villa.
Scotland Yard are keen to get answers to their questions.

Our source said: “We may now be able to conclude an investigation ongoing for many years.”
MPs have signed an Early Day Motion slamming the Saatchi Gallery’s exhibition of photos of naked children-exposed by the News of the World.