Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Living in a box

I was involved in a thought-provoking conversation recently that I thought I'd share it here.  I don't know whether the other party cares to be named or not, so I'll simply refer to him as "Inquisitor."

Inquisitor: How can someone who shoots nudes ensure that they're not producing pornography?

Me: The only honest thing you can do is shoot your vision and let others worry about labels.  If you filter your vision through someone else's idea of appropriate/inappropriate, porn/art, good/bad, then you're not creating art, you're validating pre-judgments (a.k.a., prejudices).  That is the antithesis of art, and consciously engaging in it would be a far more shameful thing than producing pornography.

Inquisitor: Some people's vision is just to get girls naked, but that doesn't make their pictures art. 

Me: That's not a vision, that's a motive.  However, if their vision is simply capturing the allure of naked chicks, that's fine.  If it takes something they feel inside and puts it in a form they can share with others then it's art.  It may not necessarily be good art, and it may not be the type of art that you or I care to spend time appreciating, but it's honest art.

There's a carefully cultivated myth in our society that holds that the concept of "artistic" excludes those parts of humanity's nature that are prurient, distasteful, or self serving.  That's bullshit.  Vision and emotion doesn't have to be altruistic, pious, pure, or socially acceptable to be genuine.  It just has to be human. 

Inquisitor: Skill, talent, etc. all contribute to art.  Many guys get so distracted by naked chicks that they never really develop their talent.  I always encourage people to remove distractions from their development.

Me: I disagree. Skill, talent, etc. contributes to craftsmanship.  Vision and emotion contribute to art.  Many guys get so distracted by naked chicks that they never really develop the craftsmanship necessary to present their art in an aesthetically appealing package.  I also encourage people to remove distractions from the development of their craftsmanship, but I never encourage people to deny their vision.

Inquisitor: Removing distractions in an effort to improve is not dishonest nor is it less artistic.

Me: No, but removing your vision as a surrogate for removing distractions is dishonest and counter productive.  If someone is moved by the beauty of architecture, telling them they're only allowed to shoot flowers until they develop their craftsmanship because they get too passionate and distracted by the architecture is effectively telling them that craftsmanship and technique are the point of art, and vision and passion are just incidental. If that's the case then art doesn't exist at all.
 I've been thinking about that conversation a lot recently. I don't know the answer to his original question because pornography is a nebulous thing that no two people define the same way.  Even the Supreme Court said we can't define it, but we'll know it when we see it.

The human experience is not limited to only innocuous, sterile, unsensual emotions that can be neatly package on one side of a line that distinguishes it from pornography.  There is certainly a realm in which all merit beyond the prurient is lost, but focusing one's energy on making sure to avoid it is energy misdirected.  For some people, living in a box defined by stereotypes and prejudices they fear to touch might be an acceptable existence.  It's not for me.


  1. Your brain makes me want to get naked in front of your camera. ;)

  2. Well put.
    I'm puzzling over this topic myself, and had reached that same emotional space but was unable to verbalize/write about it in a coherent manner.
    Thanks for putting it down so well.


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