“But to live outside the law, you must be honest.” Bob Dylan
United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart struggled in 1964 to define pornography in the landmark case of Jacobellis v. Ohio. In his concurring opinion, Stewart wrote, essentially, that he couldn’t describe hard core pornography but he knew it when he saw it.
What do you see? And is it right? Or wrong? Or merely questionable? Tricky.
To describe what pornography is and what is socially acceptable has always been mixed up with money as money controls the world.
A new Sotheby’s promotion mentioned a muse for the Italian photographer Paolo Roversi and suggested that said muse would be among those discussing the great photographer in this video.
Turns out his muse is Natalia Vodianova, of whom Roversi has photographed many times. Too many times. See the photo below.
“Soul of a Woman: A Journey through Art and Fashion.” So says Sothebys.
Capturing the soul of a woman? I guess that’s one way to describe a fascination with young and naked and pretty women. As another website puts it, “Paolo Roversi is a photographer best known for his striking, intimate portraiture and classical visual language.”
Reminds me of how Leonard Nimoy, Spock to most of us, developed a new profession in his later life as an “artistic nude photographer.” I bet his wife was thrilled. And, no, Spock, you’re not fooling anyone. Especially your wife.
The Sotheby’s video is mostly a mutual admiration society, with each person in the room congratulating each other on their genius. They all ignore the fact that photographs for auction look remarkably similar to those Jeffery Epstein must have had on his bedroom wall.
Now, I am sure Roversi’s models, and his muse, were all of age. Of, course.
All of this says that money determines what is acceptable. A photographer with rich clients is exalted and the photographer with poorer clients is a pornographer. One produces art and the other produces smut.
I thought Hugh Hefner’s Playboy once had some beautiful covers but Hef was never charged with producing art. Although he had first class photographers like Richard Avedon contribute to his pages. Market share, though, eventually became the most important thing and not restraint. Playboy decided in the late 1960s to compete with Bob Guccione of Penthouse who in turn competed with Hustler’s Larry Flynt. Hef never went back to producing covers like this one from 1964.
Is it wrong to be a pornographer? That’s a moral judgement. Appealing to prurient interests in a free society is allowed. I think it’s only wrong if you lie about what you do. Is Roversi a pornographer? I don’t know. I don’t move in his circles. I think a better judge would have been Epstein.
Here’s a photo that blurs the line. This is a movie poster for Behind the Green Door. The movie was produced by the Mitchell brothers who were notorious pornographers. Yet, to me, this individual photo borders on art. I have it hanging on my wall. Why? It appeals to my purient interests. And indeed a thing of beauty is a joy forever. (As long as she is over 18.)
Let’s all be honest. Let’s not have pornographers disguise themselves as artists. Not in The Era of Epstein. As to pornography is, I know it when I see it.