I recently found the PDF version of my old degree dissertation, Erotic Photography: It’s Uses, Acceptance, and Integration In Society. Don’t get excited, it was rather a dry report, part art history of erotic photography, and the links with the fashion industry, and part analysis of how public perception has changed so much we now see it everyday without even realising - a far cry from the initial Victorian attitudes towards it.
Skimming through it, I wondered how much had changed in the previous ten or so years. One section was about the female erotic auto-portrait, artists such as Yulia Gorodinski (who graciously allowed me to interview her, and use some of her work to illustrate my report), who went to great lengths to create stunning and beautiful erotic portraiture. It was also written in the quite early days of commercially available digital cameras.
There have been two main thoughts in my head about the changes over the years. I think it’s fair to say that the female erotic auto-portrait (or ‘nude selfie’ in the modern lexicon) is much more prevalent now with quality digital cameras, and quality camera phones, being much more widely used. When’s the last time you saw a mobile phone, that didn’t have a camera? Of course, very few of these are as aesthetically and artistically pleasing as the ones I wrote about many years ago, and it’s probably quite factual to say that the ‘nude selfie’ has become cheap, and disposable (which is maybe something that could be said for a large percentage of all photography these days). There are still practitioners of fine art, considered, and beautiful erotic self portraits, such as the very talented Dee Elegia.
The other change is that whilst the age of digital photography has opened up the medium for many many people who before didn't have the resources for darkrooms and expensive processing equipment, now anyone with a camera can claim to be a photographer. From my own experience within erotic and art photography, I would claim that it is quite a male dominated medium, all of us churning out nude images of wildly varying quality and proficiency. The few female nude/erotic/glamour photographers out there tend to stand out, especially given the talent of photographers such as Elegia and Erin Elizabeth Kelly. But I also think that with them being in the minority, they have the opportunity to do and try things that most male photographers wouldn’t be able to get away with. I have often seen brilliant photography of models, but with an edge that I feel if I had taken it, and it was obvious that a man had composed and taken the shot, it would have a more aggressive, misogynistic edge to it, completely removing the eroticism.
I’m hoping to grab a coffee with both these brilliant, and also very different photographers at some point soon, and talk shop - find their opinions on eroticism and photography from a strong female point of view.
If anyone would like to read my original dissertation, let me know, and I’ll make it available to you.