Below is a link to my final essay for my presentation. The link shows a my original document, colour coded so that I know what bits text are quotes, and i don’t miss a slide. It is also spaced out a lot and written in a larger font all to make it easier for me to read on the day.
Power Dynamics in Relation to the Erotic
Helmut Newton and Igor Amelkovich.
Photography student at Coventry University
12th February 2013
Stage 1 -INTRO
There has long been a problem of differentiating between the power dynamics of erotic photography and that of pornography. It is my intention through presenting my research project to provide an insight into the ‘exploitive power’ that’s evident within erotic photography, through specifically looking at the Erotic works of photographers Helmut Newton and Igor Amelkovich.
Many people believe that erotic photography is just a different name for pornography.
Jocelyn J. Wentland and Amy Muise wrote,
‘Stepping Out from Behind the Lens: A Qualitative Analysis of Erotic Photographers’, defined pornography and erotica in a vastly different way,
“The definitions of both pornography and erotica involve a certain level of subjectivity due to the inclusion of the intent to arouse or titillate the viewer.
From the understanding gained through my research I have produced my own definitions;
“Erotica is consumed by the middle classes due to the fact that they view the works in museums, books and through joining clubs and societies, at the centre of erotica is the aspect of titillation and arousal”.
“Pornography is consumed by the lower classes due to the material being vastly accessible via the Internet and top shelf magazines, and at the center of porn is a violent objectification”.
Helmut Newton’s works have been criticised by feminists, applauded by male and female magazines and sought out as reference points for aspiring photographers.
Igor Amelkovich is a Russian photographer who started his erotic photography obsession back in 1999. His works consist of two interest’s landscape photography and the nude.
STAGE 2 –Helmut Newton
Many of Newton’s images consist of semi-clad females in highly elusive locations, situated within grand, vastly rich surroundings. Since the beginning of Newton’s photographic career he had attracted both positive and negative opinions about his work. Harper recently brought together social critics to discuss an online document called ‘The Place of Pornography’ and as a result Aryeh Neier contributed this quote,
“Consider Helmut Newton’s photographs: they treat women as objects, they are violent and they are sexually explicit. Yet they reflect a certain level of talent, more talent certainly, than is on display in the pornographic magazines one can buy at newsstands. And so Helmut Newton’s photographs are called erotica instead of pornography”.
Having read the dialog that the Weserburg Museum produced for Helmut Newton’s 2008 exhibition, another interesting view point came to fruition due to the following quotation written by Carsten Ahrens,
“With his staged photographs, Newton put the self-confident sexuality of women in the picture in a revolutionary way”,
Newton claims to be a feminist (liberating female sexual power) on the basis of depicting women as dominant. But this can be challenged in that his act of photographing these powerful women ‘tames’ them. The power of the amazon woman is controlled merely by photographing her and this act is where the power lies. Although there is a more complex game being played, the viewer can oscillate between projecting themselves into the position of the passive “little man” being dominated, and then identify with the position of power as the spectator of this scene, thus he is still in charge. He gives up power to the Amazon woman and gains it back through spectating her. Newton is the architect of this space in which the viewer acts as voyeur-spectator.
Stage 3 – Feminism
An interesting concept to flip the traditional values of erotic art generally being created by men for men was brought up in 1972 by Professor Linda Nochlin, who wrote, (Sexuality and the sexual Body),
“First she showed a slide of a popular French illustration of a woman, nude except for stockings, boots, and chocker, resting her breasts on a tray of apples; then she projected a photograph of a bearded young man, nude except for sweat socks and loafers holding a tray of bananas under his penis. Instead of the invitation ‘Achetez des pommes’ (buy some apples) inscribed under the maiden, the man advertised ‘Buy some bananas’.”
Professor Linda Nochlin has clearly shown the change in the power dynamics of erotic artistic works. Back in 1972 this type of presentation to an assembly of art historians would have been unthinkable. It highlights the shift in where the power dynamics of this type of work lay.
Female erotic photographer Jessica Roder captures images that intrude the intimate scenes between two lovers. Her perspective as a woman who is producing real life erotic frames makes me question again how the power dynamics have shifted.
Men create erotica for men because they have an inbuilt essence of ‘exploitive’ sexual power. From a purely animalistic perspective the male’s main purpose in life is to seek out and lust over women in order to continue the reproductive cycle of human beings. It is only the social stamp that mankind has placed upon erotica that has caused this overtly exploitive power to come to fruition.
The following quote from Barbara Rose’s, ‘Vaginal Iconology’ explains further how female erotic work is aimed at detracting erotica from the male supremacy by creating work that contains little if any essence of a male presence,
“By depicting female genitals, women artists attack one of the most fundamental ideas of male supremacy – that a penis, because it is visible, is superior. At issue in vaginal iconology is an over assault on the Freudian doctrine of penis envy, which posits that all little girls must feel that they are missing something.
This quote explains further the reasoning behind women creating these intense depictions of female genitals. They feel like they have to produce such images in order to deflect the view point from the female being exploited as an object of lust or of sexual desire.
A counter argument that creates an equally respectful point comes from Newton himself when he was being interviewed by Lindsay Baker for The Guardian newspaper, she writes,
“He audaciously counts himself as a feminist:”
Newton goes on to state
“I’m against this ghetto that women are put in, often by themselves, ‘women photographers’, ‘women artists’, what counts is the work”.
The point that Newton makes is the fact that the female sex put themselves into these, as it where bracketed issues, such as penis envy and the feeling that their sex is being overhauled by male supremacy.
STAGE 4 – IGOR AMELKOVICH
Igor Amelkovich’s photographic works take the female form and frames them in such a way that, they hold an underlying viewpoint of beauty, elegance and form.
When viewing his works it is clear that his images do not hold just an erotic place within society but on a broader spectrum they incorporate the pallet and thought processes of a semi traditional nudist painter. They have to admire the beauty of the nude life model posing before them in order to transfer that beauty onto the canvas, this is the talent that he portrays well in his work.
When G.Malaushkina reviewed Amelkovich’s exhibition, ‘Body Language’ he wrote an interesting opening line,
“The ‘body Language’ exhibition of the photographer Igor Amelkovich is the reminding that body has its own handle and plastique, architectonics and expressiveness; this exhibition is a kind of a plastic performance, a story about forms and lines”.
This statement made me look at the photographs from a different perspective, a different multilayered, sensual viewpoint.
I contacted Amelkovich and emailed him two sets of questions one being general questions about erotic photography and the other about his specific work.
In reply to my questions surrounding the general composition of his images he wrote,
“I can find here a good, real, historical industrial landscape, so I place there a beautiful woman. If I lived on a tropical island – would be palm, and of course emphasise the power of the female nature. This is not only flowers and dolls in the hands of men, it is force”.
Amelkovich’s works have a clear line of juxtaposition between mans striving to continue to invent new industrial techniques, contrasting directly with the nude form of a female symbolising the very essence of our homo sapien life cycle, the continuous birth of mankind and the continuous advancement in industry. None of which is possible without females, and this is the ‘force’ that Amelkovich states above.
I asked him whether in his opinion women hold the position of power within the human race. To which he replied,
“Without beautiful women there is no life. But the lives of future generations is worth nothing anyway
STAGE 5 – CONCLUSIO
When Amelkovich’s works are compared to Newton’s there is a clear correlation between the erotic natures of their photography. They both brush the surface of the new BDSM culture; however that’s where the similarities end.
Newtons works hold an alluring sexual appeal with many of his images merely suggesting an outcome of a sexual nature, they hint at sadomasochism that is widely photographed today.
Where as Amelkovich’s works have a stronger focus on the female form, portraying the essence of powerful force hidden within women, a natural force, which enables mankind to continuously evolve thus enabling the evolution of industry.
Both photographers’ works provide a strong erotic impression to the viewer, but for me what is particularly interesting is that many people don’t look beyond the realisation that the images are erotic.
It seems that many people focus on the socially unaccepted aspects of erotic photography and don’t look at what is behind the image, its meaning?
The distinction of the sexualisation of power is what is at stake within erotic photography, however the power component of this type of photography is what is erotic.
In relation to the boundaries between pornography and erotic photography my opinion is clear; pornography has evolved due to the fact that ‘sex sells’. It is produced for the masses and the by-product is consumerism within the images.
Erotic photography works on similar principles however; it consists mainly of varying aspects of visual titillation. It excites the mind more than the body, it involves a level of subjectivity that the mind must examine and digest before forming an arousal link with the image.
In terms of Helmut Newton and Igor Amelkovich’s works the exploitive power relationships differ. Newtons works exploit his personal erotic fantasies that are regularly played out in is mind.
Amelkovich’s works, although hold essences of exploitive power, when rolled together with the beauty of the subjects form, create rich alluring erotic frames.
It’s the photographer who is exploiting their subject, and it’s the subject who empowers the photographer, yet takes pleasure from that exploitation – a perverse, double kink
- Helmut Newton –Thames Hudson Photofile – 1989
- Feminism – Art –Theory, An Anthology 1968-2000, Edited by Hilary Robinson – Blackwell Publishing
- Helmut Newton 1920-2004 – Grand Palais 2012
- PLAYBOY Helmut Newton – Chronicle Books – 2005
- Helmut Newton – Taschen GmbH – 1999
- Igor Amelkovich- Land of Erotic Beauty–Edition Skylight– 2012
- New Erotic Photography –Edited by Maxim Jakubowski – Robinson Publishing – 2010
- Female Sexualisation–A collective work of memory–Frigga Haug et al -Translated by Erica Carter –Verso Classics – 1999
- Sex in Art-Pornography and Pleasure in the History of Art – Cassidy Hughes – Crescent Moon- 1998,2012
- The New Erotic Photography 2-Taschen- 2012
- Intimate Obsessions –China Hamilton – Edition Reuss GMBH-2010
- ‘Stepping out from behind the lens’ – Qualitative Analysis of Erotic Photographers – Jocelyn J. Wentland and Amy Muise – Springer – 2010
- The place of Pornography- Harpers-Mark Danner, Lewis H. Lapham, Al Golstein, Susan Brownmiller, et al.- 1984
- Igor Amelkovich – email@example.com
- Feliz Paloma – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jessica Roder – email@example.com
- China Hamilton – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Helmut Newton Foundation – email@example.com
- Art Documentary ‘Frames From The Edge Helmut Newton’.
A film by Adrian Maben. Arthaus Musik.