I‘ve always believed that as artists we should not only be pushing our own boundaries so that we can learn and grow in our chosen medium, but so that we can create a dialogue with those who see our work. I spend a lot of time on photography websites such as 1x.com and, more locally, torontophotoclub.ca being inspired by the work I see there. Some of the work by conceptual artists such as Kiyo Murakami and kitsch keep me glued to my computer, striving to do better at my craft.
I’ve been pursuing a new shift in my work recently with the addition of erotica photography. As with burlesque, I find it to be more interesting than straight portraiture as it brings with it the suggestion of the sensual and sexual side of the subject. With the addition of fetish elements, a new level of kink is added to the scene that can add to the mood and story of the photo.
Recently, someone had an issue with one of my erotica photos that was posted on a group website for camera club photographers. They felt that the image was pornographic and questioned where the lines was between erotica and pornography. The title I gave the photo made the person feel that the subject was masturbating and with the hand on the breast, they felt it had gone too far to be art.
Did I push the boundaries with the photo and become a pornographer, or is it within the realm of erotica?
There are many people who will try to explain the difference between erotica and pornography. There are even more books and websites that will try as well. The blurry line keeps moving back and forth from decade to decade and society to society. The problem in the end is that art is subjective. No matter how many times you stand in front of a piece of art and wax poetic about how it “explores man’s duality with man”, when it comes to nudes in particular there’s always going to be a part of your brain that is either pleased by it or repulsed by it.
According to the Encyclopedia,
“the commonly used distinction between erotica and pornography is that sexually explicit depictions in erotica must have an inherent artistic merit, while those in pornography are intended solely in order to cause sexual arousal.”
Seems clear? How do you measure artistic merit? It was a 3-hour photoshoot, 40 photographers, 5 models, and I post processed the image to accentuate light and shadow and enhance the natural curve of the reclining body. My intent was erotica.
Is it erotica or is it pornography?