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.


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