11 July 2011

Book Review: Taschen's The New Erotic Photography

This is a book that's been vaguely on my shopping list for ages, although it always got ousted by others... perhaps compilations somehow don't seem as focused, but I needn't have worried - rather, am now kicking myself for not getting it sooner. I felt a little sorry for the postman, carrying this large book to my door - approx 32x24cm, with 6 or 8 pages each from over 50 photographers, so over 400 pages; it could even be imposing... if it weren't for Maki Miyashita's (um, perhaps not actually hers?) floral panties hung out to dry on the cover.

Edited by Dian Hanson - formerly editor of Leg Show magazine, now Taschen's sexy books editor (however you wish to parenthesise those last three words) - and fetish photographer Eric Kroll, this is (as the title suggests) a showcase of erotic photography, with submissions from a few photographers familiar to me, and a great deal hitherto unknown ones. Far too many great photos to mention them all, but some of the highlights for me were:
  • My two favourite Japanese photographers - Yasuji Watanabe's modern, contemporary work, and Ken-ichi Murata's gothic - and rather pervy - hand-tinted fairy tales;
  • along with newer photographer Maki Miyashita, whose studies of women in their underwear I found interesting and witty
  • The way that German photographer Markus Amon captures the smouldering eyes of his models (although the nylon and sheer underwear helps too)
  • Susan Egan's very candid pictures of real couples having sex
  • The deservedly popular Steve Diet Goedde being less fetishy than usual - the lovely Emily Marilyn doesn't have a stitch (not even latex) on her
  • A few trademark-style motel-fetish, neo-noir pics from one favourite photographers, Chas Ray Krider
  • Richard Kern's quirky, humourous, documentary-style shots of young, tomboy-ish (as he describes them) women; and Dave Naz's similarly stripped-down, natural girls
  • In contrast, Florian Lohmann reminds me that there's still very much a place in my, er, heart? for ultra glam, styled shots (especially near-naked stewardesses and French maids)
  • Nicola Ranaldi's very erotic close-ups of faces, with lustful looks and a finger slipped between lips
  • And back to Japan for some pics from Joan Sinclair's Pink Box, a documentary book on Tokyo sex clubs - very enlightening, that I shall review sometime.
Given how good - and more to the point, how exciting - the photography is, I almost don't want to admit that the text nearly tore me away from it - there are some genuine insights both in the editors' introductions, and the introduction to each photographer's work. I suspect  the intros were prompted by some standard questions, since there are a couple of themes that keep cropping up. One is the relative merits of film vs digital; opinions are divided, from Bob Coulter's 'Anyone who prefers film at this point is retarded' to Ken-ichi Murata's 'I work only with film because it is the height of quality' - personally, I don't see a distinction, especially to look at eg Will Santillo's grainy, atmospheric images and then read that he uses digital. I guess it's more down to the way the photographer wants to work; the immediate feedback of digital vs having to think and prepare more with film.

More interesting is the concept of the difference between porn and erotica; for me, I do see a distinction, but also think that there's no hard and fast line between them, and I enjoy material that's one, the other and in between - but again, there are some very different views here. Some photographers see porn as a line that they don't cross; Lisa Boyle feels it's any kind of penetration; Didier Carre suggests that in porn, men don't love the models in the way he does as a photographer. Petter Hegre implies very subjectively that visually they could be very similar, but differing in the intention with which the pictures are taken. Photographers like Ed Fox, Dave Naz and Richard Kern - who often shoot for top-shelf magazines - see less of a distinction, the latter saying 'I don't consider myself an erotic photographer and I hate that term - It brings to mind black and white photos of naked people with oil on them'.

Although I appreciate and enjoy the work of all the photographers here, ideologically I'm with that last trio; there doesn't have to be a distinction. If there is one, though, I think Ms Hanson has nailed it in her introduction: 'First, toss out all the bodyscapes' ... 'More important, it must capture some genuine emotion on the model's face'. And, pre-empting balancing my focus here on the photographers, 'If it sounds like I think erotic photography is as much about the model as the photographer, I've made myself clear'.

Anyway, for all that prose, this is a great book of exciting, arousing, thought-provoking pictures, and is thoroughly recommended - a steal at about £15! You can see more pics through Taschen's video of the editors discussing the book.

6 July 2011

Richard Kern - then, now(ish) and somewhere in between

I'm quite a fan of photographer (and sometime underground filmmaker) Richard Kern - he seems to have a sense of humour, and I like his almost documentary-style of shooting, sometimes capturing his models in the oddest of poses. His Taschen book is a favourite, and needs reviewing here sometime soon; and suspect I will join his New Nude City site sometime too. Meantime, a few clips:

Firstly, this interview from 1986, in which he's a bit laconic, and arguably (sorry Richard, I am a big fan, really) a little pretentious:

In total contrast to this video (click on the image to see it @ Taschen), in which he's far more personable and amusing :)

Finally, I chanced upon this from King Missile; if you have a song called Detachable Penis, who better than Richard Kern to direct the video for you?

1 July 2011

Retro Lovely Magazine

Been meaning to post about this wonderful new magazine for a while; it's the least I can do given that, along with Alt Exclusive, they have apparently designed it just for me :)

With issue #6 imminent, Retro Lovely has fairly quickly settled into a style of showcasing the best pinup photography; features largely focusing on photographers rather than models. It's an approach that works well for me; I do like to follow some of the more well-known models such as the Mosh (as regular readers may have noticed), Masuimi Max and Angela Ryan - all favourites who you see on these covers; but just as much, I appreciate the style of individual photographers, and it's good to discover new ones.

Regular photographers include Robert Alvarado's very glossy, very classic and glamorous style; Mitzi & Co's cheekier retro look; Roy Varga's hotrod-inspired work; and the wonderful, inimitable Viva Van Story who has almost redefined and updated the concept of pinup photography. There's also a regular look at community site PinupLifestyle.com, and more great photos from it's creator, Edson Carlos.

There's also a good mix of models; well-known as mentioned above, and those new to me, who perhaps we wouldn't see anywhere else. Highlights from #4 and #5 include the ever-lovely Jade Vixen, shot in pink retro underwear by Gary Heller; Celeste Giuliano's Jessica Rabbit look for Samantha SamSam; Viva's shots of Tali De Mar; DC Imagery's Notorious Ang; bob-haired Staci Louise by Girlie Show, and Vestige Photography's great pics of Kitty Kosmo - who I'd so love to see more of (however you care to interpret that). There are just too many great artists to list, but one more special mention to Mitzi & Co's shot of Angela Ryan - who, despite being fully dressed by Heartbreaker, looks ever, ever so naughty. And of course, no pinup-related post can be complete without another mention of Mosh - who had the cover and a photo feature feature by Redrum Collaboration  in #2, along with a great interview.

The printing also does the material justice; perfect-bound thick, glossy, almost book-quality paper more than justifies the $15 price - although be sure to get new issues as they come out; older ones get pricier as they become scarce! But the price is very reasonable; a magazine like this is not cheap to produce, and each issue certainly deserves its place among my largely hardback racy book collection.

I can only think of two possible shortcomings of Retro Lovely, and those are really just for the sake of argument. Firstly, that there is very little editorial; an intro, perhaps a couple of short interviews, but each issue is pretty much entirely devoted to showcasing the models and photographers... but I'm guessing that like me, most folk are just there to look at the pictures :) The second is that it's not as racy as I'd like - there's no nudity, but everything looks so good, and the models so alluring, that it hardly matters... and besides, this is addressed in Retro Lovely Taboo Edition - which qualifies for a separate, forthcoming, post!

Although I can't claim to have seen every example of the genre, I'm fairly confident that Retro Lovely is the best pinup magazine there is; everything about it is spot-on. Fans of pinup and glamour will love the photography, and the tactile pleasure of leafing through each issue. Recommended; visit Retro Lovely.