Olympia Nelson

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Olympia Nelson (born 1997) is the Australian daughter of fine arts photographer Polixeni Papapetrou and art critic Robert Nelson who writes for the Australian magazine The Age. She is currently completing a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in English & Theatre Studies and Art History. She has attracted media attention twice: once for her nude modeling for fine art photography as a six years old child on the cover of the fine arts journal Art Monthly Australia in a fine arts photograph taken by her mother[1][2][3][4][5] which was criticized by the then Prime Minister of Australia[6] and once for the publication of her article criticizing teenage girls who seek social networking popularity by posting sexualized selfies.[7]

Olympia as a six-year-old fine arts nude model and response by the Australian state[edit]

Olympia was six years old when she was photographed nude by her mother for fine art photography purposes. After some years the photo recreating Lewis Carroll's photograph of a nude Beatrice Hatch was published on the cover of the fine arts journal Art Monthly Australia, as a form of protest against the police confiscation of fine arts photographs by fine art photographer Bill Henson, depicting nude children who had modeled in his studio with their mothers' consent.

The photograph of Olympia nude caused responses by the Australian state, with the then Federal Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson calling for a police investigation because the arts journal's cover photograph could be used by paedophiles and the then Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd stating that he "cannot stand the image", while the then Federal Family Minister Jenny Macklin said that "children were being sexualized in ways that robs them of a childhood" and the then Federal Arts Minister Peter Garrett criticized the journal's cover saying it was "needlessly provocative" and announced that the Australian Government would call the Australian Council to set up a set of rules over the use of children in works of art and publications that receive government funding.[8]

Eleven year old Olympia and her father, Robert, while speaking to journalists outside their home defended the journal's decision to put nude Olympia on its cover, with Olympia saying that the photo "is one of my favourites, if not my favourite photo, my mum has ever taken of me and she has taken so many photos of me. I think that the picture my mum took of me had nothing to do with being abused and I think nudity can be a part of art. I'm really, really offended by what Kevin Rudd had to say about this picture."[8]

In response to Olympia's defense of the photo, the then Australian Federal Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson stated, "The use and sexualization of children in this way is indefensible, whether in the name of art, parental consent or political protest and that the child concerned defends the photographs in my view merely compounds what has happened."[8]

Olympia as an essayist and television interviewee[edit]

Olympia, with the support of her parents, published an essay she wrote when she was sixteen years old, analysing discourse around selfies and how at times, they can encourage pernicious standards about how girls should look. The essay was re-published many times by several media outlets, adding to its popularity.

Olympia was later an interviewee on television in 2013 to discuss her essay and her concerns over teenage girls who use sexualized selfie photographs as a means to become popular.[9]

Olympia has also published an article and corresponding video on the burden of exams, detailing the positive aspects and negative perceptions of student exams.[10]

See also[edit]

  • Bill Henson, an unrelated fine art photographer who has also been the focus of media controversy. The Australian Art Monthly magazine once published a photograph of a young Olympia nude in response to media criticism of a display of the art of Henson.
  • The female name Olympia is of Greek origin and is also the name of an ancient city.
  • Moral panic
  • Nudity


  1. ^ Kathy Evans. "Masking controversy after photo furore". Theage.com.au. Retrieved 2014-02-19. 
  2. ^ "Olympia". Polixenipapapetrou.net. Retrieved 2014-02-19. 
  3. ^ Polixeni Papapetrou. "An analysis of the Art Monthly Australia controversy". Polixenipapapetrou.net. Retrieved 2014-02-19. 
  4. ^ "The naked child in art: Polixeni Papapetrou and Olympia Nelson". NovelActivist.com. 2012-05-18. Retrieved 2014-02-19. 
  5. ^ "Olympia Nelson defends photo of her on Art Monthly cover". Herladsun.com.au. Retrieved 2014-02-19. 
  6. ^ "I'm offended by Rudd, says girl in latest nudity storm - National". smh.com.au. 2008-07-08. Retrieved 2014-02-19. 
  7. ^ "Bustle". Bustle. Retrieved 2014-02-19. 
  8. ^ a b c Lorna Edwards (2008-07-08). "The naked truth is hard to come by". Theage.com.au. Retrieved 2014-02-19. 
  9. ^ "Olympia Nelson on 'The Drum' 11/7/13". YouTube. 2013-07-13. Retrieved 2014-02-19. 
  10. ^ Nelson, Olympia (May 13, 2014). "Are Exams Ruining Your Life, Too?: The upside of exams". Birdee magazine. We Magazines. Retrieved 2015-04-26.