In recent years my photographic interest has been focused around the genres of nudity, eroticism, vintage fetish, kink and Japanese bondage. I’m particularly interested in the Twentieth Century after World War 2 and before 1990. The time when film still reigned as Queen of the photographic medium.
Photographers in the vein of Irving Klaw, Araki, Bob Mizer, Jim French, Harrison Marks of The Kamera Club, Larry Clark and Peter Berlin. Japanese bondage magazines like The Kitan Club, Uramado and SM King. And more acceptable names like Jan Saudek, André de Dienes, Peter Basch, Duane Michals, Christian Coigny, George Dureau, Steven Meisel, Bruce Weber and Kishin Shinoyama.
The number of influences around and between those image makers are astounding. People who challenged societal norms; creators who presented their ideas in magazines and fashion; social deviants who broke rules and lost an occasional legal battle along the way. It’s only when you visit the continuum of photographers over that time period to see who were the influencers and the influenced that it becomes a cohesive story.
Even today nudity makes half of society baulk. So when people are confronted by Araki’s picture of a snail on the head of an erect penis, for example, it can be a challenging photograph. Or a profound photograph. Because what we bring to the picture in the way of culture and expectation has a tendency to overwhelm our desire for voyeurism and can even provoke complete and pure revulsion.
It’s a gooey slug in a shell on the shiny tip of an erect phallus, for fuck sake. Someone call the Moral Police. Or print it and put it on the wall of your bedroom. Personally, I think it’s a bloody good picture.
This collision between our voyeuristic desire to look at these images and our societal pre-programming often stands in the way of the real question – “Is this a good picture?” And often, in these genres that interest me, I answer that question with an emphatic “Yes.” I say “Yes, this is a good picture.” And my World doesn’t crack or groan with moral fractures. And God doesn’t make me burn in Hell. He’s fictitious.
The overlay of the viewer’s culture regularly expresses on social media when I tweet a picture of gay erect cock. Suddenly, men who aren’t offended at heterosexual pornographic imagery become profoundly incensed by the image of a man’s cock in the hand of another man. Or men kissing. Or women in bondage.
Honestly, I wouldn’t share those ideas of cultural diversity on social media if the images weren’t significant. I guess the question (and the problem) is what the viewer brings to them.