One Man’s Pornography….


…is another’s erotica.  Considered pornography in 1918, Biederer’s photography depicts erotica or pornography, depending on your tolerance for whips and chains, striking portraiture of fabulously outlandish poses and brimming emotion. 

Risqué for its time but rather tame for today’s show-all-leave-nothing-for-the-imagination flat porn, Biederer’s stills and stags are delightfully playful imprints of the imagination, sexy and daring. From nasty snarling dominatrix whip yielders to women on women S & M to plain old funky fun spankings (click on the more daring photos in the text link). I especially love the smirk on the face of the woman, riding crop poised to snap, as she, atop the man on all fours with the hourse head, is about to strike. 

The most striking part of this short piece in is the shockingly sordid fact of the article’s last sentence, so poignant, so moving in consideration of the preceding photos of creative enjoyment and the artist’s  genuine celebration of lust for the bizarre and outlier’s reach.

The Archeology of an Affair

It is a weird feeling day. I awoke with my senses tingling and an inarticulable awareness that something, some idea or fact, was around the corner of my mind waiting to wrestle me to the ground. The first missive to manifest the strange of this April Fool’s Day came thanks to a contributor to my blog whose morning internet crawls often yield blog treasures. The piece forwarded today featured a German married man’s meticulous documenting of his 1969 to 1970 affair, almost in a rudimentary documentary of affairs. 

The story on includes photos that appear as if witnessed circumstantially evident sex acts: indicia of before and after sex. His mistress-secretary peers into the camera, traces of sultry satisfaction hinted in the cigarette and state of partial undress. The spread includes pictures of a dress he bought her and an empty birth control container, artifacts by which we archeologists of his future could infer a story not of a man passionately in love but the age-old story of control and possession, on display–the spoils of the hunt and capture. 

The implicitly contented face of the smoking mistress with the wonderful beehive do, teased to maximum density, in bed, extended in post coital satisfaction, or so the picture hopes to portray from a purely exterior view, showcases the object of the photographer’s gaze, the same man who presumably put that look on her face–the picture of achievement and narcissistic witness to a man’s conquest and testimony to his virility and prowess. The random bits of details surrounding this short affair appear to be important recordings to a man who does not want to forget any detail that he had indeed had this affair.

The power of possession is indeed the story, one of sex as consumerism. The woman is created only as a result of and in control of his gaze, his angle, his lens and his poses. He creates the experience for possession and posterity, and so it will always be captured in the light he chose to produce. No matter that the face of the mistress hides a pretend satisfaction to please the gazer for gain or purposes of her own, if indeed that is the case (the after-sex cigarette as the symbol of the soothing needed after the near-miss or total lack of sexual satisfaction). 

Her story is subsumed in his, overtaken and dissipated into a past disappeared perhaps irretrievably, with respect to this brief affair. Where and how would such a story be told at a time when a mistress meant whore according to the mores of a time less exposed to the real lives of real people, who marry, get bored and fuck others? A portrait of a man falling prey to culturally crafted needs supplants her story: the will to possess women, and emoting through sex, i.e., he cannot please his wife any longer so he will please someone else to make him feel like the socially constructed ideal of a man as provider, conqueror, lover, success, power–all evidenced by his stuff.

Or maybe it is just a curiosity of time and place.

Naked Bodies on Pornography or Powerful?


So, is this pornography or a good idea?, copyright dated 2015, claims to be dedicated to women, about women for women, according to their manifesto:

“Herself is a gesture to women for women by women; a chance to witness the female form in all its honesty without the burden of the male gaze, without the burden of appealing to anyone. These women are simply & courageously existing, immortalized within these photos. Within their words, their experiences and stories are offered on Herself in the hopes of encouraging solidarity – that maybe we as women will take comfort in the triumphs of others rather than revelling in each other’s defeats. Let us reclaim our bodies. Let us take them back from those who seek to profit from our insecurity.” -Caitlin Stasey

At first glance (lots of bodies to glance at, that being what hits the viewer first), the idea struck me as disingenuous, maybe a marketing ploy. After all, there are seven or so women featured naked with their stories interspersed between nude photos–on the Internet. The metaphor is supposed to be something like the naked truth, but how exactly are these women avoiding the male gaze and pornographic objectification on this public space?

However, after reading the interview questions that each woman responds to, I changed my mind a little, thought more about it. Women respond to many questions ranging on topics from first time sexual experiences, body image, marriage, monogamy, and polyamory, to name just a smattering of the content. The questions are rather blunt and aim for honesty. Few touched on the political such as those about reproductive rights and contraception. The rest are personal.

So what makes this anything more than a sociology graduate school project/case study? Well, the attempt to disseminate ordinary, non-Photoshopped, random, high quality, well-photographed bodies that are not merely categorized in the usual culturally accepted genres of naked or partially clad female bodies, i.e., models, actresses, erotica, pornography, or cadavers, is to challenge culturally acceptable notions of female nudity imposed on the public with other versions of the story of the naked female body. Potentially, it is a direct challenge to the media by ordinary women maintaining control of the deployed-into-society imagery that undergirds bias and affinity, dictates social norms and relegates some bodies to lesser or more valuable against usual criteria, i.e., commercial, aesthetic or familial.

If’s game is to infuse media with naked bodies owned and thereby controlled by those throwing their bodies out to the public and not an advertising agency or other commercial enterprise, then I think it is a good idea. However, they will need a great many more bodies to display spanning all demographics: age, race, ethnicity, shape, identity. I will be curious to see where this site goes.

Picture Me Picturing You

Man is the only picture-making animal in the world. He alone of all the inhabitants of the earth has the capacity and passion for pictures . . . Poets, prophets, and reformers are all picture-makers, and this ability is the secret of their power and achievementsy: they see what ought to be by the reflection of what is, and endeavor to remove the contradiction.
Frederick Douglass

Edward Jean Steichen’s Gloria Swanson

In manipulating the presentation of information in a photographic negative, the Pictorialists injected their own sensibility into our perception of the image—thereby imbuing it with pictorial meaning.

We are all poets for what is a poet but an image maker?
We are all imagists.
We imagine we see in others what is, what will be and what we have always wanted.

The fiance envisions the perfect wife in spikes and aproned pearls,
nymphomaniacal lover and cookie-baking Cleaver mother.
No matter that she is not the one;
he sees those features in her nevertheless, more or less.

She can cook.
She likes children.
She looks great in heels.
He makes her fit the dream of his waking.

Who is a husband but a movie projector to the screen of the chosen one?
He depicts desire–figure framed photo of his ideal in ribbon and steel.
Meanwhile, she is his pocket and his purse, the hand up his sleeve making his jaw move.
Her world spins his above their heads.

What is a lover but someone who ‘shops the photo of her future mate,
rich in charms, clever to the touch,
sexy in her arms, ambitious enough for a sensitive side–
though she has never met him?

What is the unfaithful but a husband who paints his mistress the un-wife?
What is a poet but the mistress of make-me-love, hers for the taking?

Castell Photography on Vincent Serbin

I generally experiment with ways to artistically illustrate human thought. By human thought I mean- to present an image that expresses the way we perceive the world. The way our visual system assimilates information ( i.e. two eyes see two images and those two images are processed by a brain) and creates an interpretation of a moment. So in my work , when I juxtapose two images ,it reflects the way our visual system works but, in a sense I’m eliminating a function of our visual system by presenting two images instead of one. This I believe offers a fascinating way of reinterpreting the world.

Happy Birthday Madame de Pompadour!

One of the more famous mistresses, Louis XV’s, Madame de Pompadour (born December 29, 1721) was an innovator of style, fashion and letters and contributed greatly to French cultural life with the influence she garnered as the king’s long term ‘official’ mistress.

Here she is rendered (not the real one) strangely by pictorialist styled photographer, William Mortensen, who has been overlooked in the annals of photography greats for his unusual grotesque style in a time when Ansel Adams’ realism was more in vogue. Mortensen was influenced by Jung’s archetypes and ideas, which are prevalently worked into his work, giving many pieces a larger than life effect. Some of his art can be viewed, along with Madame, in the Smithsonian magazine article reviewing his work.