Adult art vanguardian, Dian Hanson, defines 'The New Erotic Photography' (NSFW)

In the introduction to The New Erotic Photography 2, you compare Photoshop to plastic surgery. You also mention how erotica must have enough of the true human in it to inspire a human connection. When judging a piece of erotica, how do you balance the importance of appealing to fantasy versus the need to keep the photograph grounded in reality?


Chrysalide
  • Cyril Torrent
  • "Chrysalide"
I think most erotic fantasy turns on some percentage of reality. There are people who have erotic fantasies about anime and cartoon subjects and things like that, but the majority of readers want to see something of a human being in order to have a sexual, human response to it. Men do fuck inflatable dolls and silicone dolls but they are having to suspend disbelief and pretend these dolls are human.


The more something resembles an actual human being, the more likely you are to stimulate those senses of smell and touch and taste — to engage senses other than just the eyes. If the reader sees a trickle of sweat in a photo, they know what that smells like. If they see a bit of downy hair on the lower back, they know what that feels like on their finger tips. The activation of those senses helps to stimulate fantasy. I see a lot of images today that are so heavily Photoshopped that the skin bares no resemblance to human skin. You don't know what that shiny, vinyl-like substance feels like and I think that hampers a lot of people's sexual response.


Do you think it is easier for a woman to edit a collection of erotic photography because she can step back and look at the images more objectively than a male who might be swayed by his own fetishes and preferences?


Two women playing
  • Mariano Vargas
  • "Two women playing"
I can't speak for my gender. It is all individual. There are women who are very voyeuristic and great editors of this, but women in general tend to be less voyeuristic. We always hear the statistic that women are not turned on by imagery the way men are. Women are more turned on by words. So it probably is a lower percentage of women who are good at editing visual material.


When I worked with a woman doing the layout on this book, she kept interjecting her opinions, saying things like, "Well I think this picture is sexier because it leaves so much to the imagination." If I never hear that phrase again I will be a happy woman. Men do not want photos that leave more to the imagination. They would rather pay their money and have the real deal dished up to them.


But, everyone has their preferences. I am not erotically stimulated by looking at the photographs, but I still have my preferences. I have been accused of liking big boobs too much. Well, I do like to see a shapely body. You can pose it better. It is richer to the eye. But, I also know a large percentage of men respond to big breasts. Look at the girl [Kate Upton] on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Gee, they picked the same girl as last year who sparked the controversy that her natural breasts were too large to be aesthetic, and of course she sold more issues than ever before.


Have you noticed any general differences in erotic photography produced by women compared to men?


#1350
  • Frederic Fontenoy
  • "#1350"
Well, women are more likely to leave something to the imagination, though that is not always true. Look at the work of Ellen von Unwerth. It has the same kind of charge that [Helmut] Newton's work did, maybe not quite as good, but she can get a very kind of dirty, raunchy facial expression out of a woman. She can splay them down on the couch with their legs akimbo with the best of them.


But, in general I see, for instance, lesbians photographing women still tend to make it a little more modest than men photographing women. There does seem to be some difference. I like to see women who can open up and do good dirty work, because there are plenty of models who like doing dirty work.


In general, erotic magazines for men tend to feature curvy women posing in ways that accentuate their butts and breasts. Fashion magazines for women tend to favor slim, skinny women who often pose with slouching shoulders. Have you noticed this trend? What is it about such models and this slouching posture that appeals to women?


Stormbringer
  • Chad Michael Ward
  • "Stormbringer"
I know exactly what you're talking about, where they hunch their shoulders and bring them forward so that it hides whatever breasts they might have. Why do they do that? Well, this is pretty politically incorrect, but I think that fashion is anti-sexual when it comes to women and very sexual when it comes to men.


I have been with Terry Richardson when he was casting women and when he was casting men. The bodies on the two different groups are completely different. The women are just as thin as possible. No sign of muscularity. Generally, quite small breasted. The men are fabulous specimens of muscular masculinity. Most of them are athletic. They come up there with skateboards and they are bounding off the walls with young male energy and enthusiasm. Meanwhile the women are standing there getting faint because they haven't had anything to eat. It is a different demand and a different aesthetic.


I think I can take a deep breath and say — well, all you have to do is look at Project Runway — fashion is largely the domain of women and gay men. It doesn't have a lot of straight men working in it. So, there is no real reason to take these beautiful young women and make them sexual. It is kind of like, why should they get to have it all? Why should they get to be beautiful and sexy? It is enough that they have beautiful faces. Whereas the gay men and the women can agree that they want to see handsome young men, but why should they glorify these young women any more than nature has already glorified them?


I'm not saying this is a conscious decision. So much is unconscious. Guys want to fuck fashion models, but they generally don't want to fuck fashion models who look the way they look in fashion magazines.


All of the authors' bios in the book begin the exact same way: "I was born in this place in this year." In the same way you can look at a photo set and make an educated guess as to if it was shot by a man or a woman, can you also look at a photo set and tell what generation the photographer belongs to, or what part of the world she is from?


Painful sense of overfulfillment duty
  • Andrew Pashis
  • "Painful sense of overfulfillment duty"
Somewhat. I think the Russians have a pretty distinctive style right now. It has to do with them being young in their freedom. Even if a Russian is 55 years old, say like Andrew Pashis — one of my favorite photographers who I discovered doing this — his work has a youthful look to it, because they are all young in their freedom to produce this kind of material. The Russians are also new to the technology so they are playing around with Photoshop more aggressively than other photographers. They are not using it to perfect the model's look. Instead they are using it in the kind of Instagram way, just playing with it like a paintbrush instead of like plastic surgery. I like what the Russians are up to.


Japanese photographers in general inhabit a world unto themselves. A lot of darkness. A lot of black and white. A lot of mystery, gloom and of course, invention. They are like nobody else. I would like to see more erotic work from the Chinese, but it is still illegal there. I have seen very little Chinese work, but I think they have the potential in the coming years to really be a distinctive and interesting voice in erotic art.


Other than that, can you tell an English photographer from an American. Not necessarily. And, also, I am careful to select models that are more natural looking. I try to stay away from models with too many bad tattoos and too much plastic surgery. American models have a lot more surgical intervention and tattooing. Many more of them have that Suicide Girl look to them. You would think that younger photographers would shoot that but the younger American photographers have already moved on. In the US it is now the 50-year-old photographers who are shooting those Suicide Girl creatures. Young photographers, particularly those aligned with the porn industry, are shooting the kind of indie girls who have pubic hair and no tattoos. The Sasha Greys. The Kimberly Kanes. The younger generation is moving away from that aesthetic because their mothers have tattoos and shaved pussies.


You've mentioned in a few interviews that, as an editor of erotic work, your basic drive is to please your audiences without judging them or trying to change their minds. What do you say to people who define porn as media created for the sole purpose of pleasing an appetite, whereas art comments on and challenges the world it was created out of?


Breath
  • Tomohide Ikea
  • "Breath"
Well, we always go back to the old Taschen quote which is, "There is good art and bad art. And good pornography and bad pornography. And we publish the good pornography and the good art and leave the rest behind." There are people who create for a commercial market who are still driven by their personal vision. Terry Richardson came along and changed the world of fashion with his vision. Now, of course, a lot of people imitate him. Are those imitators rebels, are they following their own vision? A lot of artists think they are following their own vision when they are just copying whatever is commercially viable at the time. It is hard to say. The real true originals out there are few and far between, in pornography and in art.


In terms of the body of work you have edited over the years, how would you describe the Dian Hanson aesthetic?


NYU Public Library
  • Erica Simone
  • "NYU Public Library"
The books I do are different than my actual taste. Some of them are very much to my actual taste and some of them aren't because I also do books that Benedikt Taschen wants me to do. Benedikt and I have similar taste in a lot of ways. We do like to see people looking more natural. Less groomed. Less perfected. Less artificial. Maybe that is because our taste buds are getting old and we need more stimulation on the tongue. I like to see liveliness. I think you will see a lot of motion. I don't like to see static posing. And I definitely like to see things that have not been done over and over. I try all the time to find new areas. It can be very hard. There are a lot of things done repeatedly that are commercial. So, if you do a book that is on an unusual subject, you might find there are not that many people who are attracted to that unusual subject, but we are still proud to have done it. I am still proud to have introduced the world to something they have not seen before. And I suppose because I have worked so many years doing men's magazines and now books, the only thing that really interests me is finding something previously unseen. That creature down at the bottom of the ocean that we thought went extinct 20 million years ago — I want to see the sex version of that.


Some of the other books you've edited for Taschen include: The Big Book of Breasts, The Big Book of Legs, The Big Butt Book, The Big Penis Book, and The Big Book of Pussy. You also worked on so called "cult fetish" magazines like Juggs, Leg Show, and Big Butt. This body of work seems to suggest the idea that different men tend to focus their sexual energy on specific body parts—


Well, not necessarily on very specific body parts, but on very specific tastes, and those tastes are not infinite. When I first started working in sex magazines in 1976, the market was very open, but because we had just gotten the freedom to publish these kinds of things, we were still trying to find out what would turn people on. We experimented with a lot of things and found what didn't work. So, when I was doing Leg Show and Juggs, I had the chance to experiment within these broad subjects to find out the niches that really worked. Yes, men do have specific tastes that are very, very strong and often absolutely necessary for them to become aroused, but they are not infinite. So, having mapped those, you can do very well with a book or a magazine that targets these niches, because there is nothing else available.


You can take the most beautiful woman in the world, beautiful face, beautiful body, strip her naked and guys are going to go, "Yeah, I've seen that before." But, you can have a woman standing on tiptoes in baked beans and some guys will go, "Oh my God! That is the thing that really does it for me. I can't get that anywhere else. Nobody has done it." If you have 10,000 of those guys, then you've got a hit.


Do you think there is an evolutionary connection, or a reason men tend to develop these specialized fetishes much more than women?


Vanessa Del Rio & Dian Hanson in 1980
  • Vanessa Del Rio: 50 Years of Slightly Slutty Behavior
  • Vanessa Del Rio & Dian Hanson in 1980
The drive of the male is to breed. To get his seed out there. The male is always pursuing the female and the female can be selective. The females are going to select for the male who is the biggest and strongest, who can fight the hardest and all that. Human females, if they are not damaged, are going to look for a man who is a good provider, who makes money, who is aggressive, tall, strong. Not every male is going to make the cut. So, while every female has the opportunity to breed, many males will not. By being attracted to all of these weird little niche things, it allows some of these guys to have a sex life. A lot of it is just masturbatory.


The male is also the one who is very visually oriented. He is out there, constantly looking, and has to be able to be aroused instantly to take advantage of any sexual opportunities. Just being very visual like that from an early age, an age before you really understand your sexuality — we are talking like 4 or 5 — you can become fixated on some pretty peculiar things.


Boys can get erections when they get scared, for instance. So if he gets an erection while riding a roller coaster, he is going to connect that pleasurable sensation with fear. Because the fear center is so close to the sexual arousal center, many men get excited by fear and frightening activities. That is an example of a simple, healthy fetish. Then you have some boys who will find their moms' underpants and the smell will give them an erection. Well, underpants are available. It is much easier to get a hold of a pair of underpants than it is to chase girls, so they become fixated on underpants.



Check out more explicit photos from The New Erotic Photography 2, and Dian Hanson's other work, at Taschen.com.


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In 1976, Dian Hanson found herself working behind the scenes in New York City's burgeoning porn industry. As a print editor, Hanson searched for, catalogued, experimented with, and in some ways defined what men around the world found arousing. In an age before VCRs, let alone the Internet, Hanson's influence was ubiquitous. She worked on sex magazines and hardcore journals like Puritan, Partner, OUI, Adult Cinema Review, Harvey, Hooker, Juggs, Leg Show, Big Butt, Bust Out, and Tight.

At some point along the way she dated famed counterculture cartoonist Robert Crumb, and married novelist Geoff Nicholson. In 2001 she was recruited to be the Sexy Book editor for the powerhouse art publisher, Taschen. In this role she has acted somewhat as an erotic historian, serving as the main creative force behind such books as Vanessa Del Rio: 50 Years of Slightly Slutty Behavior, The Big Penis Book, The Big Book of Legs, The Big Book of Pussy, The Big Butt Book, and Dian Hanson's History of Pinup Magazines. Recently I had a chance to chat with Hanson about the sexual zeitgeist that fueled her latest collection, The New Erotic Photography 2.

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