I often find myself in a debate on whether the type of nude photography we are doing is art or porn. Religious and political views aside, I say that depending on the context it can be both. Take a single picture of a woman with spread legs, publish it on a porn site and it will fit just fine. Take the same picture and place it next to a medical text about female genital mutilation and it becomes an illustration to the point. Take the same picture and make it a symbol of femininity, fertility, life, woman’s wellbeing and it can become a social message for woman’s rights, individuality and choice.
But the context is only one part of the equation. While I can control the context, I have no control over what you think about the content. I have no means to know what you as an individual define as arousing material.
The definition of porn in its most common use is that of ‘material produced with the sole purpose of sexual arousement’. Whether there is close-up or not is less relevant than the intention of producing such material. The reality is that it is often hard to know the intention of two identical pictures – one is created for the sole purpose of arousement, the other to communicate a deeper meaning. On the surface they look identical. In context they are miles apart.
The definition of art is much more diverse. I like to think that artistic input, skills, vision, aesthetics are by themselves not enough to be called art. The condition of something to be art is that it must have a meaning beyond the obvious, an idea behind it. This is why some art is hard to appreciate without the background information of its meaning. But art could also be functional and not just a beautiful thing: are we better after seeing this piece? Does this piece teach us anything? If we can look at the world slightly differently after seeing a certain piece of art then it has served its purpose.
My point is that if we can look at a picture and debate whether it is porn or art, then that picture has already got more meaning than just an arousal material. The sole existence of the debate is an indication that there is something beyond nudity and that it is perceived differently by various people. In the process of debating it a new meaning is created, and it might be not the meaning that the artist has intended but a completely different one. And this is the beauty of being exposed to art – it produces meaning that is unique for each individual. Good art opens up paths in ourselves that we’ve never thought we had.
At DROYC, it often takes us weeks to publish a single set and this is not because of the retouching process but because we want to make sure that whatever we put out there has a meaning beyond nudity. We want people who view our material to debate, to question, to think about what they are looking at and how they feel about it. Broken apart, none of the individual components of our sets would stand by itself as a piece of art, but put together as a package – in a new format – it transforms into something that is more than the sum of its parts.
I like to think that this is something that the world is better with than better off without. I like to think we create more meaning than just providing masturbation material to the masses. I like to think we can engage people on an intellectual and social level, but to do that people need to learn to look beyond nudity and open legs.
See Mila’s full set “Sex in the air I don’t care”