History of erotic photography
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Erotic photography is a style of art photography of an erotic and even a sexually suggestive or sexually provocative nature. Though the subjects of erotic photography are usually completely or mostly unclothed, that is not a requirement. Erotic photography dating from 1835 until the 1960's is often referred to in the years since as vintage photography. The realism of nude photography makes it much more offensive than nude painting or nude prints, with the possible exception of L'origine du monde by Gustave Courbet. The archetypical pornographic photo is perhaps .
Nude depictions prior to 1835 consisted of paintings, sculpture and drawings. That year, Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre invented the first practical process of photography. Unlike earlier photographs, his daguerreotypes had stunning quality and did not fade with time. The new technology did not go unnoticed by artists eager for new ways to depict the undraped feminine form. The daguerreotypes were not without drawbacks, however. The main difficulty was that they could only be reproduced by photographing the original picture. In addition, the earliest daguerreotypes had exposure times ranging from three to fifteen minutes, making them somewhat impractical for portraiture. Since one picture could cost a week's salary, the audience for nudes mostly consisted of artists and the upper echelon of society. Nude stereoscopy began in 1838 and became extremely popular.
By 1840 artists had launched an era of erotic photography. One of the most arresting prints is attributed to Felix Jacques Moulin, taken into custody around 1850/51 for producing indecent images. The image is most probably Nu allongé sur jeté de dentelle, and it depicts a "nude woman casting a fetching look over her arm".
During the 19th century and early 20th, the only officially sanctioned photography of the body was for the production of artist's studies, euphemistically called académies or études d'après nature (see below).
Painting and photography
According to Helmut Gernsheim, Parisian photographer Nadar's photograph of actress Marie-Christine Roux unmistakably reappears in Ingres's La Source. Helmut Gernsheim said that Ingres had sent Roux to Nadar for preliminary studies for La source, the same year the painting was completed.
Académies and études d'après nature
As Helmut Gernsheim notes in Creative Photography: Aesthetic Trends, 1839-1960, "the production of generic photographic nude studies, intended of art students as well as the public at large, were euphemistically called académies. They were lots cheaper than working with a real model. Noël Paymal Lerebours supplied the first 'académies' as early as summer 1840."
The Two Ways of Life, towards an exception of the photographic "art nude"
The Two Ways of Life (1857) Oscar Gustave Rejlander is a milestone in the history of erotic photography. Referring to the photograph in 1863, Thomas Sutton noted that "There is no impropriety in exhibiting works of art such as Etty’s Bathers usurped by a swan, but there is impropriety in publicly exhibiting photographs of nude prostitutes in flesh and blood truthfulness and minuteness of detail."
- Gaudenzio Marconi (1841-1885)
- Louis Igout
- Jean Agélou (1878-1921)
- Oscar Gustave Rejlander (1813 – 1875)
- Alexandre-Jacques Chantron (1842 – 1918)
- Lucien Walery (1863-1935)
- Léopold Reutlinger (1863-1937)
- Robert Wilson Shufeldt (1850-1934)
French erotic postcards
The French pioneered erotic photography, producing nude postcards that became the subject of an officer's letter to President Abraham Lincoln after they were found in the possession of U.S. troops, according to An Underground Education by Richard Zacks. A Brief History of Postcards explains, "A majority of the French nude postcards were called postcards because of the size. They were never meant to be postally sent. It was illegal".
Instead, nudes were marketed in a monthly magazine called "La Beauté" that targeted artists looking for poses. Each issue contained 75 nude images which could be ordered by mail, in the form of postcards, hand-tinted or sepia toned. Street dealers, tobacco shops, and a variety of other vendors bought the photographs for resale to American tourists.
Early 20th century
The early 1900s saw several important improvements in camera design, including the 1913 invention of the 35 mm or "candid" camera by Oskar Barnack of the Ernst Leitz company. The Ur-Leica was a compact camera based on the idea of reducing the format of negatives and enlarging them later, after they had been exposed. This small, portable device made nude photography in secluded parks and other semi-public places easier, and represented a great advance for amateur erotica. Artists were enamored with their new ability to take impromptu photos without carrying around a clunky apparatus.
Early 20th century artist E. J. Bellocq, who made his best known images with the older style glass plate negatives, is best remembered for his down-to-earth pictures of prostitutes in domestic settings in the Storyville red light district of New Orleans. In contrast to the usual pictures of women awkwardly posed amid drapery, veils, flowers, fruit, classical columns and oriental braziers, Bellocq's sitters appear relaxed and comfortable. David Steinberg speculates that the prostitutes may have felt at ease with Bellocq because he was "so much of a fellow outcast."
Julian Mandel became known in the 1920s and 1930s for his exceptional photographs of the female form. Participating in the German "new age outdoor movement," Mandel took numerous pictures in natural settings, publishing them through the Paris-based studios of A. Noyer and PC Paris. A Johns Hopkins University scholarship was named in his honor.
Another noteworthy nude photographer of the first two decades of the 20th century was Arundel Holmes Nicholls. His work, featured in the archives of the Kinsey Institute, is artistically composed, often giving an iridescent glow to his figures. Following in Mandel's footsteps, Nicholls favored outdoor shots.
Many photographs from this era are damaged; Bellocq, for instance, frequently scratched out the faces of his sitters to obscure their identities. Some of his other sitters were photographed wearing masks. Peter Marshall writes, "Even in the relatively bohemian atmosphere of Carmel, California in the 1920s and 30s, Edward Weston had to photograph many of his models without showing their faces, and some 75 years on, many communities are less open about such things than Carmel was then."
Photographers around the middle of the century of note are Walter Bird, John Everard, Horace Roye, Harrison Marks and Zoltán Glass. Roye's photograph Tomorrow's Crucifixion, depicting a model wearing a gas mask while on a crucifix caused much controversy when published in the English Press in 1938. The image is now considered one of the major pre-war photographs of the 20th century.
Between the wars
- Gerhard Riebicke (1878-1957)
- Automne by Man Ray
- Theodore Zichy's Chiaroscuros (1948)
- Two girls with derrieres in mirror (c. 1930)  by Grundworth
- Carlo Mollino's polaroids
- Horace Roye, John Everard, Andre de Dienes of America, and Serge de Sazo of France were glamour photographers.
Late 20th century
Alva Bernadine, Gilles Berquet, Guy Bourdin, Steve Diet Goedde, Nan Goldin, David Hamilton, Irina Ionesco, Richard Kern, Eric Kroll, David LaChapelle, Sally Mann, Robert Mapplethorpe, Steven Meisel, Helmut Newton,Bettina Rheims, Paolo Roversi, Thomas Ruff, Jan Saudek, Jeanloup Sieff, Romain Slocombe, Roy Stuart, Jock Sturges, Ellen Von Unwerth, Trevor Watson
- 20th century erotica
- Erotic art
- Erotic illustration
- Études d'après nature
- Fetish photography
- Glamour photography
- History of erotic depictions
- The erotic male in photography
- Painting and photography
- Poses plastiques
- Le nu stéréoscopique, 1850-1930 (1985, Edition Filipacchi, Paris). Also published as The stereoscopic nude, 1850-1930 and Der Akt in der Photographie, 1850-1930. ISBN 9783822894408