Very recently, I had a conversation with someone I've become close with and who's opinion of me, what I'm about, and how I'm perceived (by her) has become, personally, important. She commented, rather off-handedly, that I sometimes seem apologetic for the general subject matter of my photography.
Her comment caused me to pause and think. (I hate when that happens!)
I collected a few thoughts and tried to explain why I might sometimes seem that way when it comes to my work.
In the wider world of photography, glamour and tease and a few other pretty girl shooting genres -- imagery that is intended, for the most part, to elicit male arousal -- garners less respect, for the most part, from professional peers and critics (as well as much of the general viewing public) than other photographic pursuits. As an example, a lackluster fashion image, published in a national publication, delivers far more respect, juice, and professional-credibility (to the shooter) than a killer shot of a sexy, semi-nude, chick who, in the image, is artfully captured, effectively seducing the viewer as she struts her stuff and displays her wares.
That's not to say sex doesn't play a prominent and starring role in many fashion images. It does. Sex sells. There are few things sex cannot sell and the advertising world has known this for a very long time. But when sex is used to sell, well, to sell sex (by showcasing the sensual and sexual allure of the model and little else) it becomes something else. And that "something else" doesn't always, in the eyes of many, seem worthy of sincere respect for the skills it might take to accomplish its goals. It's kind of strange: In many ways, sex drives the world. It's how we all got here. And sex is okay if you're selling almost anything other than sex. When sex sells sex, it's dirty. When sex sells handbags or perfume, it's accepted and admired and, sometimes, even trendy. Go figure.
This doesn't hold true for all sex selling sex images. If you're shooting for Playboy or Maxim or a few other periodicals that routinely feature sex selling sex imagery, you get plenty of respect from across the photographic board. But if your SSS images routinely appear in lesser media or doesn't appear anywhere other than a photo forum or a personal collection, you're not going to be perceived, as a byproduct of those images, as a truly professional and accomplished shooter by the majority of people in the photo trades. The possible exception to this is Fine Art Nudes. That's because, I'm guessing, Fine Art Nudes aren't about selling sex. They're about art that happens to feature the sex-related parts of its subjects. The sexy parts of the subjects I shoot aren't featured to promote art. (Whether they're artistically captured or not.) They're featured to provide stimulation and that stimulation isn't confined to the cerebral, aesthetic, and artistic senses. Of course, a fair amount of what tries to pass itself off as Fine Art Nudes doesn't remain in those realms either.
As a shooter of sex selling sex images, I sometimes find it more difficult to experience, in a larger sense, true pride in my work: Not because I don't think some of my work is pride-worthy, not because I think the skills and the expertise it takes to capture these images is pedestrian, and certainly not because I have morality-issues with the subject of my work. It is because, in general, it doesn't often garner much professional respect except from others who shoot (or are involved in producing) the same sort of stuff.
I know I'm merely scratching the surface of this subject. There is far more going on in my head (than things like professional respect) regarding the occasional, semi-apologetic, manner I might display -- in private and with those I trust and am close to -- than what I've written today. Since I don't want to turn this it into an overly self-indulgent thesis, I'm going to quit writing about it for now. I guess I'll close by simply mentioning that I don't feel any shame whatsoever for what I do. The only shame that might be associated with it is the shame other people sometimes attempt to heap on it. And for that and them, I have no apologies. Those people are not the catalysts for my occasional and semi-apparent angst and, frankly, I don't much care what they think.
The pretty girl, featured at the top in a pic that is something other than a sex selling sex photo, is Nautica. She's the same model featured in my last update which is, most definitely, a sex selling sex image.