H.C.W., Paris, n° 18, Erotic Art Photography
Art,  English,  Erotic

Exploring the Beauty and Sensuality of the Human Form: Erotic Photography

The text below is the excerpt of the book Erotic Art Photography (ISBN: 9781780429557), written by Alexandre Dupouy, published by Parkstone International.

Read the other parts about Erotic Art Photography on these articles:

As proof of this, Félix Moulin was prosecuted and condemned by the authorities in 1851 to one month in prison and a fine of one hundred francs for affront to public decency for having taken “pornographic” daguerreotypes. Pretending to tow the line, the following year he deposited some sixty odd works on paper at the Print room of the Imperial Library thus allowing him to exploit these images commercially. Artists were relatively protected, as creation was not considered a crime in itself. Models and those selling images were more often and more severely condemned. In 1857, four models were each sentenced to six months in prison and a hundred franc fine.

Henri Oltramare, n° 192, Erotic Art Photography
Henri Oltramare, n° 192, gelatin silver print, 11,7 x 15,7 cm (4.7 x 6.3 in), c. 1900

In spite of these difficulties, images were produced in France where they were circulated more freely than in the rest of the world and were exported to the rest of Europe, in particular to Victorian England where the climate was still more puritan. Most erotic daguerreotypes were composed of two almost identical images which, when placed in a stereoscopic viewfinder gave the impression of contours. This procedure enhanced, among other things, the plump curves of the model, and was a great success.With the arrival of paper as a medium, production and demand grew. The paper used changed with different discoveries. First there was salted paper, paper soaked in a solution of sodium chloride, a five percent solution of simple kitchen salt to which starch or gelatine was added.

Then it was allowed to dry out before soaking it in a fifteen percent solution of silver nitrate. It was then left to dry out again, and then darkened directly, that is to say, the sheet of paper was in direct contact with the negative and exposed to sunlight. The process could take several hours in overcast weather. The operation was completed by fixing the image in a bath of sodium hyposulphite. It was sometimes toned beforehand with the help of gold salts and then washed with running water, preferably low in mineral content. This procedure by direct contact did not permit enlargement, as the size of the print obtained was the exact replica of the negative. Photographers were obliged to resort to large format cameras if they wanted to obtain large negatives.

Anonymous, only known portrait of
Sarah Bernhardt with nude torso, Erotic Art Photography
Anonymous, only known portrait of Sarah Bernhardt with nude torso, 14,5 x 10,5 cm (5.8 x 4.2 in), c. 1868

Louis-Désiré Blanquart-Evrard introduced albumenized paper at the Science Academy in 1850, and was a great success until the end of the 19th century. The procedure appears simple. The paper was simply covered with a coat of egg white, from where it got its name. The image obtained had a contrast, definition and brilliancy of a superior quality to that obtained until now and which did not exist with salted paper, where the image, which was a little yellow, a little dull and badly defined, was on the paper itself, whereas with albumin it was in the coating. The clarity of the image was near that of the quality of the daguerreotype with the added bonus that it allowed an unlimited circulation.

In 1854, the photographer André Adolphe Eugène Disdéri made photography popular with the visiting card format. Using the same plate, he took several shots of small images which were then stuck onto card (format 8 x 5.5 on card measuring 11.5 x 6.5). This procedure was mainly used for portraits on the same lines as the miniatures of the 18th century where people could go about their daily business carrying an image of their lady friend or relative on them. This size was ideal for nude photographs, as the photograph could be discreetly concealed in the wallet of somebody of note or a serviceman.

Lehnert & Landrock, Erotic Art Photography
Lehnert & Landrock, n° 3117, heliograve, 23 x 16,5 cm (9.2 x 6.6 in), c. 1925

As with the daguerreotype, the size left little room for anecdotes, and the nude model appeared with the minimum of accessories. In the same year, Louis-Camille d’Olivier deposited sixty odd “academic studies” on salted paper and even more the following year. The larger formats of prints on paper, the anatomic and academic studies under the artistic alibi, gradually enabled more elaborate images, based on compositions often copied from pictoral and theatrical productions.

This is followed by reconstitutions evoking fantasies which would bewitch the end of the 19th century; antiquity with its mythological allegories and orientalism, exploited by both conventional and grandiloquent artists, the so called “Pompeïste or Neo-grec painters” such as Jean-Léon Gérome or writers such as Pierre Louÿs or Félicien Champsaur…­­

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