After the 1960s, erotic photography began to be less commonly referred to as such, and to be increasingly described as glamour photography.
Erotic photography generally produces a composed image of a subject in a still position. Though the subjects of erotic photography are usually completely or mostly unclothed, that is not a requirement.
Erotic photography is often distinguished from nude photography, which contains nude subjects not necessarily in an erotic situation, and pornographic photography, which is of a sexually explicit nature. Pornographic photography is generally defined as "obscene" and lacking in artistic/aesthetic value. However, the line between art and pornography has been both socially and legally debated, and many photographers have created work that intentionally ignores these distinctions.
The subjects of erotic photographs may be professional models, celebrities or amateurs. Very few well-known entertainers have posed nude for photographs. The first entertainer to pose nude for photographs was the stage actress Adah Isaacs Menken (1835–1868). On the other hand, a number of well-known film stars have posed for pinup girl photographs and been promoted in photography and other media as sex symbols. Traditionally, the subjects of erotic photographs have been female, but since the 1970s erotic images of men have also been published.[dubious–discuss]
19th-century nude photograph by unknown photographer
Bust photograph of a young nude lady by unknown photographer, 19th century
Before 1839, depictions of nudity and erotica generally consisted of paintings, drawings and engravings. In that year, Louis Daguerre presented the first practical process of photography to the French Academy of Sciences. Unlike earlier photograph methods, his daguerreotypes had stunning quality and did not fade with time. Artists adopted the new technology as a new way to depict the nude form, which in practice was the feminine form. In so doing, at least initially, they tried to follow the styles and traditions of the art form. Traditionally, in France, an académie was a nude study done by a painter to master the female (or male) form. Each had to be registered with the French government and approved or they could not be sold. Soon, nude photographs were being registered as académie and marketed as aids to painters. However, the realism of a photograph as opposed to the idealism of a painting made many of these intrinsically erotic.
In Nude Photography, 1840–1920, Peter Marshall notes: "In the prevailing moral climate at the time of the invention of photography, the only officially sanctioned photography of the body was for the production of artist's studies. Many of the surviving examples of daguerreotypes are clearly not in this genre but have a sensuality that clearly implies they were designed as erotic or pornographic images".
The daguerreotypes were not without drawbacks, however. The main difficulty was that they could only be reproduced by photographing the original picture since each image was an original and the all-metal process does not use negatives. In addition, the earliest daguerreotypes had exposure times ranging from three to fifteen minutes, making them somewhat impractical for portraiture. Unlike earlier drawings, action could not be shown. The poses that the models struck had to be held very still for a long time. Another limitation was the monochrome image that the technology could produce. Because of this, the standard pornographic image shifted from one of two or more people engaged in sex acts to a solitary woman exposing her genitals. The cost of the process also limited the spread of the technology. Since one picture could cost a week's salary, the audience for nudes mostly consisted of artists and the upper echelon of society.
Stereoscopy was invented in 1838 and became extremely popular for daguerreotypes, including the erotic images. This technology produced a type of three dimensional view that suited erotic images quite well. Although thousands of erotic daguerreotypes were created, only around 800 are known to survive; however, their uniqueness and expense meant that they were once the toys of rich men. Due to their rarity, the works can sell for more than £GB 10,000.
The calotype process
In 1841, William Fox Talbot patented the calotype process, the first negative-positive process, making possible multiple copies. This invention permitted an almost limitless number of prints to be produced from a glass negative. The technology also reduced the exposure time and made possible a true mass market for low cost commercial photography. The technology was immediately employed to reproduce nude portraits, classified by the standards of the time as pornographic. Paris soon became the centre of this trade. In 1848 only thirteen photography studios existed in Paris; by 1860, there were over 400. Most of them made income from the sale of illicit nude images to the masses who could now afford it. The pictures were also sold near train stations, by traveling salesmen and women in the streets who hid them under their dresses. They were often produced in sets (of four, eight or twelve), and exported internationally, mainly to England and the United States. Both the models and the photographers were commonly from the working class, and the artistic model excuse was increasingly hard to use. By 1855, no more photographic nudes were being registered as académie, and the business had gone underground to escape prosecution.
The Victorian tradition
The Victorian pornographic tradition in Britain had three main elements: French photographs, erotic prints (sold in shops in Holywell Street, a long vanished London thoroughfare, swept away by the Aldwych), and printed literature. The ability to reproduce photographs in bulk assisted the rise of a new business individual, the porn dealer. Many of these dealers used the postal system to distribute erotic photography, sending the photographic cards to subscribers in plain wrappings. Victorian pornography had several defining characteristics. It reflected a very mechanistic view of the human anatomy and its functions. Science, the new obsession, was invoked to ostensibly study the nude human body. Consequently, the sexuality of the subject is often depersonalised, and is without any passion or tenderness. At this time, it also became popular to depict nude photographs of women of exotic ethnicities, under the umbrella of science.
Studies of this type can be found in the work of Eadweard Muybridge. Although he photographed both men and women, the women were often given props like market baskets and fishing poles, making the images of women thinly disguised erotica.
Parallel to the British printing history, photographers and printers in France frequently turned to the medium of postcards, producing great numbers of them. Such cards came to be known in the US as "French postcards".
The initial appearance of picture postcards (and the enthusiasm with which the new medium was embraced) raised some legal issues that can be seen as precursors to later controversies over the Internet. Picture postcards allowed and encouraged many individuals to send images across national borders, and the legal availability of a postcard image in one country did not guarantee that the card would be considered "proper" in the destination country, or in the intermediate countries that the card would have to pass through. Some countries refused to handle postcards containing sexual references (such as of seaside scenes) or images of full or partial nudity (including images of classical statuary or paintings). Many French postcards featured naked women in erotic poses. These were described as postcards but whose primary purpose was not for sending by post because they would have been banned from delivery. Street dealers, tobacco shops, and a variety of other vendors bought the photographs for resale to tourists. The sale of erotica was banned, and many of these postcards were sold "under the counter".
Instead, nude and erotic photographs were marketed in a monthly magazine called La Beauté that was ostensibly targeted for 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.
The early 1900s saw several important improvements in camera design, including the 1913 invention of the 35mm 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 (possibly a pseudonym) 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 Alfred Noyer and P-C Paris, Les Studios and the Neue Photographische Gesellschaft. The models often are found in highly arranged classical poses, photographed both in-studio and outdoors. The images are composed artfully, with exquisite tones and soft use of lighting—showing a particular texture created by light rather than shadow.
Another noteworthy photographer of the first two decades of the 20th century was the naturist photographer Arundel Holmes Nicholls (1923-2008). 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 were intentionally 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."
During the Second World War, pin-up girl photographs reached a wide audience. Unlike earlier erotic photographs, whose subjects were usually anonymous, a number of well-known film stars posed for pin-up photographs and they were promoted as sex symbols. The emphasis was initially on bare legs, short skirts or swim suits and shapely figures; but in the 1950s such photos started to show naked breasts.
Playboy and Penthouse
Playboy magazine, founded in 1953, achieved great popularity and soon established the market for men's and lifestyle magazines. Erotic photography soon became closely associated with it and gained increasing public attention.
Founded in 1965, Penthouse magazine went a step further than Playboy and was the first to clearly display genitals, initially covered with pubic hair. The models looked usually directly into the camera, as if they would enter into relationship with the mostly male viewers.
Cleo and male nude
In the 1970s, in the mood of feminism, gender equality and light humour, magazines such as Cleo included male nude centrefolds.
Unlike the traditional erotic photographs, which use any attractive female subjects, the male nude photographs are usually of celebrities.
The spread of the Internet in the 1990s and increasing social liberalization brought a renewed upsurge of erotic photography. There are a variety of print and online publications, which now compete against the major magazines (Playboy, Penthouse) and cater for the diverse tastes. There are a large number of online erotic photography sites, some of which describe themselves or are so described by others as pornography. Where the subject is presented in a romantic or sexually alluring manner, it may be described as glamour photography.
Softcore pornography or softcore porn is commercial still photography or film that has a pornographic or erotic component but is less sexually graphic and intrusive than hardcore pornography, defined by a "lack of penetration" including stripteases, lingerie modeling, simulated sex, and emphasis on the sensual appreciation of the female or male form. It typically contains nude or semi-nude actors involved in love scenes, and is intended to be sexually arousing and aesthetically beautiful.
Erotic art is a broad field of the visual arts including any artistic work intended to evoke erotic arousal, usually depicting human nudity and/or sexual activity. It has included works in almost any visual medium, including drawings, engravings, films, paintings, photographs, and sculptures. Some of the earliest known works of art include erotic themes, which have recurred with varying prominence in different societies throughout history. However it has also been widely considered taboo, with either social norms or laws restricting its creation, distribution, and possession, particularly when it is deemed to be "pornographic", "immoral", or "obscene".
Linnea Eleanor "Bunny" Yeager was an American photographer and pin-up model.
Pornographic magazines, or erotic magazines, sometimes known as adult, sex or top-shelf magazines, are magazines that contain content of an explicitly sexual nature. Publications of this kind may contain images of attractive naked subjects, as is the case in softcore pornography, and, in the usual case of hardcore pornography, depictions of masturbation, oral, vaginal or anal sex.
Garo Aida is a Japanese photographer known widely for his erotic work. He has also worked in advertising, contributing his photographs to various Japanese companies' commercial ads, such as those by Fujitsu and Nippon Oil.
An art model poses for any visual artist as part of the creative process, providing a visual reference for the human figure in a work of art. However, more than being simply the subject of art, models are often thought of as muses, a source of inspiration without whom the art would not exist. The most common types of art works that use models are figure drawing, figure painting, sculpture and photography, but almost any medium may be used.
Depictions of nudity include visual representations of nudity throughout history, in disciplines including the arts and sciences. Nudity is restricted in most societies, but some depictions of nudity may serve a recognized social function. Clothing also serves as a significant part of interpersonal communication, and a lack of clothing in public is expected to have a social context. In Western societies, the three contexts that are easily recognized by a majority of individuals are art, pornography, and information or science. Any image not easily fitting into one of these categories may be misinterpreted, leading to disputes.
The history of erotic depictions includes paintings, sculpture, photographs, dramatic arts, music and writings that show scenes of a sexual nature throughout time. They have been created by nearly every civilization, ancient and modern. Early cultures often associated the sexual act with supernatural forces and thus their religion is intertwined with such depictions. In Asian countries such as India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Japan and China, representations of sex and erotic art have specific spiritual meanings within native religions. The ancient Greeks and Romans produced much art and decoration of an erotic nature, much of it integrated with their religious beliefs and cultural practices.
Women's erotica is any erotic material that caters specifically to women target-demographic of various sexual preferences. When erotica is specifically directed at lesbians, it is referred to as lesbian erotica. Women's erotica is available from a variety of media including video games, websites, books, comics, short stories, films, photography, magazines, audio, anime and manga. The content may cover many aspects of sexuality, from relationships to fetishes; the main idea being to convey sex-positivism from a woman's perspective, or to feature female empowerment and sexual fantasies.
Julien Mandel was a jewish photographer and filmmaker. He was one of the best-known commercial photographers of female nudes of the early twentieth century. He worked in Paris and his signature photography became known in the 1910s and was published through the mid-1930s by such firms as Armand Noyer, Les Studios, P-C Paris, and the Neue Photographische Gesellschaft.
Nude photography is the creation of any photograph which contains an image of a nude or semi-nude person, or an image suggestive of nudity. Nude photography is undertaken for a variety of purposes, including educational uses, commercial applications and artistic creations. The exhibition or publication of nude photographs may be controversial, more so in some cultures or countries than in others, and especially if the subject is a minor.
Julien Vallou de Villeneuve was a French painter, lithographer and photographer.
Ken Marcus is an American photographer, known for his glamour photography with Penthouse and Playboy magazines. For over 30 years he has produced hundreds of centerfolds, editorials, album covers, and advertisements. His work is shown in galleries, published in books and magazines. He was an artist-in-resident at the Yosemite National Park Museum. Marcus also lectures and conducts workshops internationally. He has an adult fetish and BDSM site.
Glamour photography is a genre of photography in which the subjects are portrayed in erotic poses ranging from fully clothed to nude. The term may be a euphemism for erotic photography. For glamour models, body shape and size are directly related to success.
Garry Gross was an American fashion photographer who went on to specialize in dog portraiture.
Mary Birgitte Cecilie Magdalene Willumsen (1884–1961) was a Danish photographer who, as early as 1916, sold postcards with photographs of women in scanty clothing or nude postures taken at Copenhagen's Helgoland beach establishment. She discontinued her work when the police began to show interest in kiosks selling nude photographs. Her work is now considered to have considerable artistic value.
Fine art nude photography is a genre of fine-art photography which depicts the nude human body with an emphasis on form, composition, emotional content, and other aesthetic qualities. The nude has been a prominent subject of photography since its invention, and played an important role in establishing photography as a fine art medium. The distinction between fine art photography and other subgenres is not absolute, but there are certain defining characteristics.
A French postcard is a small, postcard-sized piece of cardstock featuring a photograph of a nude or semi-nude woman. Such erotic cards were produced in great volume, primarily in France, in the late 19th and early 20th century. The term was adopted in the United States, where such cards were not legally made. The cards were sold as postcards, but the primary purpose was not for sending by mail, as they would have been banned from delivery. The cards sometimes even depicted naked lesbians. French street vendors, tobacco shops and a variety of other vendors bought the photographs for resale to tourists.
Jean Agélou was a French photographer of the 1910s and 1920s, best known for his erotic and nude photographs made at the beginning of the 20th century. Agélou was born in Alexandria, Egypt, in October 1878.
Andrew Lucas is a Ukrainian photographer, member of the Club of Photographers of Ukraine.