Blue Muse Fine Art with Kat Slump. Ashes To Ashes. 2012.

(Opinion) Do You Know The Difference Between Nude Art and Porn?

Do you know the difference between nude art and porn? 

Blue Muse Fine Art with Jade Miller. Forgotten Dreams. 2013.

Blue Muse Fine Art. Forgotten Dreams. 2013.

Nude art gets a bad rap sometimes by people who do not understand the distinction between nude art and porn.  In their defense, most people are inundated with porn, and it has elements in common with nude art (i.e., nudity).  As such, it may be an understandable mistake to lump the two together.  Unfortunately, it may also be akin to throwing the baby out with the bath water (which is a shame, even if there is lots of bath water).

By analogy, did you know that Hemlock can resemble the tops of wild carrots?  Hemlock can kill you (they killed Socrates with it).  Carrots can provide you with lots of healthy nutrients – and lots of us don’t get enough of these nutrients in our diets.  It is understandable that if you couldn’t readily tell the difference, you would probably avoid eating either.  But there is a distinction to be made, and if you can pick out the carrots, and enjoy them, your health may be all the better for it.  Like the Carotene in the carrots (which helps us to see better), I would suggest to you that in nude art there is sustenance for the soul which can help us to see ourselves (understand the human condition) better.

So, if you can’t tell the difference between a nude art photo and porn based on whether there is nudity in it or not, how are you supposed to know which is which?

In the interest of brevity, here are some rough rules of thumb, (all of which are only my opinion):

–          Does it seem like a gratuitous look at a model’s “private parts”?
–          Does it seem exploitative?
–          Is there a statement made in the picture?
–          Does it reflect a feeling, an idea, or a mood?
–          Has there been much thought put in to it, or does it look like a one ingredient recipe with filler?
–          Does it make you reflective or thoughtful?
–          Would you want to look at the picture again and again, even if you were not aroused or not trying to get aroused?

 

The Day You Learn To Cry By Smiling

Blue Muse Fine Art with Dayne. The Day You Learn To Cry By Smiling. 2012.

Photographers:

In my experience, a number of photographers say they shoot nude art but actually shoot porn (“softcore” porn, specifically).  I’ve found this to be for at least two reasons:  1) they don’t want to be labeled pornographers – this title has a stigma to it, and it might be harder to recruit models, 2) they don’t realize the difference.  As far as I’m concerned, there is a special place in hell for #1’s, somewhere around the 7th or 8th ring.  Re: #2, are you shooting porn and don’t realize it?

–          Look at your last couple nudes.  What motivated you to shoot them?  Do they have any value beyond being sexual?  What are you trying to say with them?  Would anyone care for them if they were not looking for titillation?

–          What do you think a typical and/or sophisticated viewer would say about it?  How would they describe it, and how would they describe the value of your photos?  (e.g., something to masturbate to, or does it stir something up deep inside?)

–          How would an auctioneer describe the value of your photos (or your nude work as a whole) if it were to go to auction?  How would an art appraiser value it?  Is it original, or thought provoking?  Why would a collector want to buy it?

Let’s face it, not every piece is going to be a masterpiece that should go up for auction at Christie’s, and that doesn’t mean you’re not making “fine art”.  “Fine art” is not necessarily good art, it’s about the spirit you created the piece with.

I’ll wrap up with a plea to the photographers out there: if you are shooting or looking to shoot softcore porn – be upfront about it.  Don’t peddle your work as “fine art” or “glamour” if “softcore porn” is more accurate.  Recruiting models under false pretenses, or presenting your work to the world in a misleading way, just creates confusion and it’s simply not respectful.

Cheers

[For the sake of heading off tangential critiques of this post:  1) I’ve not commented on the merits (or not) of porn, just the misrepresentation of porn as nude art.  2) I’m not suggesting nude art cannot be sexy or explore themes of sexuality.]

Watch for future posts on:
–          What you should consider before shooting nudes (models)
–          Why you should not value your work based on Facebook “likes”
–          Reference page: Terms, Acronyms, Definitions, and Jargon used in the industry
–          Why you shouldn’t worry about “fauxtographers” or newbie “models” killing your business
–          Roots of conflict in the (social-media-fuelled) photography industry