You are on page 1of 21


Reconsidering Erotic Photography: Notes for a Project of Historical Salvage
so prominent



and erotic production, ber of perspectives.


histories of photography The entwined

avoid altogether problernatics

the issue of pornographic interest from a numand sexuality, the

but this is a subject of considerable

of representation

in current critical debate, are insistently

raised by this genre. Moreover,

nature of the subject functions to elicit the investigator's visual field. Hence, there can be no reassuring of his or her looking. be no question of women enterprise tion of homosexual

own stake in an explicitly sexual no refuge in a metaimagery, there can of such images are in a larger cultural circles

illusion of neutrality,

discourse that exempts or purges the interest of the scholar or critic from the implications For the feminist viewer of erotit: or pornographic in the first place. Notwithstanding erotica, in the modern world the vast majority of neutrality the equally lengthy tradi-

made by men for the use of men. As such, they participate of which the pornographic representation construction with this category

is only one, highly specialized exof imagery inevitably of "woman" as a set of meanings

ample. This means that any engagement back to the central issue-the life of its own.


which, once launched into the world, circulates within it and takes on a quasi-autonomous In broaching particularly suggestion the issue of erotic and/or pornographic arc twofold. culturally photography within a historical of lookingand relaThis

frame, my intentions tive distinctions

First, to suggest that the sexual economy body-overarches sanctioned

the look directed at the woman's between

the contingent

and illicit forms of representation.

is premised on those feminist analyses that argue for the agency of patriarchal and social-which inform the act oflooking. These analyses, in turn, by the desigconas objectand femigivens. A on the assertion that the active gaze is both formed and informed the subject positions Consequently, the feminine-differentially is generally

structures -psychic are predicated determinations

of sexual difference which a priori construct

nated as the masculine and the feminine. of-the-gaze, prerogative. while the position

ceived as Other to the masculine norm - takes its place in visual representation of active subject-of-the-gaze to be subject positions, Crucial to this analysis is its anti-biologistic approach; masculine

the masculine

nine, active and passive, are understood

not biological





can thus look from the masculine subject position; a man can be represented the case in homosexual undercuts

in a

feminine subject position (as is frequently cent fashion advertising). A structural conviction acceptable conception

erotica, or in some rethe arguments and proon the

of this order inevitably lobbyists (whether

grams of anti-pornography images of women

feminist or not) that are founded devolves on content. harmful.

that there exists a crucial and objective distinction and that this distinction or otherwise a politics of censorship

between acceptable and unThe logic of

this position necessarily engenders

which would outlaw that class In contrast to this position, that inform between "good" both or sys-

of images deemed violent, demeaning, looking and representation purposes.

feminist analyses that concern themselves "bad" images and even more doubtful censorship resentation differentiate tem (much of it developed

with the "deep structures"

are less certain about tho difference

about the political utility in differentiating

them for

Fifteen years of feminist work on representation framework,

as a signifying

in literary and film theory) suggests that since, the act of repeven ostensibly innocthe elements that from a photoset of subject! of the un-

and its reception occurs within a patriarchal an art photograph

uous or inoffensive images will be marked by its terms. Thus, whatever of a female nude encountered graphic pin-up, object relations, equal ordering imaginary

in a museum

both types of image may posit a similar - if not identicaland induce or foster fantasies that are themselves of sexual difference. or possession, Insofar as the various mechanisms - be it the voyeuristic


of representation gaze of mastery, denies and through

function to position women as object-of-the-gaze knowledge, commemorates sexual difference-the a recognition

or the fetishistic gaze that simultaneously act of looking itself will be articulated of the boundaries

these psychic and social structures. From this perspective, erotic and the pornographic, the arbitrariness minations exclusively of the instability between the the aesthetic and the salacious, may be taken as evidence of of the attempts to distinguish them. This is not, howdeterthemdo not natby Rather, the point is that the structural to the representations and objectification subordination,

and contingency

. ever, to claim that there arc no differences. of the look, and the discursive

strategies common

selves, indicate that the problems of oppression,

reside in the given contents of an image. Images, in other words, do not causorder whose roots arc elsewhere. of pornography, ignores the more subtle problems of representation A generalized notion

ally produce a world of female objects and male subjects; rather, they may articulate, uralize, and confirm an oppressive of "violence" feminist been designated representational Photographic ciall y to conform capture already pro-censorship groups,

as the defining characteristic as the imperialism act itself.


and advanced

of what has recently

- the violence that may inhere in the espeother

technologies-which to this diagnostic. comprehends relations

would also include film and video-seem of power and mastery (implied, among

If we are willing to allow that this activity of visual


revisionist Specifically. photographs histories That erotic and pornographic were produced almost from the medium's only to the near-total existence can be in the field. Once one knows of the early the well-known passage from Charles inception should come as no surprise. of pairs of lVeedy eyes were glued to the peepthey were the skylights a growth of the infinite. technologies demand? demand and supply. by the aggressive the camera. not at all unlikely that Baudelaire was referring to various types of erotic imagery which were produced in massive amounts during the july Monarchy. for lack of a better that is as inof and expansion of the female body. it may well be that erotic and pornographic clarity. it is difficult to calbut there is reason to think it was substantial. that the overall scale of illicit imagery certain questions selves engender as experiencing such photographs pornographic technologically both senses? immediately propose themselves. cites a report from the London was anywhere police raid on a single shop seized more than t 30. Second Empire. as well as metaphorically.000 obscene photographs." it may well be that the popular love of obscenity intended. Times of 1874 in which a 6 culate the actual scale of this industry. and Third Indeed. For obvious reasons. for example. This is itself a compelling a second reason for seriously production considering erotic and pornographic history of the medium. or fundamentally photography. were Is erotic and as in different best understood forms or a new form altogetherj" the same. Republic.!? RECONSIDERING EROTIC PHOTOGRAPHY ~\ n things. self-love. or did they rather fulfill a pre-existing a "media explosion" exemplified in the Baudelairean sofar as the art historian Beatrice Farwell has characterized a variant of pre-existing considered different mid-nineteenth-century cult of images. to aim imagery manifests these reason to make it a subject of the repressed history of etc. famous denunciation of photography from his Salon of t 859: It was not long before thousands holes of the stereoscope. love of obscenity.f daguerreotypes. hints and traces of its flourishing deduced in various ways. an inquiry of this sort provides some of the tools for has played in what. Did photographic If we assume themInFrance as great as such a figure suggests. Stephen Heath.). vocabulary of photography- to shoot. lies in its direct relevance for a feminist. there were pornographic for example. it seems reasonable to assume that almost as soon as there were viable ones.i' first proposed. It is As Gerald Needham that Baudelaire invoked in his essay was literally. That it does so is a testimonial elision of this fact from the standard existence of such production. a phenomenon culture as are the development an analysis of the particular role that photography term. I would call the spectacularization timately linked to the rise of commodity photography itself. Consequently. Baudelaire's however. in relation to older precedents. to take a picture. The in the heart of natural man as as though which is as vigorous could not let slip such a glorious satisfaction. relations with particular feminist inquiry. Let us take. but representationally 222 .

I these complex and underresearchcd Newhall's questions. by Eugene Duricu. we would assume that it was a legal image.and work to a medium popularly believed to spectator. be able to conclude that this image is to be discursively that is both institutional to contextualize Practically But how secure is this classificatory any attempt body of work by a known individual. signals at once that the highly conventionalized by the woman in the daguerreotype. is a somewhat poses and dear frontal presentation Admittedly. an image of this sort might have been used by an artist in lieu of used such photographic the model." we could conclude certain things about it. We would further assume that it was understood woman-aesthetically.'> If this daguerreotype indeed [111swithin the classification To begin with. usually depicted in a conventionalized classic or noble. this essay insofar as all the regimes of representation male. with a suite of academies made the standard academic proequivocal example of ones (note.i' version. Finally-and the aesthetic. Until quite late in the nineteenth academies was one of the foundation stones of academic training. Newhall of a naked woman seen from the back with the understanding is. a framework mous. the cropping is anony- it more precisely in relation to a known of the figure is the sexual. While men can also be eroticized by the camera (or by the brush).RECONSIDERING EROTIC PHOTOGRAPHY By way of navigating a consideration fifth edition of Beaumont 1845 daguerreotype was an academic-that pose considered of accomplished daguerreotype for example. academies in his own· sketches and painting. just as women epistemologically designated as "the sex. (I stress the term conventionally throughout here discussed presume .been made to signify . system? This particular daguerreotype speaking. Eugene Delacroix. one that could be openly exhibited and sold (at least within the walls of the Ecole des Beaux Arts). The prototype for such an image was an century. the legs are cut off at the thigh. the Eastman of the body that exemplify . category of the nude. an academic nude study. let us begin with on page 31 of the included this that it ofa single image-a readily available one-reproduced The History oj Photography. heterosexual directly transcribe the real. precluding by its viewers to represent its subject-the body of the we would of metamorphosing and sublimating the naked body into the high art situated within the framework this follows from the previous two pointsand epistemological." Through woman come to function discursively and of itself conventionally construct-a are such codings does the image of the as the sign of sexual difference itself. the image of the male body docs not in connote the erotic. using a male model. or possibly intended as an aesthetic object in its own right. working "academie. A comparison I ~. the production In its artist's drawing or painting from the living model. Surely this difference in effect between male and female nude has to do with the way women's bodies have been coded . naturalizes the codes it employs to a far greater extent than do 223 . duce an effect quite different from that produced House daguerreotype the genre. the difference in effect produced by Duricu's female in contrast to his male model).) Photography. but the point could be made equally with less ambiguous ample. directly from the photographs made by his friend Eugene Durieu. for ex- such as to make its utility for an artist somewhat and the hand that is visible is half obscured.


eclipsed by more pertinent ones. delineating that are a consequence of the different face. of course. Primarily. arc taken diminishes the spectator from the corporeality the physical distance of the camera from the model works to What is intended and propresents body that the body it rather dissolve the specificity of the body into the more abstracted realm of the type. her awareness in profile-suggests rected off-camera. including tions. Everything a professional thermore.10 This is. the Eastman House daguerreotype itself as nothing so much as an offering of the flesh . to analyze the ways in which to the syntax. nicated. distancing of the body. the woman's her look is diadof another's gaze..a display of the woman's precisely to its quality of sensual display through the lace bed covering. representation. subject to the codes inscribing articulated musculature. body invites an intimate so closely to the picture plane. are dramatically which have in addition suffered the ravages of calotypes These formal distinc- quite sharp. photographs the rhetoric. the photograph than the image itself. arc calowere produced that were types (paper prints from paper negatives) the fading of the prints. dress that is most significant. the woman's which is further reinforced by the smallness of the dabut also of This effect is. both spectacle and truth. the illusion of tactility with its play of textures. in part. is responsible one of the most decisive attributes of photographic. but it further heightens than objective viewing relationship an implied psychological portion face-even of the woman's proximity. literally a mirrorlike sharp. Positioned The expanse of the lace coverlet not only "sets off' the use of such devices as partially frames. however. produced by the emphasis on a Additionally. Furany sense of the body-conventions ference.. outside the picture frame. these have to do with the conventions that arc themselves his extremely in the presentation that inform these two presentations sexual difhis identity as presence. to the comparison the daguerreotypeproduce their meanings. The image is. Furthermore. blemish and freckle of the woman's time. as opposed to graphic. although guerrean plate. Visual intimacy is here a function not only of spatial proximity. rather than an individuated In contrast to this form of representation. of Durieu's male subject announces artist's model- the staged and arti- ficial quality of the poses.1 RECONSIDERING EROTIC PHOTOGRAPHY other forms of visual representation. Duricu's Although on the other hand. In seeking. generalizing his features and reducing any sense of an individual personality. calls attention and tangible body. his apparent disregard of the camera or viewer's the point of view from which th~ photographs of the sensuous and pliant qualities of flesh. 225 . the Durieu prints arc especially grainy and shadowy. we must allow for photographic technologies emsurevery of nature" -is pictures. It is perhaps this aspect of spectatorial suggests that the woman in the picture. for as Annette Kuhn has pointed out: "In offering itself as rather for soliciting the spectator's gaze. consequently. Thus. grainless and preternaturally skin. therefore. body that is itself sexually charged. Returning the differences ployed. and commu- it is necessary to pay close attention the formal strategies by which their meanings arc constructed of the Newhall the "mirror and Durieu nudes. duced is a geriericflgure.




feminine receptacle where the real gets photographed.. the French critic Jean Clair has this to say: "Vision but it is also a Writing of a Giacometti is not only a passive. In many respects. For notwithstanding reading of it.with the Eastman House strike the viewer as more body elicits in the original) will doubtless example. While there is no gainsaying of the look.on both denotative erotica as well. . luxury objects. the Eastman House Collection. as though reference to the "pairs of greedy eyes .this one a stereoscopic nude. the erotics oflooking which masks out everything particularly phasized. phalloid organ able to unfold and erect itself out of its cavity and point towards the visible. in the final instance its meaning will be by the viewer's as by the manifest and latent contents of the image. or is in any case experienced as. of classificatory not only in an intense effect of three-dimensionality. the art-or at least the artare in every way emheightened The act of is manifest glued to takes on arc immeasurably but the image. but on the basis of what conceptual of the woman's schema can this be argued? We might say that the placement but why should the relatively minor physical shift from a of the image? Under that academic be detached from this other to empirically locate the a careful reclining to a supine position so radically alter the erotic implication and under what terms can Newhall's image world of women's bodies? It is precisely in light of these difficult distinctions rather than attempting we need attend to the erotics of looking analysis of the construction determined subjectivity by the viewer's erotics in the contents of the image and leaving it at that. Voyeuristic components by the stereopticon viewing becomes. fulness-of these photographic apparatus.. Baudelaire's of the stereoscope. may be further demonstrated daguerreotype special meaning if one has viewed stereoscopic The instability distinctions ing another back view . a reading as much determined sculpture. of any given image.11 229 . for example. or whether portant it was so classified by collectors or curators is less imthe uncertainty for my purposes here than my wish to demonstrate fication in the first place.RECONSIDERING EROTIC PHOTOGRAPHY \ address. the Eastman House daguerreotype sembles a number of others from the collection of Gabriel Cromer. a private activity. but in the way the image entire! y fills of the infinite" sionism of the stereo daguerreotype. These include stereoscopic clothed women hand-colored-of naked or partially which are now part of not inthe daguerreotypes-exquisitely between which were emphatically and shifting ground tended as academies but instead occupy that uncertain erotic and the pornographic. The fabulous illuwhen the image is colored. The gaze is the erection of the eye. Whether this image was thus categorized to foil official censors. they were skylights daguerreotypes. levelsand connotative who made it in order of the classiclosely re- For while the solicitous gaze is a staple in pre-photographic the photograph all the elements function as trace of the real heightens of the daguerreotype an investment . In sum. The former (hand-colored explicitly erotic in effect than the Newhall a fantasy of sexual penetration. what definition by compar- . the viewer's the peepholes visual field. the status of the illusion of personalized to encourage in the sight of the woman that exceeds the formal! by the photographer aesthetic category that is signified by the term academic..

NUDE. require an elaborate positioning etc. the image appears to produce itself-which the woman's is neither answerable body is inseparable this is what it looks like. relation to photographs of the woman's buttocks emphasizes the phallicism of inapt in the look. 1852-53. from her literal absence. COLLECTION UWE SCHEID. neously it thwarts this is one of the paradoxes knowledge: In offering this forbidden the more profound sight to (masculine) riddle tion. supine or reclining position. gaze. "A photograph. 6 "The gaze is the erection of the eye.HAND-COLORED STEREOSCOPIC DAGUERREOTYPE. But simulta(or threat) Furthermore. rather than the photograph of her." Clair's statement Surely the strategic positioning vites this visual penetration anal penetration. in the stereo daguerreotype even as it works to conjure up the imaginary. CA. Female genitals arc not only more hidden (and arguably more forbidden). 230 . so too does this exposure Whether photograph . be seen only from vantage points that generally play of the body -legs tor's fantasy that it is the real woman. graphs of women. but can and disthe specta- Clair's characterization of the gaze as visual erection is particularly that are effectively about the revelation of the woman's an explicitly male genitals are deemed sexual sight only in a state of arousal. "this phalloid organ" that seeks to penetrate the hidden recesses of the feminine. expressive only in imagination. that provokes the the purpose of the of her genitals invest her with both guilt and complicity. -lies in its tantalizing display of what can be penetrated of explicitly sexual photoscrutiny and investigaof femininity however much the model is clothed or naked. projected act of genitals. or impassive. the visual presence of question-the nor representable. Reinforcing splayed.its instrumentality However. Conventionally.RECONSIDERING EROTIC PHOTOGRAPHY ANONYMOUS.

CA. how can he be sure after all that it really is telling him anything about femininity. Akin to the desire produced the image will ceaselessly provoke sure.CABINET DES ESTAMPES. venal sexuality) 231 . ambiguous satiety. What permits the recognition in any given historical moment a rhetoric of the image. 1855. of eros-love) signifying ceived as a derivation guistic derivation This is why arguments pornographic the valorized-erotic and the unacceptably the writing or speech of prostitutes . the voyeuristic the artifice of the photograph about women's will ensure that his desire remains ungratified. it may pretend to authenticity. pleasure? The question . BIBLIOTHEQUE NATIONALE.. must always in the final instance admit that this is not real. Nonetheless. a syntax. the erotic or pornographic by the commodity but will perpetually always fails to deliver the goods. photographs that display women's Nineteenth-century tinctions to be drawn. there are diswould seem to reside in a a consideration of the are no less germane to those that attempt (the erotic thus con(the word's lin- as in the case of female academies. remains unanswered: he knows it is artifice.hence. absence may augment though. demned to endless investigation. resolution. the erotic or the pornographic mode of address. to distinguish between the acceptably-indeed.RECONSIDERING EROTIC PHOTOGRAPHY ANONYMOUS.12 he is conimage fetish. STEREOSCOPIC PHOTOGRAPH. On another level. in the sense that what is in the picture is not here. This very quality of Since pleasure of the spectator's look. In a certain sense. desire in the consumer defer cloless of genitals are obviously in terms of classification than images that don't. structure of the look and the desire for closure and knowledge images one would never categorize as pornographic. But even here. but elsewhere.

forms of gesture. Here I would insist that the invention adequately any more than photography nineteenth-century or erotic photography as simply merely as an extension of a pre-existing considered technologies genre by a new medium... pose. Obviously that we need to acknowledge that photography from that of the older graphic arts. Although] total agreement am in fact suggesting with Brown's Cowie. and importantly.. It goes without or use of detail. a reduction docs little to clarify the issue: "There arc . modes of representation e erotic and pornographic of fantasy and thus with elaborate are profoundly with the structures involve a more or less elaborate staging of desire.RECONSIDERING EROTIC PHOTOGRAPHY perpetually sentations founder. arc profoundly the erotic proper.e. expression.) can never be wholly reduced to a question of content. we would not be able to distinguish of sexual acts and ~aked bodies. This may be accomplished strategies of mise en scene.tableau. of what is normally of the problem These difficulties suggest that a sliding scale of concepts such as the aesthetic/erotic. representation hard-core. or motivated erent determines sign. one of the many reproduction. i. between licit and illicit represenwith their shared status as phototo distinguish its immediate erotic and pornoones in lithography. I am particularly graphic representations. graphic photography considered Consequently. or more simply by recourse to certain saying that these images arc the product of male desire and fantasy. homology concerned including props. and it is prein any discussion of semiotic the crux of the difference lies in photography's the photograph's status as index. pro- can be adequately advances in printmaking and mechanical On the contrary. 232 . This might seem unex'on sight'. (as well as distinctions forbidden within these categories such As Beverly Brown has or transgressive essentially etc. implicated ing factor. artistic. all discussion must proceed from the recognition duces a wholly different visual paradigm cisely the differences in this paradigm the medium and its uses. where representation giving more or less access to the object. medical representations here that recognizability I am in assertion that it is not content as such that is the determinKuhn. for exwho posed for the ample) produce a different kind of spectator paintings were loved by the artists. the to be represented. ingly explicit representations as a transparent ceptionable rccognisability medium with the idea of a scale of increasis [conceived] of the body. or the pornographic as soft-core. attempts of nude women (Rubens's such as John Berger's to argue that certain repre- The Little Pur or Rembrandt's because the real women unconvincing. Recognisability upon what and how much is shown-otherwise tween pornographic. As Brown. its ontological difference from other iconic systems. from it is important of pornographic its precedents. cannot be And insofar as I am arguing for a structural tations of the female body. and others have argued." is itself a problematic. Similarly. (Footprints and fossils are typically given as examples direct and causal linkage to its refInsofar as the pho- of indexical signs.) In other words. narrative. But let us not mistake docs not depend just be14 insofar as we can all recognise pornography for a simple givenness of content. 13 Bathsheba. problems to one of representing the forbidden argued.

sentation how was photography mind the fact that the female nude was governed of sexual difference (most tellingly. elaborated. press. we are thus obliged to conupon. Needless to say.relation to the real. as in others. for a discussion of "transgressive" index and icon needs to be reckoned. it is not surprising the photographic the prestigious Empire. while another seems to have been very of photography itself. one approach was developed models from the graphic arts. one of the most striking characteristics erotica is that all the conventions imagery-the as it were.indexical whereas it is in the nature of photographic Hence. the spectator is inevitably pornoimpotent or or the individual ambiguous . imagery . it is the ramifications and iconic-that Most important standing feminism. with as part of a comprehensive of the effects of such imagery and. this indexical property of the photograph image was a real person. a shift from a conception sexual constituted as a vi- there is reason to think that erotic representation the sexual as an activity to a new emphasis on specularity-the sual field rather than an activity as such. As with all other aspects of photographic sider what forms of representation and what forms it may have inaugurated. the masturbating of Second Empire photographic woman-appear fully formed. its utility to power.RECONSIDERING EROTIC PHOTOGRAPHY tographic situated picture is the trace of a once-present in a certain . But altered the viewer's for any aesthetic an elaborate and them? Bearing in to the repreabout whether approach to the naked body. in its earliest incarnations. its status in law. backviews nude until well into the twentieth In this photographic to pre-photographic much an invention sphere. This would suggest links to other cultural devol- 233 . or altered. in relation to its technical abilities and technical dehistory. whether from the frescoed walls of Pompeii. an enterprise under- That the subject of the erotic or pornographic performing in front of the lens. However to normally efface it. its range of in stru mentalities. of pose and body disIt is as if these ritual beaver shot. play we arc familiar with from contemporary displays arc invented Jor the camera.graphy. In the early years of the Second nude was actively debated. graphic representation. of photography expanded demonstrates ficiencies. solutions the tropes of the photographic were found. this double identity historical for the contemporary of great import for as art.g:ory "nude" highly stylized set of mediations. with reference Societe Francaise de Photographic tions. has no such purchase the hand-made representation image offers evidence age from the lithographic of its own mediation. Insofar as the cate. Within the realm of sexually coded imagery. experience was also a problem presupposed to manage posing or of it. nude was. by definition. of the photographic pression of the vagina).however person or object. Indeed. the propriety by rigid codes pertaining the elimination of body hair and the sup- that there was some controversy oxyrnoronic. undoubtedly equally. project of understanding the politics of representation. the result being that banned them from their own exhibiand strategic bits of drapery are century. The traditional on the real. arousing to the viewer. even more urgently. its claims to science. historically underwrite of the dual nature of photographic all debates in and around the medium: its status as phot<.


1855. and so forth. not simply because the image is patently simulated or static or non-narrative. what is promised these two modes-activity to the spectator and spectacle-would or "lesbian" knowledge: appear to consex. COLLECTION GERARD LEVY. Instead they produce tacle.P In some instances. Moreperceived as sex- display of goods and sophisticated dressing. CA. is a hidden/forbidden do alone. verge. photographic ually charged. The implicit for example. rather than for each other. all attest to an accrual of sexual meaning tography. requirement are typically posed in ways that the women be visual access to their bodies. as erotic display. from its earliest years. but because of the imperatives that this be staged as a sight. In these imthis is what in the depiction of either masturbation do together. belies the claim that such images illusyet another variant of the feminine as spec- trate lesbian sexuality. e opments in the nineteenth extravagant century: the invention of department window stores with their open and the popularity of illushows. as well as satirical drawings and cartoons that played upon the erotics of the camera eye.RECONSIDERING EROTIC PHOTOGRAPHY ANONYMOUS. for example. of spectatorial address which dictate in fact. Women together. another version of spectacle. for example). Popular plays that cast the photographer activity was itself intuitively as seducer (Meilhac and Halevy's to pho- 1865 Le Photoyraphe.HAND-COLORED STEREOSCOPIC DAGUERREOTYPE. which is sometimes Jor the male viewer. that provide the viewer with maximum augmented presumed by the use of mirrors. sionistic spectacles ranging from the diorama to magic-lantern over. 235 . this is what women But what appears to be an activity is. women ages.

HAND-COLORED DAGUERREOTYPE. tablish and secure the object status of women of parts of the female body into further eswith the Consistent of psychic projection) in representation? 236 . an important of photographic those that isolate the genitals or sexually coded parts of the fragmenting even to the extent of characterizing this feature as one of photography's dinal norms. of course. sub genre of pornographic criticism to acknowledge of the erotic as a sight. operations a of car- suggest that it also constructs body-notably. J. If photography the fragmented the body-are commonplace the medium. PAUL GETTY MUSEUM. Indeed. fosters and facilitates a conception an erotics of the fragment. The question thing like this: how and in what ways does the isolation (of vision. CA. of meaning. images of photography. 1850. I would the body part. But to analyze the implications the female body is to open the discussion purely formal considerations tersect with other structures of photographic of these operations to considerations in relation to the image of that are absent from more then becomes some- effect. It is.RECONSIDERING EROTIC PHOTOGRAPHY ANONYMOUS.

and representation. in turn intersects other forms of work on photofor another reason for the necessity of broadly contextualizing graphic meaning. offender" need. Last. For it is surely through of consumer tigation of the mass-media commodities. but order to effectively combat-the complex network 237 . comes to be by fantasies of possession and imaginary attached to the commodity. to occupy a space apart from mainstream that subtly infiltrates tation. the invention incarnation of woman-as-spectacle an inves- that we may be enabled to culture. it must be thought acceptable forms of represento be seen.RECONSIDERING EROTIC PHOTOGRAPHY arguments photography I have presented throughout this essay. framed and matted art photographs and pornographic which collectively production knowledgeproduces of female nudes. In arguing. . I am emphasizing in the representation of women. To identify the problem of women's the matter. On the contrary. Consequently. and the covert production "woman. images of women rather than by juridically for a historical retrieval and examination while shifting the terms of the discussion of objectification and fetishism around licit ones. entertainers. stereos and cartes-de-visite depicting actresses. Historically. quality therefore. The historical period that produces an's body. The eroticizing of the commodity and the commodification 17 and one in which photography that cannot be studied apart from each other. dancers. became absolutely literalized with the advent of advertising the image of the woman understood able) desire. having permodes we can recognize it may well be that the and objectification are criminal or obscene of illicit imagery. subjugation. operation. 'the fetishism of play in the evexemplified by theorize the possible links between the emergence and the role that more or less sexualized images of women the media explosion of photography itself is one in which the heightened It is hardly necessary to underscore olution of both. velopment phenomena of enormous the fact that the conscriphas been a cultural dehas been a crucial this erotic lure conflated of women are cultural tion of images of women to and for the purveyal of commodities significance agent. accompanied fetishism of the womknowledge. class of images. Rather. patriarchy. it seems to me. forms of domination. a historical retrieval of the kind this essay proposes is a necessary component understanding the development of commodity culture. the systemic The pressing of re1987 of erotic and pornographic mainstream. this would suggest that theoretical analof similarities in different genres of mass-market of erotic continuum this and demi-mondaines. "on sight" is to greatly oversimplify most insidious and instrumental produced by mainstream ones. The legacy of this infiltration oppression or violence against women process is now everywhere with the pornographic meated almost all aspects of our visual environment. mainstream yses should be oriented more toward a consideration rather than with their differences. Finally. with the commodity..16 images could well be perceived as existing on a generalized the category As an ideological with and is assimilated to other discourses. the covert circulation of as a visual subculture that unambiguously uniting both within the sign of (unfulfillimages cannot be imagery. is not to locate and censor a "worse rather to better understand-in lations that meshes power.

1978. . The suggestion that this very marginality may in fact be a necessary condition of critical art practice is developed by Douglas Crimp in relation to other "outsider" artists. 263 . Theodor Adorno. Jacqueline Rose.] 17.and Annette Kuhn. for example. "Feminism. to put an improved apparatus at their disposal. A lucid critique of the position that 303 . And this apparatus is better the more consumers it is able to turn into producers-that is. Critical Essays. taken pictures on the street. concentrated 011 photographing children in the street). and Ellen Willis.A. later. the kind of street photography I am discussing here is overwhelmingly a masculine preserve. 1. 5-18." a paper given at the Pembroke Center Conference on Feminism/Theory/Politics. is the exemplary character of production. Richard Howard (Evanston: Northwestern University Press. Aesthetics and Politics. 14.C. March 1984." in Roland Barthes._-12. There have. trans. eds. Beverly Brown. no." in Powers of Desire: The Politics oj Sexuality. and Annette Kuhn.. 49-82. 5 & 6 (1981).T. . 11. sustaining interrelationship between theoriza- 10. 19-47.__-. This project seems to me to be crucial to Hatch's work. "The Taming of the Id: Feminist Sexual Politics. But for the most part. 16. 49--63. at least on occasion. nos. See also Alice Echols. Vance (Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul. See "The Art of Exhibition. 180. 141--64. ed. Ann Snitow. Minima Moralia (Londgn: New Left Books. Inc. perhaps significantly. Roland Barthes. 1983). Caught LookirJcq: Feminism. 95. of the growing corpus of feminist literary theory calling for (variously) a feminine eoiture. been several women practitioners of this genre: Lisette Model. not the mutually tion of practice and its implementation." MIF. Moreover.. Christine Stansell. "Lawless Seeing" in Kuhn. whose book Women Are Bemrlifltl is a particularly egregious example of misogyny recuperated through modernist readings. See Elizabeth Cowie.NOTES TO RECONSTRUCTING DOCUMENTARY stressing here is the blueprint idea. 1985). Helen Levitt (who. 1968-1983. the first and third of whom have explicitly addressed the issue of pornographic representation.Reconsidering Erotic Photography 1. Pomograp/ry and Censorship (New York: Caught Looking. The Power of the Image: Essays on Representation and Sexuality (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. 1986).. of course. Book Committee. "Commitment. is far more typical of the appropriative and aggressive aspects of such photography. readers or spectators into collaborators" (233). a specifically feminine language. which is able first to induce other producers to produce. 1972). 1986). Ronald Taylor (London: New Left Books. by Carol S. 2. Moralism. 50-72." in Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality. "Literature and Signification. 1982). Garry Winogrand. [This paper is reprinted in jacqueline Rose. A good selection of essays representing the anti-censorship position may be found in F... a writing of the body." in Ernst Bloch et ai. her student Diane Arbus." 228. 15. To which could be added Benjamin's elaboration later in the essay: "What matters. and Sharon Thompson (New York: Monthly Review Press. We might think here. and the relatively small amount of writing produced to conform to these theoretical demands. My discussion of erotic and pornographic photography has been greatly influenced by three feminist theorists. The debate between feminist anti-pornography groups such as Women Against Pornography and feminists who reject the terms and tactics of the former position has been both acrimonious and divisive. Cited by Benjamin in "The Author as Producer. therefore. 460--67. 13. and second. "Woman as Sign. 1974). Sexuality ill tire Field oj Vision (London: Verso. "Kristeva: Take Two." MIF. 1979). "A Feminist Interest in Pornography. etc. trans. and Pornography. Theodor Adorno." in October 31 (Winter 1984). Beverly Brown. Elizabeth Cowie. and other women photographers who have.

24 (Autumn 1977).p. 1972). 1983). 17. 1985). The Sexual Fix (New York: Schockcn' Books. See also Craig Owens's very interesting 304 . 10. See Albert Boimc. Alan Trachtenberg 4. This was first demonstrated by Aaron Scharf in his Art arid Photo<~raphy (Baltimore: Penguin. "Women. "A Feminist Interest. ed. Seeing. 1987)]. Ll." October 39 (Winter 1986). On Deconstruction (Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Phaidon Press Ltd. Beatrice Farwell. Newsday Books. Pramiflg Feminism: Art and the Womarl's Movement 1970-1985 (London: Pandora Press.' "in Screen Education.NOTES TO RECONSIDERING EROTIC PHOTOGRAPHY focuses on representational content may be found in Griselda Pollock. See also jean Sagne. 1980). Delacroix et la Photo. 5. I am indebted to Christopher Phillips for the reference to the Meilhac and Halevy play. Burgin (London: Macmillan. 110. ed. and photography in nineteenth-century France. The Cult oflmages: Baudelaire and the 19th Cerltury Media Explosion (Santa Barbara: University of California Art Museum. fo~rne en ereux Oll Ie reel vicnt se phorographier. Brown. by Thomas B. A clear and thorough discussion of the relationship between still photography and thc operations of fetishism can be found in Victor Burgin." in Womeft as Sex cd. Some examples of the jokes. vol. Ia vision est aussi cet organe phallordc capable de sc deplier et de s'eriger hors de la cavite et de poindre vcrs le visible. 1984). Penguin. 7. This is the first chapter of a forthcoming study of sexuality.65-108. Function. Le regard est I'erection de l'oeil." in Classic Essays on Photogra(New Haven: Leete's Island Books.87. "Photography. 1983)." Screen Education. and Elizabeth Cowie. 25-33 [reprinted in Rozsika Parker and Griselda Pollock. La Pointe ii l'oeil (Paris: Cahicr du Musee National d'Art Moderne.?raphieren noch cit! Abenteuer war (Dortmund: Die bib. "Lawless Seeing. vol. Ways oj Seeing (Harmondsworth: 6. Just Like a Woman 1. 15-23. Das erotische Imago (Dortmund: 6. 1982). Cited in Jonathan Culler." 43.81-89." both reproduced in her book This Sex Which Is Not One. "Receptacle passif feminin du visible. 1974). 14. Kuhn. 1973). Representation and thc Image. 1971). An outline for a theoretical approach to this issue has been produced by Luce Irigaray in her essays "Women On the Market" and "Commodities Among Themselves. and drawings that play on the sexual associations of photography may be found in Uwe Scheid. cartoons. Phantasy.." Jean Clair. Als Phot(). liophilen Taschenbucher. Stephen Heath. 1982). 8." 30-31. Gerald Needham. phy. . 23 (Summer 1977). 11.?raphie (Paris: Editions Herscher. Hess and Linda Nochlin (New York: Dic bibliophilcn Taschcnbncher. See Uwe Scheid. 23. "The Modern Public and Photography. My essay "The Legs of the Countess. 2. 1984). Charles Baudelaire. femininity. "Maner. The Academy and Frencn Paitlling ill the Nineteenth Cerztury r (London: 9. 12. by Catherine Porter (Ithaca: Cornell University Press. trans. John Berger. Object: Studies in Erotic Art 1730-1970. 1977)." in Thinkitlg Photography. 1985). sets out these issues in greater detail. "What's Wrong with 'Images ofWomel1." 15. "Lawless 13. Kuhn. no. 'Olympia' and Pornographic Photography. 3. n. 16.

at the dock / Abigail Solomon-Godeau. TR642.i( VtJ'::) Ut'ttJER8lTY '1> Published by the University of Minnesota 2037 University Avenue Southeast Minneapolis.. "Just Like A Woman" was originally published in the exhibition catalog Francesco Woodman: Photographic Work. Social Space. reprinted by permission of David R. nos. electronic. -(Media & society) Includes index. "Canon Fodder: Authoring Eugene Atget" was originally published in The Print Collector's Newsletter (January/February 1986). reprinted by permission of The Johns Hopkins University Press.:". The has inadvertently not been sought or F!NE A. photocopying. """' ..\'rs U8Rj. No part of this publication may be reproduced.S65 1991 770-dc20 The University of Minnesota is an equal-opportunity educator and employer..\$01 mon-Godeau.. copyright material in this book. Photography. Publisher. nos.. II.(. "Living with Contradictions: Critical Practices in the Age of Supply-Side Aesthetics" was originally published in Screw 28.A.. "Reconstructing Documentary: Connie Hatch's Representational Resistance" was originally published in Camera Obscura 13-14 (Fall 1985). no. "Sexual Difference: Both Sides of the Camera" was originally published in the C.. Series. 3 (Summer 1987). 90-38571 CIP . mechanical.A. 6 (January 1983). recording. and is reprinted courtesy of the Wellesley College Museum.. or otherwise. Essays all Hope. Artistic. reprinted with permission from C. 1/2 (Summer 1983). stored in a retrieval system. 1987). ern.. p. . =""""===!>UIlIU! . ISBN 0-8166-1913-1 1. Wellesley College Museum and Hunter College Art Gallery. All rights reserved. MN 55414 Printed in the United States of America 011 Press 9 1991 Li tc. 1/2 (Summer 1982).. Qllarterly (Spring 1987). "Playing in the Fields of the Image" was originally published in Aftcrilllasc 10. '1986. Copyright © 1984 by The New Museum of Contemporary Art. or transmitted. Gallery.l 1\ Copyright © 1991 by the Regents of the University of Minnesota "Calotypomania: The Gourmet Guide to Nineteenth-Century Photography" was originally published in Afterimage 11. edited by Lome Falk and Barbara Fischer (Toronto: Coach House Press. "Photography after Art Photography" was originally published in Art after Modernism: Rethirlkillg Representation.~~~.E. Title. ©The Print Collector's News letter. without the prior written permission of the publisher.. Every effort has been made to obtain permission to reproduce publishers ask copyright holders to contact them if permission if proper acknowledgment has not been made. "The Armed Vision Disarmed: Radical Formalism from Weapon to Style" was originally published in Afterimage 10. edited by Brian Wallis. and Media(tioll}. ~} ~ acid-free paper ary of Congress Cataloging-In-Publication Data Abigail. "Who is Speaking Thus? Problems of Documentary Practice" was originally published in The Event Horizon.\{1Y Hf. in any form or by any means. "A Photographer in Jerusalem. New York. . Photography 1. Buffalo.P. reprinted with permission. 1855: Auguste Salzmann and His Times" was originally published in October 18 (Fa111981) by MIT Press. Sexualitv. no..P. ~~~~""':'-'T:':'<'I. Godine.E.