Sunday, December 13, 2009

Pinups, not porn!

I recently shot some pinup work with a friend and fellow photographer as the model.  Our goals were pretty simple. She needed a break from life's stresses and just wanted to do something creative to relax.  I have a lot of people ask whether I shoot pinup-style portraits, and I just wanted to experiment with the style without any pressure to deliver for a client.  We both like the style and the history, and we both wanted to have some fun.



Some turned out better than others, but overall I think we're both pretty pleased with them.  I posted some of the best on Facebook and asked for feedback.  Most people liked them, but one person - there always has to be one - said they look like soft core porn.  My first thought was "you need to ask someone to show you some real porn," but truly I found the comment more offensive than you might think.





 This isn't the first time someone has called my work porn.  There's a huge sector of America, not to mention Interior Alaska, that subscribes to a fundamentalist conservative worldview in which there is no distinction between nudity and pornography.  They won't be educated, persuaded, or enlightened to any other worldview, for they cannot conceive of any possible merit in something they don't understand, and they see no good reason for tolerance of anything beyond the boundaries of their provincial comfort zone.  Since most of my work includes nudity, I hear from them fairly regularly (for some reason they seem to be avid viewers and reviewers of nude artwork, despite the fact that they find it so objectionable), and calling my work pornography these days usually gets about as much of a rise out of me as telling me there's a golf match on TV (oh boy!).  But jeez, if you want to attack my work, at least choose something that includes nudity.  I can respect someone who's advocating for something they truly believe in, even if I adamantly disagree with them, but labeling this innocent, playful work as porn makes me think you're just making up a reason to pick a fight, and I have no respect for that at all.  



Anyway, pinups ... they're a long-standing art form that has been admired throughout America and the world for nearly a century.  There's plenty of room for variation of styles in the genre, from grainy cartoonish pinpus of the 20's and 30's, to the classics of Gil Elvgren and Alberto Vargas, to WWII noseart, to poodle skirts and sweaters, to Marilyn Monroe cheesecake, to Betty Page fetish to polished modern glossy photography.  Still, there are expected characteristics of pinup imagery that put pretty firm boundaries on what fits and what doesn't.  If it's not a little playful, a little sexy, and doesn't have a simple story to it, it's not a pinup.




My vision for these shots was something more painterly than a sharp photograph but more photorealistic than a painting, very minimal on the props, and with a hint of an antique patina.  Several people have asked about how I processed them, and I'll post a detailed blog entry on that soon.  For now, I'd like to focus on the aesthetics rather than the technical details.  You can click any photo to enlarge it.  Do they say "pinup" to you?  Is the antiquing enough, or too much?  Do they have a painterly feeling to them?  Did we do the genre justice?  Good or bad, let me know what you think.  Just don't tell me they're porn!

And finally, thanks very much to my friend and model.  I had a great time shooting these with you.

5 comments:

  1. I like your work and I am glad I discovered you.

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  2. ...scratches head and wonders if these morons have ever seen a Victoria's Secret catalog!!!

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  3. Some of them yes and some of them no. The props and the pin-up-esque outfits help. I think the classic make up and outfits would help more.

    They all look great, tho. :)

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  4. amazing captures of a very beautiful and talented model

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  5. Perhaps I can offer a different perspective...

    I have been a nude model for figure drawing classes for three years now, and I do a fair amount of figure drawing on my own. I believe the human body is good and wholesome, and I find it disturbing how many people dismiss all nudity as perverted or pornographic. In fact, our culture's attitude toward the nude human body says a lot about their attitudes toward other human beings. The nude body is the fullest representation of the whole person. When we treat it as something shameful or disgusting, we are actually revealing our unwholesome attitudes about other people.

    Anyway, I have absolutely no objection to the nude human form, and I think we need to see more of it, so long as it is displayed with dignity. However, there is something about artistic nude photography (ANP) that has always bothered me, and I think it's the so-called sensual side of it. Certainly the human body has a sensual side, and we don't need to hide it, but it seems that the goal of ANP is to bring out the sensuality to the point that it overemphasizes it. As a result, it brings it very close to fantasy and objectification--just like pornography, only less explicit.

    These have been my general impressions for a while, but I have felt that I probably didn't have a full appreciation of what goes into ANP, so I have kept an open mind and refrained from making a judgment call one way or another. I stumbled across your blog, and your posts have helped me to start seeing the beauty of ANP, and I am beginning to appreciate the skill and artistry behind it. (For example, I really appreciate your explanation of bodyscapes; I have a much greater appreciation for the concept behind those images now.) However, I have to say that some of pictures in this set are actually closer to pornographic than your nudes. It's one thing when you are dealing with the nude form as a representative of the whole person. It's another thing when the model is scantily clad in seductive poses (not all of these fall into this category, of course, but you know the ones I'm talking about). Granted, true "pornography" is an image of a deviant sexual act (according to the Greek root words), so I would not classify these images as pornographic. However, even though these images do not display a sexual act, they clearly invite a sexual response. Now, don't get me wrong--sex is a wonderful thing, and my wife and I enjoy it very much. But this woman is not my wife or even my girlfriend, and she is not physically present for me to respond to her in a relational way. As a result, she becomes a tease, a phantom, and therefore an object that invites a sexual response, but fails to deliver.

    In art, the nude form has been used for many purposes. At its best, I believe it helps us to see the human form in a way that encourages us to develop a greater appreciation for our fellow man (and woman). I have noticed that your models fall within a very narrow range of body styles and ages. Those who are older or heavier are not included. I understand what you have said elsewhere about skin quality. But why not show the full spectrum of the human form in addition to the younger, smoother forms?

    I also understand the history of pinups, but does it really increase the dignity of our fellow man, or does it create a fantasy about our fellow man (a fantasy that, incidentally, can never be fulfilled)?

    I'm not necessarily saying that the points I've raised are correct, but I can't help but raise them as I think about what you're saying. To me, these kinds of images do not raise the dignity of human beings, but they elicit a kind of fantasy. They are not pornographic, but they are a stepping stone in that direction. (They definitely are not anti-pornographic.)

    Like I said, I'm willing to acknowledge my ignorance of ANP, and if I understood it better, I would likely appreciate it more. If I am in error on any of these points, please correct me. I honestly want to learn.

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