Sunday, April 10, 2011

Article About Female Erotic Photographers I Wrote For Playboy Spain in 2006

It's a typical December day in a warehouse studio near the center of Los Angeles. In the mainly Latino neighborhood, Christmastime can be seen in the cheap decorations that hang off the taquería awnings and the snow-sprayed windows of the immigration-law clinics. But its still hot out. It's a searing 90 degrees in the street. It's also scorching inside the warehouse. But not because of the building's temperature; the air-conditioning blasts. The heat comes from what is happening: namely, two naked, twentysomething-year-old Czech models buried inside one another's crotch. The shoot is for one of infamous porn magnate Larry Flynt's top magazines Leg World. There's only one difference between this erotic photoshoot and any other: A woman is behind the camera, and not a man.

"Most people think that I'm a lesbian," says Cynthia Patterson whose tough voice belies the femininity of her long, red hair. "But I'm not. I'm a heterosexual female. It's because I like sex with men that I know what men like in terms of erotic photos. This is what I try to bring out in every shoot." What is it exactly that men like according to Patterson? "Simple," states the photographer, "hot and dirty sex."

Patterson is one of the most prolific photographers in the adult-entertainment industry today, an industry dominated by men. What has it taken to get as far as she has?

"Sure, there are times when I have to think like a man," Patterson declares with an ironic snigger, "but don't think that women like sex that is so different than men do. Once women get all their psychological, 'Oh, dear, I'm a whore' issues out of the way, both males and females go for a raw, animal sexuality." Patterson adds she knows when a particular model is posing in a manner that will sell well in the magazine "because I can feel in my gut that its hot."

According to Patterson, it is the fact that a woman is beautiful and feminine that is foremost what is attractive in a photo. "And, yeah, that you then see her performing in all these incredibly kinky ways. I want the men who view my photos to see that my models are just as hard-core as they are."

"No," Cynthia hedges, "changing her mind, even more so."

Nudity Not Necessary
Even if Cynthia Patterson argues there is nothing about being female that changes the way that she shoots, there must be something that differentiates the male photographers from the women. At least, this is what Beatrice Neumann, a German-born female erotic photographer, argues. The photographer, who got her start shooting stills of the prostitutes and strippers she knew in her hometown of Frankfurt, explains, "When women take erotic photos, they typically dont shoot genitalia." Neumann goes on to confirm that what she personally seeks in a photo is a woman who can express her sexual confidence without being vulgar. "It's more about attitude, eye contact, a suggestive look. You dont even need nudity for a photo to be exciting."

But, sure, as a female Neumann only needs a suggestive look for a photo to be a turn-on. But does that sell to the typically male consumer who is her market?

"Sure, it does," says the photographer, "otherwise there wouldnt be so many woman erotic photographers out there."

In fact, Neumann shares that she receives emails on a daily basis from men who applaud her for her less obvious techniques. "There is so much porn out there," explains Neumann, "and men are fed up. They're looking for something different, and I provide that."

Digital Diaries
Still, its no big secret that female photographers in the world of erotic photography is a relatively new trend. According to Neumann, it was the advent of the digital format that allowed for the emergence of many of the new female erotic photographers on the scene. "I don't want to perpetuate any stereotypes," the erotic lenswoman opines, "but women feel more threatened by the technicality of film. They are intimidated by lights. Whereas the digital format is all about instant gratification, which has made the art of photography very accessible."

It should come as no surprise then that just when digital cameras became affordable to the common consumer in the year 2000, a whole slew of new female names emerged on the erotic-photography circuit. One of the most famous names to rise up that year was Natacha Merritt, who published her collection of sexual self-portraits in the book, Digital Diaries (Taschen).

Female Erotic Photographer Legend
This is not to say that before Natacha Merritt, there were no female erotic photographers on the scene. Both Cynthia Patterson and Beatrice Neumann have been shooting professionally since the 1990s. This is not to mention the other big names in the erotic-photography arena, among them Ellen Von Unwerth or Emma Delves-Broughton. And, in fact, one of the photographers who helped mold Hustler's look when the magazine was first incepted in the '70s was female. Her name is Suze Randall. Ironically, it was Hugh Hefner of Playboy who first discovered her.

"I was 29, young and beautiful, and getting a lot of press as a photographer for this reason," Randall recounts. "I started out as a model and was shooting photos of my friends on the catwalks of Paris. Next thing I know I'm being flown to Chicago by Hefner, because he saw some photos of mine that he liked. And remember, this was an era when not even many men were shooting erotic photography, let alone women."

What was it like for Randall to break into the erotic-photography arena during that more innocent time? "I had to bust a lot of balls," says the photographer. "The male photographers resented me. They saw this sexy, young woman having all this success." Randall credits her drive and initiative for all that shes achieved up to the present.

Nude Photos = Objectification?
Then again, there remains the issue of objectification. In other words, the concept that to take nude photos of women is to objectify them. This antiquated view is typically perpetuated by feminists. So what do the females who are actually shooting the nude photos think of this idea?

"Do I objectify women?" Randall asks with a scoff. "When a girl is young, in-shape and gorgeous, I think it's wonderful to glorify her body. Because trust me, you won't have it forever." Randall should know: In a 1976 issue of Playboy, she also modeled for the magazine.

Barbara Ann Crumm, a model/photographer, who has worked with such erotic photographers as Cynthia Patterson, Richard Kern and Carlos Batts, concurs: "In front of the camera, I actually feel stronger, more human and more empowered as a woman."

The Model/Photographer Dynamic
And, finally, there remains one last question: Do the models feel more comfortable shooting with a photographer who is also female?

"Absolutely," affirms Amy Rivera, who sees herself as both a fetish and pinup photographer. "Not only have the models told me so, but I've also heard this from other female photographers." Randall adds, "It's probably because I actually get my work done during a shoot, instead of thinking about my hard-on the whole time and how I'm going to try to get a date with the model.

Still, Chanta Rose, who has worked both as an erotic model as well as a photographer, has a different take on the matter: "If a girl is so uncomfortable shooting in this industry, then she shouldn't be in the business." Rose shares that when she worked as a model, her experiences with male photographers have actually been better. "Female photographers are always picking apart my body, telling me how fat I am, or how my body doesn't work for a particular shoot. The male photographers always like my body for what it is. They try to bring out the best in what they have to work with." But a quick glance at any photo by any one of the aforementioned female erotic photographers -- what red-blooded male can argue that these talented women have not also brought out what's stunningly beautiful in the models displayed here?

1 comment:

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