whitefang Posted October 18, 2002 Share Posted October 18, 2002 Someone said something to me that sparked a thought about just what it is that indicates the difference between art and pornography. Some people seem to think there are clear-cut lines drawn, but it's become apparent to me that many draw their own lines. And sometimes it IS difficult, in spite of one's own feelings, to argue against some of them. This never really seemed to be much of an issue until the advent of photography. Yes, there were pornographic oil paintings in the past. But by the standards set in those times, the lines were more clear cut. It took several decades for any photography to be considered art. And even then, there are those who make distinctions between photographic art, and just plain snapshots. Some would claim that to be truly artistic, photography must be in black and white. Others take issue with it. And now, it comes down to what photography can be considered art, and which photography is pornography. What was thrown at me was the photography of Mapplethorpe. Someone called some of it "child pornography." And, I suppose that to some, it could be called just that. Indeed, the nude photographs of children in what might be construed as provacative poses would give many, me included, that impression. I also react with disdain of such as an example of child exploitation. Now, a lot of people consider all pornography to be exploitative. But as Webster defines exploitation in one context as using somebody or something for personal gain, I fail to see how it fits. For one, most pornography is created with the express consent of adults, who are not only paid, but also considered to be of an age to be able to make those distinctions and decisions. But, as most child pornography consists of children either forced, tricked or otherwise intimidated into it, and as they are not of an age to make those distinctions and decisions, I feel it is also blatantly exploitative. And therefor more heinous. Even if given the permission of these children's parents, who in most cases have no idea this may be going on, the fact that it is the parents, and not the children, who will reap personal gain from the activity, makes it no less exploitative. But, what if I were to take a photo of a nine year old girl, fully clothed and sitting among a field of daffodils. At her age, she cannot legally sign any modeling contract. Yet, if I pay the parents for this permission, how is anyone to know if the child model ever recieves a dime? And, if I make $100,000 dollars through sales of this photo, and the child gets nary a cent, am I any less exploitative than the child pornographer? In the matter of pornography versus art, some would reason that porno is simply explicit photos of the sex act. Yet, there are many that would dismiss any nude photography as pornography. Indeed, many "nude art" photographers claim that only COLOR nude photography is pornographic. Why? A photographer named Wesson once shot a nude photo of a woman descending a staircase wearing nothing but a hat. In black and white. And, many consider it a masterpiece of "nude photographic art." But if the same picture was shot in color, and graced the pages of Playboy, rather than the walls of the Guggenhiem, it would be called "porno." Someone might ask, "What's the difference?", and I would be hard pressed to articulate a response. Heading down a different track, if I were to take a photo of a woman having sex with a swan, most would call it "beastial pornography" in either black and white OR color. But, when an artist, whose name I don't recall, depicted the same scene in oil paint on canvas, it's not only considered art, but a masterpiece as well. And again, someone might ask, "What's the difference?", and again I'd have trouble articulating a response. But nudes, in color, abound in art museums and given much reverence. How is it that oil paintings of nude women AND men are granted the distinction of being art, yet color photographs of the same are simply smut? Some nude color photography is done as tastefully in pose and subject matter as most of the oils. But, people argue over the designation of "art" to the photos, but never the oils. Once again, the man can ask, "What's the difference?", and I'd STILL be tongue-tied! The arguement that the photos are designed to titillate the viewer, and the oils are not is moot. Two or three centuries later, we have NO idea of the painter's intent. He, too, may have intended to give someone their jollies with his nudes. It is to my understanding, that there WERE minor flaps about it at the time, but not much was really made of it. So, it comes down to this. Have we actually come to the point where we can clearly reach a consensus about what constitutes art, and what differentiates it from pornography? Or do we still have much to learn? Whitefang I started out with NOTHING...and I still have most of it left! Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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