Updated: Aug 22, 2020
Photo by Professor Polyamory (me) of my wife Paula with a hot guy circa 2014.
I am both a producer and consumer of nude and erotic photography in that I am (or used to be) a professional glamour/erotic photographer. There is something special about the unclothed (or partially clothed) human body that allows a photographic artist to express things that the fully clothed body cannot. I am not one who denigrates photos that use nudity to show physical beauty or erotic passion. I think people who pretend that quality nudes do not play to beauty or eroticism are only fooling themselves in an effort to be high minded. However, not all quality nudes emphasize beauty or eroticism. The very best nudes capture the essence of the human condition; however, few photographers are able to reach that level of artistry. Other great nude works speak to society and human interaction, or they present a statement of irony. The juxtaposition of nudity with the mundane world is a very effective artistic tool. Then there is the use of the nude body for purely abstract reasons of shape and contrast which is the domain of the traditional fine artist. So there are many great and noble ways to use the human body in photographs.
Having said that, I will say most images of nudity being passed around on the net these days are boring at best and troublingly exploitive at worst. Though most of these photos are female nudes, a sizable minority are male nudes, or erotic photos including both males and females.
Let me start with the simple fact that photos of nudity is not in itself interesting or meaningful. We all have a naked body and a simple snapshot of a body might be good for a mug shot or an ethnographic/biological study, but it is not interesting in and of itself. Worse yet, a close up of a vulva or a penis does not in itself constitute art. Yes, one can make wonderful artistic images of a vulva or penis, but sadly that is the rare exception to the mass of yucky pussy and dick pics. Even worse are the hundreds of close up photos of a penis in a vagina; photos that have as much aesthetic merit as the photos in an anatomy textbook. Some just make my stomach turn over. Once again, I have seen amazingly sensitive and erotic photos of this, but such photos are the rare exception.
Worse than photos being boring or unpleasant looking, are the photos that scream exploitation or degradation. As a former professional photographer , I know my models are just that models. They assume the pose I ask them to do (usually) and trust me to make a tasteful image. I can make an image appear to be degrading or exploitive when in fact the photo session was not any such thing; however, I as the photographer, am responsible for the image and its potential impact. Perhaps I am trying to highlight the exploitation of women and make the image to condemn such behavior. To do so would be morally justifiable. Photos of consensual BDSM “kink” are not photos of abuse, but of a form of mutually satisfying sexual expression. But to shoot an image that on its face is exploitative without any contextual clues to suggest I, as the producer of the image, do not recognize this is immorally exploitive behavior is problematic. The point is that while I shoot nudes and/or erotica I am engaging in a values and morality laden enterprise. I do not create my photographic art in a vacuum, but in the social milieu of the 21st century. I have a social obligation to create photos that will not degrade human sexuality or the human beings who model for me.
This is not to say I have an obligation to make all my photos socially meaningful. Many of my photos are made just to entertain or to play at creativity. To bring happiness through entertainment, even if that entertainment is overtly sexual in nature is a pro-social enterprise. To bring happiness to my clients by making nude/erotic images of them that make them feel good about themselves is one of my great joys as a photographer.
I do not deny this concept of social responsibility in nude and/or erotic art emanates from my alter ego as Rev. Polyamory. I make a point to consider the moral and ethical ramifications of my work. Many religious people would say that being a nude/erotic photographer is inherently incompatible with being a Christian because they see eroticism itself as sinful. Obviously I do not believe that is true, but at the same time I do not believe in a world free of moral obligations. It is that message that I hope to present on this website.
In many ways we are in a golden age of nude and erotic photography. The advent of both the digital camera and social media by which we can share such images has ushered in a wave of amazing nude/erotic photographs. Looking at sites such as Deviant Art you can find a level of quality nude photos done by amateur, semi-pro and professional photographic artist that eclipse nearly everything done in the last 100 years. The quality of work has grown so much since I first posted one of my nudes that I look back at what I thought was pretty good 20 years ago, and see that those images are no longer even close to the top tier. One reason I recently shut down my photo business is that I am concerned my skills have not kept pace with the new generation of photographers. All this is to say there are far more great nude and erotic photos than ever before, and yet, they are swamped by boring, ugly and exploitive photos that fill the web.
I’m not suggesting that someone should not post a photo just because it is clearly the work of a beginner. Not at all. This process of learning the craft is so much easier than it was when I first began. The simple process of posting and see what people like is very helpful. What I am suggesting is that before you shoot and post nude and erotic photos you make an effort to make the photo not just another boring photo of a naked person, but rather an expression of a point of view. Make it about the person under the skin or about your vision of the world or about a hundred things, but please make it about more than this person has tits and a pussy or a dick.
If we see people think through their nude and erotic photography, we will see far fewer “Yucky Nude Photos.”