Source unknown – Title unknown (192X)

I am posting this because I love the way the two bodies relate to one another against the black negative space. (Keeping with the theme of twos–you can see both subjects hands.)

One figure is curled, the other open… seemingly presented like either a cherub or some sort of water nymph. (Note: how the positions of all four hands work together similar to the two bodies against the black negative space. The cherubic nymph hands imply a triangle with any one of the other hands–but more so with what the other hands frame.)

If you glance at the notes for this you’ll note two things: that it was probably made by Jacques Biederer–a Czech photographer who moved to Paris and became increasingly interested in nudes, erotica and hardcore BDSM/fetish pornography. During Germany’s occupation of France, he was sent to Auschwitz where he died.

Interestingly, the notes also suggest that the curled figure is a man. And while my familiarity with Biederer is admittedly limited. I seem to recall that he had a thing for portraying women as dominant–that could suggest that the commenters are correct that the curled figure is male. However, didn’t Biederer also have a thing for depictions of sapphic desire? Perhaps the undergarments are masculine in cut or design but I’m not an expert on French fashion from the 1920s and to my reading the gender of the curled figure isn’t something that can be determined with any sort of definitive value given only this image–and that’s something that is intriguing to me.

Nawa-ArtErika Yukio (1961)

It’s difficult to untangle all the various threads with this–largely because I read zero Japanese; also: it’s weird to me that while translations for Romance languages via Google Translate have improved marked over the last three years, it’s still only the babiest step above word salad for ideogrammatic languages. (I know ideogram is not technically the right term but I can’t think of the right term at the moment–I’m essentially pointing to the way romance languages group characters that make particular sounds in particular situations into words which name things, convey concepts, etc. vs. languages consisting of characters which a vaguely pictorial and convey concepts, i.e. Mandarin and Japanese; although it seems to me that kanji is maybe intended to be closer to the an alphabet? Don’t quote me on any of this–linguistics is one field where I will readily admit a complete absence of any sort of even baseline understanding.)

Anyway, as best as I can tell: Nawa Art is a site where someone–who seems not to want to be viewed as a collector–has archived pornographic BDSM materials that are apparently from brochures disseminated via a secret club in Japan circa 196X.

None of it is even half as edgy as what your average kink-focused Tumblr curator includes on the reg. But to my naive eye–it’s fascinating to consider the effect such material likely had in shaping the overarching vision of someone like Araki.

I really appreciate the presentation of this–there’s a physicality to it: the four holes at the right margin (seemingly from two staples), the way that it both simultaneously seems xeroxed + the way that the strips of black and white (in concert with the thin margin between the images) makes the photos appear three dimensionally stacked; additionally, I really dig the simplicity of the layout–the top half mirrors the bottom half with only a horizontal mirroring (the black and white strips makes it seem far more complicated than that but it’s actually a solid tact for making something simple look more complicated than it really is–good design usually flips that script; however, it can be used to strong effect if it’s used sparingly and in a conceptually resonate fashion).

Two other observations concerning layout: not how the upper left and bottom right image are connected by the inclusion of the dark ribbon looped around her neck, whereas the top right and bottom left are both square (vs. rectangular) and were almost certainly taken in sequence; there’s also the way what appears to be the drain of a bathtub behind Erika Yukio’s head in the top right, top left and lower right frame managed to break up what would’ve been a cloying repetition of fours (staple perforations + photos).

The other thing about this that appeals to me is that as put off as I am by mainstream porn of any kind–I am especially put off by depictions of BDSM in pornography. There is–in my experience–this fixation on both extremity and humiliation that just doesn’t appeal to me personally. (I’m not about to kink shame anyone though–you do you and know that as long as you have the utmost respect for consent; then I support your kinks).

I think it’s because I grew up in such a repressive community that I really don’t enjoy being made to feel dirty about physicality–I struggle with that enough already. But it’s more complicated than that, honestly; as much as I’m not at all into humiliation, testing boundaries is something that I crave.

I think that’s what I appreciate about this–there’s a sense of discomfit paired inextricably with a curiosity. That appeals to me greatly.

Anonymous – Two women engaged in oral sex (c. 1895)

With the invention of the daguerrotype in 1839, photography was
enlisted in the production of pornography. By the 1880s, when
developments in photographic technology brought cameras into the
middle-class home, amateurs could produce not only their own portraits
and snapshots but also the means of their own arousal. This pocket-sized
photograph is one of some 50,000 erotic images – professional and
amateur – that pioneer sexologist Dr Alfred Kinsey began to collect in
the late 1930s, working with difficulty around obscenity laws and codes
of ‘public’ morality. Taken not in a conventional studio but in a homey
Victorian bedroom, this representation of cunnilingus was probably
intended for illicit heterosexual male consumption, though one hopes
that at least a few women managed to put it to good use. The woman
sitting demurely on the bed wears an apron, indicating that male
fantasies about the sexual availability of domestic servants was
operative in the production of the image. Unlike in most erotic
photographs of the period, the face of the sitting women has been
crudely blacked out.

Catherine Lord, Art & Queer Culture (New York: Phaidon, 2013), 59.

(via @lesbianartandartists​)

Author unknown – Title Unknown (192X?)

Things I like about this:

  1. The corner of the room behind the divan at the left edge of the frame;
  2. The wallpaper,
  3. The way genitals in encircled by open mouth a smidgen north of the exact center of the frame;
  4. The garter with white bow relieving the black stocking of weight that would’ve otherwise unbalanced the composition;
  5. The way she’s looking at the camera;
  6. The eye moves over this in a very interesting fashion–left to right (taking in the tableau), upon reaching the right edge, there is a much more forcible momentum right to left–the backward trajectory reinforces the joining of bodies and then the angle of her hear and the downward jutting of her right arm creates this whipping loop where the viewer’s gaze cycles counter clockwise from arm, through rump, through the nexus of connection again and again.
  7. Zoom in close and you’ll see that the sort of silver highlights throughout the image are actually a result of where fingers pressed into the emulsion leaving the oily residue of fingerprint.

Lastly, a counterpoint on the why the eye parses this frame: there is no sense that there is a continuity beyond the edge of the frame, thus the exclusion of the woman on the left’s right forearm and hand represents an amputation, a symbolical removal of autonomous agency. (Her foot is similarly maimed.) No matter the cleverness of the way the work cycles the gaze–these women are definitely meant to perform for the male gaze.)

Source unknown – Title unknown (19XX)

This reminds me of Nan Goldin’s work although I am reasonably certain it isn’t hers.

To the best of my knowledge, Goldin used color slide film exclusively. (I vaguely remember that she now uses digital–which makes sense given the gritty immediacy she trades in.)

That it’s B&W would be a huge departure for her.

Also, the orientation of the couple to the space they’re inhabiting is a bit over-stylized–the way her body enters the frame at a slant gives a sense of dynamic left-to-right leaning in, which in turn contributes to a physical sense of forward motion into the cocksucking motion–despite the fact that she’s pretty clearly moving her mouth up the length of the boy’s erection not down it. (That tension between bending in and pulling away, makes it feel a bit like a gif despite the fact that it’s a single frame.)

Again, though: there’s a way in which this image doesn’t seem to be for or about the viewer–it’s merely something the viewer has been deemed lucky enough to witness second hand. (And in that way, it’s also very much like Goldin’s work.)

Source unknown – Title unknown (19XX)

Free love? As if love is anything but free! Man has bought brains, but
all the millions in the world have failed to buy love. Man has subdued
bodies, but all the power on earth has been unable to subdue love. Man
has conquered whole nations, but all his armies could not conquer love.
Man has chained and fettered the spirit, but he has been utterly
helpless before love. High on a throne, with all the splendor and pomp
his gold can command, man is yet poor and desolate, if love passes him
by. And if it stays, the poorest hovel is radiant with warmth, with life
and color. Thus love has the magic power to make of a beggar a king.
Yes, love is free; it can dwell in no other atmosphere. In freedom it
gives itself unreservedly, abundantly, completely. All the laws on the
statutes, all the courts in the universe, cannot tear it from the soil,
once love has taken root.

Emma Goldman, Marriage and Love

Otto Schmidt – Untitled (189X)

The above sampling of Schmidt’s work was posted by @vensuberg with the following note appended:

I’m posting these three pictures by Otto Schmidt to advertise another of Sparismus’ blogs, here.
The pictures there are generally of this type, about half by Schmidt
and considerable graphic material as well. Also the scans are much
better than he is able to manage on his regular Schmidt series and tend
to be about 6000×6000 (three times the resolution tumblr will post
these).

If you like your smut turn-of-the-century vintage with a dash of too-cool-for-art-school, then you’d do well to follow them.

I was unfamiliar with Schmidt prior to seeing this but his work is intriguing. There’s an attention to depth of field (particularly in the top photo of what might be referred to as a cunnilingus pyramid) and control of overall tonal range which both suggest a familiarity with the photo avant-garde. Also, the blocking and positing suggests the photographer was extensively familiar with art history–particularly oil painting.

One might quibble that the commitment to fitting pornographic content to classical forms, detracts somewhat from the erotic effect of the work. I can see that and absolutely think that one of the struggles in trying to produce work that is Capital A Art with the pornographic depiction of sexuality as its subject is to carefully balance concept, form and technique with a carefully considered execution that leaves room for ruptures, disjunctions and spontaneity. (For example: although sterile and awkwardly over-posed the cunnilingus pyramid does end up reading as playful.)