Art or porn?

Art or porn?

Ever since I started doing nude photography, I’ve been confronted with people who consider my work as “pornographic”. I’ve always found that to be fascinating. These where just images of nude women, without any sexual context of explicit poses.

So when I started doing erotic photography, or “porn art” in 2015, I was hesitant in sharing my work, afraid of public opinion on that topic. Even now, in 2020, there is still stigma around this topic, even among other creatives. It’s a genre that is frowned upon, partly rightly so, because of the type of photographers it attracts.

Another unfortunate fact about erotic photography, especially explicit or with sexual context, is the umbrella term “porn”. I’m so dissapointed that our creative community still hasn’t formulated a term to classify the type of explicit art photography that uses sexuality as a central theme.

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Keep in mind, professional pornography takes real professional photographers and videographers. I have a lot of respect for these people. However, I don’t want to put my work in the same category.

The difference, to me, between art and porn is the core intention of the work. Porn is made to satisfy a visual “want” of a sexual nature. Art can do the very same, however, that is not what it is intended for.

To me, porn art is more about emotion, story, intimacy. I’ve always been a very technical photographer, sometimes losing the aspect of story entirely. Erotic art has moved that focus for me. While technique is still very important, my erotic shoots are, most of the time, set up in such a way that it doesn’t give me a lot of time to think about the technical stuff. It’s very focussed on capturing moments and emotion.

I’ve asked this question on my own social media and it was interesting to see how many different opinions there were.  Even some that I never thought of and some where I went “oh yeah, can’t believe I missed that one.

One important was time.  An image that is not porn today, could be porn tomorrow.  A society’s ethics and morals are bound to their timeframes.  We are coming from the generally more openminded 60’s to the more prudish 21st century. 

Another one is geographical and cultural.  For example America, which is still a very religious country, is heavily censoring nudity and erotic themes.  Think about facebook’s rigid policies around nudity and sexuality, or even Tumblr, which was a safe haven for many erotica fans, that finally had to give in to prudish corporate standards.

Another interesting opinion was when an image is offered for commercial usage, that automatically makes it porn.  They way of thinking is that people don’t pay to watch art, so if they pay to see eroticly themed images, it must be porn.

Another way of thinking is that it isn’t the author who decides if something is art or porn. It is the viewer that decides.  Which is in line with my experiences of people defining my art nude portfolio as porn.  Wether I believe it not to be porn, doesn’t matter, it’s the viewer who decides.

Lastly, there is the more “clinical” appraoch.  When genetalia are in the image, or an explicit act, like masturbation or oral sex, is clear in view, it’s porn, regardless of the artistic framing or lighting.

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I’ve been thinking about this subject for years now and unfortunately, I don’t think there is a clear cut answer to this question. There is no black and white here, it’s two concepts that overlap and flow with eachother, depending on both the author of the work and the viewer.

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