Notes and Quotes on the Academic Paper – Stepping Out from Behind the Lens: A Qualitative Analysis of Erotic Photographers

Having spent the best part of two weeks in the university library, I started talking to a student that I kept bumping into. We exchanged conversation surrounding our current research projects/distillation. At this point she started to tell me about this document, (Stepping Out from Behind the Lens: A Qualitative Analysis of Erotic Photographers written by Jocelyn J. Wentland & Amy Muise) that was written in 2010 all about erotic photographers, and there work from their perspective. From reading this paper I have gone on to write quite a few notes up, and lifted some very relevant quotes from the paper. Here they are below :-

  • Qualitative interviews were conducted with eleven photographers who specialise in erotic photography.
  • Interviewing the individuals who are actively involved wirth the production of erotic photography provides a unique opportunity to learn more about how this type of photography and how it can be seen as a reflection of the changing nature of sexuality in our society.
  • “The inclusion of intimacy is a notable distinction between pornography and erotica (Kuhn et al 2007)”.
  • “Erotica is regarded as including an intimate or seductive component, while pornography is regarded as being sexually explicit with the specific intent of sexually arousing the viewer”.

The following definitions taken from the paper that I am looking at were provided by Kuhn and Colleagues, “Pornography is defined as material prodived for the purpose of sexually arousing or gratifying a user”, “Erotica is defined as material provided for the purpose of arousing or titillating individuals”.

  • (Whitehead and Kurz, 2009) Explored women’s participation in pole dancing classes, they concluded with, “recreational pole dancing can be constructed as empowering because it allows women the opportunity for ‘choice’ and ‘control’ over a sexual activity and provides a menas for women to resist traditional notions of femininity such as passivity  or modesty”.
  • All of the photographers unanimously agreed that erotic or boudoir photography is not the same as pornogrpahy and that the photogrpahy that they produced was different from pornography.
  • Photographers described how their photography may incorporate pieces that are used in pornography, but that their photography incorporated artistic imagery for the purpose of being visually aesthetic, not only pure sexual arousal.

From reading this paper I have defiantly had the outlines of both erotic photography and pornography spelled out for me.

  • Pornography is focusing on sexual contact with no other reason for being other than the arousal – the sexual arousal. It’s in your face and not that beautiful.
  • Erotic Photography contains the same ingredients of pornography but it differs in that it’s artistic, it brings creativity, beauty and interest into the image. the whole point is that it’s teasing you and tantalising you visually.

With erotic photography the woman is the client herself where as with pornography it’s never the woman who is the client, the woman is the product that is being sold/consumed.

  • Photographers discussed how there was an increased acceptance in terms of being sexy and sensual that was not present in the past. 
  • In today’s society erotic/boudoir photography has become a celebration of women’s sexuality and sensuality.


  • “I think that at the end of the day that every woman wants to have that kind of shot taken of them”
  • “It’s a statement by woman that they’re accepting themselves, that they want to celebrate the way that they look and the way that they feel, and their feminine side, their true feminine side”.

The individuals that partake in erotic photo shoots often gained a personal experience from it often finding the experience empowering, beautifying and liberating.

  • “The typical person has a negative body image. Nusity is bad. Sexuality is bad. So this is very liberating for many people”.
  • “All of the photographers interviewed reported that their clients felt euphoric at the end of the photo shoot and discussed how participating in a photo shoot can be a self esteem boost for many women”.
  • (Grammer et al. 2004) argues that mainstream sexualisation of women has resulted in a ‘raunch culture’ where women attempt to adhere to a standard of ‘hotness’ that is modelled on adult movie actors”.

This really interested me, , it has helped me to understand the boundary between pornogrpahy nad erotic photography. I think that the one or two of the main quotes that stood out to me (above in red) will end up in my final presentation to help me back up my own opinions about the works of Helmut Newton and Igor amlkovich. Over all I am very pleased that I found out about this qualitative analysis, as it has greatly helped me in the process of  finalising my opinions. 

Here is a link to the book Sexuality & Culture, where I found the essay –


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Filed under 3rd Year, Working with Photography in Context - Symposium

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