As a photographer and writer, I often see and hear commentary discussing, and in some case editorializing, either the difference or lack thereof when it comes to artistic nudity or erotic art and pornography.
While I am pretty sure I have addressed this in the past on this blog and am certain I have done so in a number of other forums, it is an important issue to many and thus bears repeat commentary.
Sexuality and the naked human form ARE NOT something that should automatically be seen as dirty, bad, immoral…Both are part of human nature and in essence should be celebrated in an appropriate and respectable manner. I am a true believer in the idea of moderation and this fits perfectly into that concept.
To me, the appropriate and respectable are where artistic nudity and erotic art come in to play. After all, to consider as pornographic all instances of nudity or sexuality in an artistic form like video, photos, drawings, paintings, sculpture or even literature would classify some of the world’s great masterpieces as nothing more that repulsive smut.
So, you may ask, where do we draw the line? For many, this is a rather subjective issue and is hard to determine on a concrete basis. In fact, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once said about obscenity and pornography that although he could not define it, “I know it when I see it.”
In my humble opinion, having worked with nude and semi-nude models on many occasions, I see some elements that surely distinguish the two.
If any of these are the case, the subject matter is mostly likely if not definitely pornographic in nature:
1. The major or only focal point of the piece are the breasts, vagina, penis or anus when these parts being stimulated via another person or object.
2. The purpose of the work is pretty clearly nothing more than to insight sexual arousal. So, there does not seem to be any real artistic intent.
3. The work is meant to be used in conjunction with something else to produce arousal (i.e. a photo of a magazine centerfold that may or may not be fine on its own that the editor couples with a graphic, sexual story).
Basically, there must be something more to offer than just sexual desire. For example, the way the light showcases the curves of a torso, an emphasis on pose and positioning of the body for a more aesthetic appeal or perhaps a focus on the creative use of space and color.
The bottom line really comes down to this:
The goals of Artistic Nudity or Erotic Art are appreciation and admiration. The goals Pornography are degradation and exploration. Thus, no true artist is a pornographer and no pornographer is a true artist.
Image shot by Jeff Olson.