Erotic photography is a form of photography which has supporters of the idea that it is a distinct form of art, and indeed should always be regarded as such. Then there are other people, unfortunately usually in influential positions, that either believes it should be heavily censored, or banned completely. When photography began, it was in many respects easier to censor the arts, printed media, and not long afterward cinema than it is now. Erotica is a theme that easily lent itself to both the static imagery of photographs and the moving images of cinema motion movies. Present day technology means that it has become more difficult to censor this genre of photography, or other far worse things, which governments aim to keep under tight control. Technology also means that things can be done differently, yet the basic concepts of the genre have stayed the same. Changes have mainly altered the speed at which erotic photographs can be produced, and how quickly they can be spread from one place to another.
As a type of photography, there is no doubt that erotic photography has been around for almost as long as cameras and films have been invented themselves. Basically, it has been around since the early 1840s as French studios started to produce such prints. A precise measure of how many erotic photographs were taken, kept, and viewed in the early decades of such photographs existing will probably never be known. To avoid censorship, and possible legal proceedings, photographers and their customers would keep the fact that erotic pictures had been taken and subsequently brought a secret. Who made such photographs, and where the pictures could be purchased from soon spread via word of mouth. The early published photograph would have been considered tame by today's standards.
One photographer known to have produced erotic photography was one Alfred Cheney Johnston. He was a photographer almost by accident. Johnston began to use photography rather than canvas to make greater amounts of money via his ad hoc form of art. For he originally trained to be a portrait painter, before discovering the figures that proved that photographic stills of aspiring actors, as well as actresses, made him more money. At first, Johnston had only used a camera to use the resulting photographs to paint run of the mill canvas portrait pictures as soon as his customers had departed from his art studio in New York. This seems to have been one of the main cities for erotic photography to be the most developed in the early years of the 20th century. Before that, most of this genre of art was dominated by the French, with pictures from the likes of Julian Mandel proving popular. Not too many things were known about Mandel, and most people at the time assumed that he was using a fake name to hide his real identity. Other French photographers that made large amounts of money for producing erotica included Jean Agelou and Alexandre-Jacques Chantron.
Other cities that were attractive places to produce adult-themed photographs included Paris, London and also Berlin. In parts of those cities, people could go to an adult theater to see shows with showgirls performing in. These girls were more likely to make an appearance in erotic photography as they would have fewer reservations about posing in these pictures than other women did. Celebrities were content to appear in milder versions of such photographs, perhaps wearing swimsuits to earn extra money and publicity. The film studios were not averse to such pinup pictures being put on public sale to coincide with the release of their stars' latest movie releases. The pinup was a form of erotica that was boosted in popularity by the Second World War as men were away fighting and wanted things to cheer them up.
Perhaps if Johnston had only had the urge to avoid risks and thus stuck to portrait painting many art critics and customers would without a doubt never heard of Alfred Cheney Johnston. If that had been the case all along, there would have been less information available to us concerning the genre of erotic photography, and how it was developing while Johnston was still working in New York. Might have taken longer to have emerged. One of his contemporaries also liked to have his erotic photographs recorded for posterity, was Arundell Holmes Nicholls. All of his main works are kept in the Kinsey Institute, and he always paid meticulous attention to detail to ensure every picture he took matched his exacting standards.
There are two reasons why there are details about and more information concerning the number and kind of photographs that Johnston took during his time working as a photographer in New York. When he moved his business away from New York, it would seem that he stopped taking erotic photographs, or pictures with even the merest hint of nudity. Maybe he still did take those types of pictures, but he referred to them as publicity whenever he did so. There was no doubting the prolific number of photographs he was responsible for taking.
The first reason for knowing about his portfolio of photographic work was his book. It was during the year 1937 when Johnston published his one and an only book full of photographs. He named this book of his Enchanting Beauty. However Enchanted Beauty was tightly edited with any serious hints of erotica or nudity toned down. The photographs were thus edited in order not to fall foul of the United States censorship rules of the Inter-War era. In many respects, Enchanting Beauty was more about Johnston advertising his abilities as a more mainstream portrait photographer than anything else. By that time, his main source of revenue was publicity shots for Hollywood want to be's. His photographs arguably made it possible for his customers to make it big in Hollywood yet that is not an area of concern relevant here.
The second reason why Johnston's photographic work is more well known than most of his contemporaries was due to him donating 245 photographic prints to the Library of Congress. He made that donation during 1960, which was shortly before his retirement. It is still possible to view these prints, for anyone curious enough about his style to visit the Library of Congress, though some are included in books and online blogs about erotica.
There was a financial incentive in producing such pictures, yet both the models, the photographers, and the buyers of these photographs apparently regarded them as holding artistic, and possibly even sentimental values for all of them. Above all, they could be intrigued by such images as they appreciate the form and shape of peoples' bodies. As photographers became more confident about letting people know who they were, the likes of Mandel and Johnston seemed to raise the standards of the picture quality markedly. The high quality and the care put into creating such pictures has, without a doubt, helped the case for the argument that erotic photography is a distinct and serious form of art.
Photographs were, and remain another way of displaying the human body erotically. The people that partake in producing such pictures are attempting to do so in the most artistic ways, which they can possibly find. A fascination with the human form is something that has passed on from one generation to the next one over the centuries. That fascination has tended to remain, although depending on where and when people have lived, they have not always felt confident enough to share it with others, or make that interest known widely in public. Some people can be outgoing than others and will not be bothered about breaking censorship laws or showing their tastes to others. Several decades ago, the likes of Agelou were setting the quality standards for erotica, in the present time, Jean-Christophe Destailleur is setting the modern benchmark.
Then again, it is the most outgoing individuals like actresses and glamour models that are the most likely to be in the pictures in the first place. Pictures that do not have to take long to be taken at all these days, so people do not have to take so long been filmed unless they want to of course. For celebrities, their glamour pinup posters, calendars, and picture shoots for any of the leading magazines can earn them as much money as doing their day jobs. The extra money goes a long way in explaining why male celebrities are as happy as women in becoming pinups in the last forty years or so. Since then such photography has often be termed as glamour photography although for all intents and purposes it remains erotica.
Sometimes, people, have themselves pictured in such ways because they have been curious about erotic photography, and would like to find out how they appear in such pictures. Other individuals just know what they like to view. However, not everyone shares exactly the same views about what is erotic, everyone has slightly different tastes or preferences. The world would be a less interesting place if everybody liked exactly the same things, all of the time. Yet enough of us like roughly similar things for massive amounts of the milder forms of erotica to sell each and every year.
Undoubtedly erotic photographs are development on previous art forms, in the same general way photographs are a continuation of personal portraits or landscapes. In that respect, they continue to do for people what earlier artistic forms had already done, prove erotic to some but maybe not all the people that view it. Erotic photography in some cultures and societies is art that has been openly embraced, while in other countries, it has been banned outright or censored. Despite attempts to control it, erotica, as well as nudity, have been themes running through art for at least 2000 years or so. The continuation of depicting nudity and people in erotic poses should not really be a surprise. It has happened whenever, and wherever people have felt free enough to express themselves and to share that self-expression with other a similar frame of mind. Improvements in technology do not often alter how people feel, what they think, and what they like to do. However, enhanced technology does increase the chances of people depicting, expressing, or sharing what they want to do to as large, or as small an audience as they want to do.
Therefore in that sense, at least it was no real surprise that the genre of erotic photography soon began to develop. It started to develop as soon as the equipment for successful photography became available. When it was developed photography was immediately popular as people could have pictures of subjects and portraits of people they wanted much sooner, and with less expense than having a picture painted on canvas. However, once erotica became more firmly established, then the more productive or famous photographers knew that they could charge more money for taking pictures.
Of course, most people paid to have family photographs were taken or individual portraits. Erotic photography was not something that many people would have got involved in. Yet photographers and their buyers did start to take, and pay for erotic photography, though they often kept it to themselves. When such pictures were taken, the photographers would invariably have their own studios so that authorities would remain unaware of the type of pictures they were printing. This was especially the case in the countries, which had higher levels of censorship.
The invention of photography meant that images of any kind could be created faster than ever before, while improved transport links meant things could travel further from one end of a country, or indeed right across the globe faster than ever. The invention of photography, as well as steam travel, meant that pictures could potentially be seen by a much wider audience. It meant that photographs of the American president, the world's fastest train, or a nameless scantily clad woman could all be seen by many thousands, if not millions of people.
Furthermore, putting photographs in books, magazines, and newspapers was one way of making them sell more copies, and they also looked more realistic than illustrations do. That could be with the possible exception of Walter Crane whose illustrations of naked women looked almost as real as photographs would have done. Photographs did not replace illustrations immediately, but they did replace them in the majority of publications in a remarkably short period. They would prove the inspiration for magazines that solely concentrated on such pictures, take Playboy and Penthouse, for instance.
As the market for books, magazines, and newspapers grew, then some photographers wanted to be used regularly by the editors and the writers of such publications to maximize their earnings. After all, photographers could make a good living out of taking pictures for private customers, yet if they could get pictures printed in newspapers could earn even more money. Shoots for private photographs could include boudoir pictures when couples could have pictures taken for their own private viewing. Sometimes a mistress might have such a photograph taken to remind the man she was having an affair what he was missing when he was not spending time with her, instead of being with his wife. Other times a man would pay for his mistress to have such a picture taken. Other times spouses paid each other to have such shots taken.
In the 19th century and the early decades of the 20th century, there was a medium which was popular when used in conjunction with erotic photography, and that was postcards. Not only could postcards be mass produced, their smaller size meant that they were more discreet, especially useful in places where nude images were subject to bans, or censorship. Just think of them as the 1900 equivalent of a dirty text message. Generally, the models in such postcards and the photographers responsible for taking them often chose to keep their identities hidden, apart from in countries with the most relaxed censorship laws.
People contend that erotic photography is art as it does not depict anything of an overtly explicit nature, and models often have some clothes on rather than completely naked. In that respect, it does differ markedly from pornography, which is far more explicit and leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination. Those that do not regard erotic photography as a distinct and proper form of art often state that it is like pornography without knowing that there are notable differences between the two, in terms of explicitness. Generally, there are greater restrictions on access to pornography than there is to erotica as it is a whole lot more explicit.
Erotic photography is not meant to shock or provide immediate gratification, unlike pornography. Indeed people who have a liking for erotic photography tend to like this type of art precisely because it does leave things to the imagination. That tends to be why erotic photographs do not have to depict or show totally nude people. Pictures might show nudity or just glimpses of it, yet they do not have to show any at all. One method of making pictures erotic is to cover up naked parts of the body, for instance, let long hair down, or place an object in front of certain parts of the models' bodies. Things are covered up to suggest that at some point they will become uncovered, not to please the censors, should there be any at all, the suggestion is more tempting than actual sexual activity.
It should be remembered that what exactly makes something erotic differs from person to person. In other words, what exactly constitutes erotica is actually a matter of personal opinion and is open; therefore, to a fair degree of variation. Naked does not always equate to erotic, for instance, a naked model in a bath of ice would not seem erotic, it might just make the viewer think the model is too cold instead of looking sexy. For many fans of erotica, it is the hint of, or indeed the promise of exciting things, which are to follow that is what makes photographs erotic. That is more erotic than uncovered flesh being right in front of people's eye. Perhaps it works on a similar line to an unopened box of chocolates been more tempting than a box of exactly the same brand, which is already open, and that has been half eaten too. On the other hand, some people want to eat chocolate all of the time, every single day of the year.
Erotic photography is really similar, but not the same as Boudoir art and also images, and it is easy for anyone that is not a fan of either of them to confuse them with each other. Erotic photography can only be done on a camera, either with traditional film or digital cameras. However, Boudoir art and images can be done as a photograph or painted on to a canvas. As a rule Boudoir images and art are also intended to be used for the benefit of specific people that it is given to. Boudoir images have also been used for advertising items such as lingerie or even perfumes.
On the other hand, erotic photography can be appreciated by anyone that views it. Therefore it could be just for the eyes of a few carefully selected individuals. Conversely, such photographs if published, or put on public display can potentially be viewed by a much wider audience. Erotic photography in many respects can be the logical development of erotic painting, the images are simply on film instead of being on canvas. In the early decades of this specific genre of art there was a strong French influence, partly because cameras were a French invention, and partly due to the French in the 19th century producing more erotica than anywhere else in the world.
There have been changes to erotica over the decades that is for sure. Today's erotic photography tends to show more flesh than would generally be the case a hundred or ninety years ago. Technology has, without doubt, increased the demand for erotica and glamour photography across the globe, with people been able to access it instantly if they know where to look for it.
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