Monday, October 12, 2009

The "X" Factor Redux

Since a photographer whose photos I enjoy viewing, and whose blog I often check out, dug deep into the PGS archives to comment on something I wrote over three years ago (Yikes!)I thought I'd republish it, perhaps with some extra commentary.

BTW, the shooter/blogger who dug and commented is a guy named Ed Verosky, an Austin, TX, photographer.

Republishing this also means I don't have to write something new from scratch. Cuz that's how I roll sometimes... lazy.

I'm also gonna update the pretty girl pic I used in the OP, probably make a few minor edits to the text, and I'll include the comments some readers made back then plus Ed's comment of today.

Here's my OP, titled The "X" Factor:

More than a few people on this planet view glamour photography as pornography. That is a fact of glamour photography life and, for the most part, neither you nor I are going to change many of the millions of narrow-minded minds regarding this. Once you put a pretty girl in front of a camera and she removes some clothing or poses seductively, sensuously, sexually-invitingly, or in any way erotically, there are people who are simply going to brand it with a Scarlet P, feign disgust, and heap scorn on the photographer, the model, probably both.

I've read through many photography forum threads wherein the contributors attempted to explain the differences between porn and glamour/erotic photography. An uncomplicated and slightly humorous explanation is simply, "the lighting." But I've seen enough legitimate glamour photography with really poor lighting to toss that explanation aside. Just because the lighting is atrocious lacking finesse and/or is artistically non-existent doesn't make a so-called glamour-shot porn. Of course and conversely, great lighting in a true pornographic image doesn't suddenly make that image glamourous or automatically place it in the realm of gallery-quality erotic photography.

A dude in black robes once said something like, "I can't define porn but I know it when I see it." Since this person was never proclaimed the Grand High Exalted Mystic Porn Czar, I, for one, have never been willing to take his word for it. Although it's probable that some of you might agree, in principle, with the underlying intent of that statement, and you might believe that porn, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder, I don't agree nor do I buy into that explanation either.

For the purpose of defining porn as opposed to glamour and/or erotic photography, i.e, this wonderful and exciting genre of photography that I pursue as do many of you, I've developed a self-explanatory checklist to help people determine whether an image is, most likely, pornographic: Pornographic, that is, in terms of its sexual content or sexually implicit content. I call this checklist The Three P's.

Here they are:

Penis (Erect)
Pink (You know what I mean.)
Penetration (Again, you know what I mean.)

If your image contains any or all of the above, it is, more than likely, a pornographic image. If it does not, it probably is not... porn, that is.

Now that I've cleared that up for all of you and, indeed, for the entire world's population, I think we can safely and comfortably call this discussion closed.

Okay. Fast forward to the present...

The porn v. glamour discussion, of course, never has been closed and probably never will be. My Three P's is little more than a general guide. It's like saying, "It's pretty hot out," versus saying "My thermometer says the outside temperature is 101 F."

By the way, the "I know it when I see it" standard for obscenity (not necessarily porn) came straight from the mouth of a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. I knew that when I originally wrote the article but I thought I was being clever and witty by only quoting the statement, rather than quoting and crediting it. Obviously, some readers didn't notice my tongue-in-cheekyness as evidenced by some of the comments I've republished below. If you want to read more about how a bunch of Supreme Court justices tried to define obscenity, you can CLICK HERE.

Here's the comments from back when I first published The "X" Factor update... plus Ed's comment of today:

Anonymous said: "Somewhere, I once read about a person who supposedly said something like this: 'I can't define porn but I know it when I see it.'" It was a US Supreme Court justice, although I don't remember his name. He's dead now, which is a shame 'cause we've lost the only reliable way to separate porn from non-porn!

Gunslinger said: Jimmy, I believe it was Chief Justice Earl Warren who made the famous quote. I believe in the same decision he said that pornography contained no artistic value, but rather appealed only to the prurient interests of the viewer. I think that means when you see it, all you can think of is sex. Been to a mall lately? Times have changed since that ruling and the court is still reluctant to define it.

Anonymous said: I don't necessarily consider "pink" to be pornographic. It depends on the context, as does most everything.

Trekkie said: Love your commentary. Having grown up in a 'red state' (Kansas) I discovered how backwards a lot of community's can be which is why I hate 'community standards'

Because even in evolution hating Kansas there are bright spots of realists such as Lawrence, KS and the suburbs on the Kansas side of the Kansas City metroplex that are decidedly 'blue' in their political leaning. It's just that they don't have a crazy preacher of a shepherd telling them to go vote for the nut job, and thus you see what you get.

I've always enjoyed your commentary posts on G1 so good to see you have a blog to keep up with

James said: Sometimes when I crit images on PSig the art v. porn debate comes up. I believe that if you're going to mix the three P's into your art you have to make the artiness more identifiable. The viewer will decide if the image more likely to be displayed as art or used as sheet music for a one handed organ solo in a split second. That's how long you have to convey that there is a message in the piece if you want your work to be considered art while containing (or just hinting at) elements of porn.

Ed said: Are we assuming here, that porn is a negative or illegitimate thing? Pictures, made for a particular human response. Why isn't there a big debate about "commercial photography" vs. "art"? Those lines are most certainly blurred, too. You guys in your forums, stop feeling so guilty about the pictures you like to look at.

Ed, I agree. And just so ya know, I don't ever feel guilty about the pictures I like to look at or, for that matter, the ones I snap. (Well, most of the ones I snap... but that's for another update. Or, maybe not.)

The pretty girl at the top is Penthouse Pet, Tori Black, from a short while back. It's a non-porn pic from a set that, shortly thereafter, became porn pics.

1 comment:

BigV said...

I know it when I see it
That would be Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart in 1964.

Here is a pretty good article on the subject.