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Mastering eroticism


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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Mastering eroticism

21 Apr 2021 8:11AM   Views : 239 Unique : 159


I’ll admit that the task set for the remaining competitors in Master of Photography on Sky Arts last week was a tough one, even for someone accustomed to taking pictures of naked bodies: three images to depict ‘eroticism’. And in many ways, all the participants are actually rather good photographers, each with their own failings and strengths. I think this was a new area for all of them, though.

They were in the deep end with eroticism: especially with a glamorous location (a luxurious villa in Rome) and half a dozen quite excellent professional model. And maybe they weren’t given what Americans would call Model Relations 101, because photographers touching models is a general complete no-no, and several of them were rearranging limbs and clothes. That can, very occasionally happen, with specific advance permission from the model, but it’s a long way from acceptable as a routine part of model work.


Also, in terms of what are called levels (various degrees of exposure models will accept in pictures, such as underwear, topless or nude) the whole thing may have given a false sense of how models are. You'd have to look around a lot to find people in the general modelling world who would be happy with the level of intimacy involved in some of the shots. Some set-ups were heading into the territory of either having unseen special-purpose clothing to prevent unwanted 'intimate contact' (as actors wear for sex scenes in films). I reckon that you'd be looking at a rate of £100+ per hour per model, and I don't think I know many who'd be up for some of the shots, except with their own partners.

I don't like the format very much, compared with Sky Arts’ Portrait Artist of the Year: too much drama, too much focus on finding the worst each week, rather than the best. On the other hand, I agreed wholeheartedly about the winner - the shots were subtle, and really fitted together as a triptych, flowing into each other (appropriately, with one model dribbling glycerine from her mouth into another model’s mouth: in itself, a big ask, and obviously pre-Covid!)

I also rather think that the less-is-more approach worked well there: I see value in the occasional brass knuckles image, but nobody did that – and only the guest advisor really got that, I think. Donna Ferrato has attended orgies in order to shoot reportage, and was definitely trying to provoke the shock factor. (There's a fascinating book from 20-odd years back called The Lusty Lady by Erika Langley, who wanted to photograph at a strip club, and was told that she could, so long as she joined the dancers. It changed her life, in some ways, possibly for the better. Worth a read if you can find a copy. There are a couple, at reasonable prices, on eBay).


Less is more, mostly. But the most effective striptease may involve a lot of subtlety and teasing, and end with a few seconds of thorough exposure. My favourite rally driving quote, from Jimmy McRae: 'if you never have any moments, you're not trying hard enough.' I think it's the same in everything - and so all of us have the odd shot that's not right, and will never see the light of day, but was part of a process that was necessary to other better images. That's true of ICM, shallow depth of field, and so on as well...

Although - as Mr XXX (who I chatted to a week or three ago) understood, for some markets, the vulgarity is the whole point... But even then, it was interesting how subtle things can be, and how nuanced our conversation was about his lucrative work! A little bit like a doctor describing a disease or a procedure - all very much in the third person... With which cheerful thought I shall leave you.



dudler Plus
17 1.6k 1839 England
21 Apr 2021 8:14AM
OK - the title is clever-clever rather than accurate. Thanks to Tony for provoking the thoughts - and the whole thing is made topical by seeing a statement on Facebook that a particular photographer is not welcome at a particular studio in the Midlands, specifically because of inappropriate behaviour towards models.

Illustrations here are of Victoria Summers, Joceline and Twiggi50 in the red dress.
mistere Plus
7 6 4 England
21 Apr 2021 4:07PM
I've watched all of the Master of Photography series so far. In the hope that it would improve as is developed.
Unfortunately it hasn't. I think it's a very disappointing program with a few interesting bits here and there.
As for 'Mastering Eroticism', Could anybody do that in a few short hours?
dudler Plus
17 1.6k 1839 England
21 Apr 2021 4:29PM
I doubt it!

And there's a rather basic thing about it, despite the female contestants and the two female judges: 'Master' of photography... Why do i have images of an unreconstructed Russell Crowe in my mind?
JuBarney Plus
9 33 5 United Kingdom
21 Apr 2021 9:04PM
Love the last two shots
dudler Plus
17 1.6k 1839 England
21 Apr 2021 10:09PM
Thanks, Ju.

Sometimes, an indirect approach works really well...

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