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Between Academicism, Eroticism, and Pornography
© Jean-Baptiste Igout: étude académique, portrait, c. 1870

Between Academicism, Eroticism, and Pornography

The Origins of the Male Body in Photography

Vincenzo Galdi  » Jean-Baptiste Igout » Gaudenzio Marconi » Henri Oltramare » Wilhelm (Guglielmo) (von) Plüschow » & others

Exhibition: 13 Oct – 23 Dec 2023

Thu 12 Oct

Galerie David Guiraud

5, rue du Perche
75003 Paris

+33 01-42717862


Tue-Sat 14-19

Between Academicism, Eroticism, and Pornography
© Henri Oltramare: étude académique, c. 1890

Between Academicism, Eroticism, and Pornography:
The Origins of the Male Body in Photography

Exhibition: 13 October to 4 November and 15 November – 23 December
Opening: Thursday, 12, October, 6pm

The exhibition is part of the official program of Photo Days in November 2023.

With enthusiasm, the David Guiraud gallery announces the launch of the first exhibition planned as part of the project focused on the representation of the male body in the history of photography (exhibition 1/8).

The first exhibition of the project explores the reasons that led to the creation of the first images representing a male body in the history of photography. In the 19th century, artists rarely signed their work on the subject, so the gallery opted for a thematic approach in inventorying and classifying original prints, which allowed the identification of academicism, eroticism, pornography, sports, and finally, science as domains that contributed to the emergence of male representations.

The study of the model becomes central in the analysis of the image; their position, attitude, and environment help determine, along with the study of the paper, a theme and a period. It becomes a concept, the archetype model, which applies to each encountered theme: the academic, erotic, pornographic, sports, and scientific models. They are not mere alibis but, on the contrary, they are the objective and often commercial reasons for the production of male images until the turn of the 20th century, before the emergence of creative artists.

The exhibition presents three of the main themes encountered during this period and highlights the thematic and chronological transition from one type of model to another. Establishing a first connection between academic, erotic, and pornographic models covers a wide spectrum of creations on the male body and allows us to envision a logic and evolution (with exhibition #2 on the sports model) that accommodates most of the images encountered during this period.

Between Academicism, Eroticism, and Pornography
© Wilhelm von Plüschow: deux modèles nus, c. 1900

The exhibition chapters are as follows:

The academic model or model for painters was a revolution in the study of fine arts. Thanks to photography, the model (man, woman, child) could be frozen in different poses and could be used anywhere and anytime, for an unlimited duration and at an incomparable cost. This is one of the rare occasions when some prominent names revealed themselves on this subject in the 19th century: Durieu, Marconi, Igout, ... These artists offered the first series of naked men in the history of photography.

The erotic model visibly departs from the academic framework and expresses a more pronounced sensuality, with poses and scenes that evoke desire and seduction. At this time, the erotic model was primarily female, but its male counterpart emerged between the academic and sports models, from which it often drew inspiration. The model is naked, without an erection, and most often alone. It is both a stereotype and an essential milestone in history.

The appearance of the pornographic model in the studio was only possible thanks to the numerous professional studios that proliferated in Paris during this period. Photography was a complex and expensive technique not yet practiced by everyone. The first pornographic images appeared, featuring a naked model with an erection, engaging with a partner. It was often staged by the photographer as part of a specific fantasy (sailors, soldiers, religious figures, ...) in their studio or within one of the many brothels in the capital. The photographer's intrusion into the brothels, whose purpose was to create catalogs for the clientele of these establishments, may have been the origin of the pornographic image industry that emerged at that time. It was primarily heterosexual, but in this exhibition, we will focus on the earliest homosexual images.

The amateur pornographic model emerged with the advent of flexible negatives and cameras designed for the masses. These cameras were popularized by Kodak, first in 1888 and then in 1898 with the Folding Pocket Kodak. Many amateurs then embarked on creating erotic and/or pornographic images, exploring their own vision of the male body and homosexuality. These shots offer a more intimate and realistic view of the sexuality and eroticism of the time.

Following the path of models by Vincenzo Galdi and Wilhelm von Pluschow: It is interesting to note their presence in pornographic images, as they were primarily associated with classic and simply erotic compositions as the two pioneers of male photography. It is possible to think that Galdi and Pluschow had an unofficial and previously unknown production of pornographic images. Or perhaps the models were professionals working for different studios. The investigation is just beginning!

The show is part of a series of exhibitions dedicated to the history of the male body in photography:

Exhibition 1: From Academic Model to Pornographic Model (1870/1920)
Exhibition 2: From Sports Model to Bodybuilder Model (1870/1920)
Exhibition 3: The Pioneers of American Physique Photography
Exhibition 4: Bruce of Los Angeles
Exhibition 5: Danny Fitzgerald (The Demi-Gods)
Exhibition 6: Raymond Voinquel, a French Genius
Exhibition 7 : Masters of Male Photography (1900/1945)
Exhibition 8 : Masters of Male Photography (1945/1990)

Between Academicism, Eroticism, and Pornography
© Gaudenzio Marconi, c. 1870