Art vs. Pornography

As I shoot some erotic poses among my work, I am sometimes asked if the more erotic images are art or pornography? I think in general, these are simply labels that have different meaning depending on who is viewing an image. I believe I capture "erotic art", but also believe that some people will incorrectly label select images as pornography, especially if they derive sexual pleasure from an image OR if they are someone who is not used to viewing an image of a naked man in a sexual situation. With every pose and image I capture, I always seek to create what I consider an image that has strong artistic appeal to those that enjoy viewing these types of images.

A few statements and my response below each....

"Ravi Zacharias notes that while both art and pornography utilize nude figures, the purpose/motives for portraying the naked body are definitively distinct. Pornography utilizes nude figures for the pure purpose of stimulating the baser instincts of individuals; instincts that will not be satisfied by that alone. Art, on the other hand, utilizes nude figures for the purpose of highlighting the beauty of man. While pornography engenders lust, art engenders admiration for the glory and beauty of the human body, and thus the glory of its Maker."

-- I agree that art will often highlight features using light and shadows in a way that most pornographic images will not. There are elements in some of my work (angles of camera, composition and lighting and shadows) that push the image into the "art" label from my perspective.

"Artistic nudes are not designed to appeal to people seeking to get their jollies from viewing a photo of a naked guy. An artistic nude focuses on dedication a model has put into building his muscles or his natural beauty. Art photos have a sophisticated quality, showing body position, muscles and creative poses." -- I think an erotic art image CAN be used to help someone "get their jollies" because the image is both artistic and erotic. A model's penis will be visible in an artistic nude, but the penis not the emphasis of the photo. The photo emphasizes the model's body and muscles. Being naked is secondary to the natural beauty of the model. One way to tell if a photo is tasteful is if the camera lens is centered on the model's penis. If the photo draws the eye to the model's penis, the type of photos is a crotch shot. Crotch shots emphasize the penis and does not have much artistic value. Its just a cheap photo of a naked dude."

-- I have done artistic images of close up of a penis, so not sure this definition works for me. You can imagine very artsy macro shots of all different parts of a naked man.

From a reader of this blog...

"To start with, 'porn' means different things, not all of them negative. In a legal sense, it means X-rated imagery. To casual users, it means something they masturbate to -- and the porn may be quite artistic. To artists, 'porn' means erotic images, though some artists use 'porn' to describe images that are poorly executed ... versus 'art.' I think it's unfair to photographers to dangle the word 'porn' in the first place. I believe there's simply good art and bad art -- whatever genre of art it is. All erotic imagery is -- to a jurist, or a prude -- pornographic in the negative sense. What really matters is whether the photographer has talent (clearly, you do). If so, then he's creating art -- including a well crafted image of two men sucking or fucking, or of cum dripping off an erect cock.

--- Thanks for your thoughts. I agree that talent helps to make art and probably good pornography too.

I think overall, it comes down to WHO is viewing the image and the amount of artistic creativity employed in conveying all or part of a nude man. If the focus is very much on sexual activity or a close up of the penis, the bar is a bit higher to be called "art" in my mind. I prefer the title of "artistic erotic nudes" for my work that is more sexually charged and "artistic nudes" for the rest of my portfolio.

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