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      think pieces Felicity Kinsella 4 December 2014

      how fashion is reinterpreting porn as art

      As the list of banned sex acts in pornography grows longer, we look to another form of erotica, one that could fall into the categories of both “porn” and “fashion”.

      how fashion is reinterpreting porn as art how fashion is reinterpreting porn as art how fashion is reinterpreting porn as art

      Move over Zoo, Nuts and Paul Ray Bumper Babes, there's a new naughty magazine sliding onto the top shelf with you, and this kind's aesthetic is far more titty-lating. With publications like Baron ("The Erotic Paperback Magazine"), Talc ("An adult design magazine for modern times) and Tissue ("An exquisite art and photography manual at the edge of fetish, fashion and photography") finding their way into our monthly stacks of new, indulgent reading material, it's safe to say that the way we view sex and porn is changing.

      One of the most common phrases thrown around our office recently, following the huge response to features on Japan's underground sex scene shown by the documentary Love Hotel and the book Pink Kinky, is "sex sells," and the fashion world has never been afraid to cash in on this (two of the key perpetrators being Calvin Klein and Tom Ford, with more than a few of their saucier ad campaigns deemed too racy for release). There's no denying that the worlds of fashion and fetish have always been intertwined. The Pirelli Calendar doesn't use glamour models, but supermodels. The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show has become one of the industry's most anticipated, even this year vying for editors and models' attention against Chanel's coveted Métiers d'Art as they took place 700 miles apart on the same day. Some of our most admired photographers have combined these entities to both accusation and praise; think Nobuyoshi Araki's infamous black and white photos of him and his friends visiting Tokyo sex clubs in the 70s, his specialty in carrying out the Japanese art of bondage, kinbaku-bi, or Helmut Newton's beautiful but erotically suggestive photography for the likes of both Vogue and the original lad's mag Playboy.

      Photography Harley Weir, Baron Magazine Issue 3

      But recently there's been a new take on this relationship, where instead of just being "provocative," the books, films and magazines exploring it have been unapologetically all about porn. Baron, although only two years old and on its third issue is probably the most spoken about of this new type. Two of photography's most impressive up and comers, and i-D regulars, Tyrone Lebon and Harley Weir both have an element of the erotic to their work (check out Tyrone's Atlanta Dream$ and Harley's kissing film for i-D) and both have been featured in Baron, with Tyrone photographing its whole second issue - "Questioning the evolution of sexuality in today's image sharing society." Contact sheets of a girl with magenta hair cranking the shank of her bearded lover, bajingos and peni concealed only by completely transparent PVC and more than a few O-faces litter its pages. There's no doubt that these images are just as aesthetically pleasing as the work they've done for i-D or Vogue or even Céline, but stripped of its cinematic charm and it could just as easily be branded "porn". So what makes it ok to whack this erotic paperback out at work?

      "Much like ejaculation, porn or art is in the eye of the beholder," argues Robert Henry Rubin, Editor of cult magazine NIGHT and Co-Guest Editor of Baron's third edition. It seems logical that whether something falls into the porn category or not depends on whether the consumer uses it the same way they would RedTube or whether they look at it like a fashion magazine, because with that quality of design, it's pretty clear Baron's audience will consist of both watchers and non-watchers of the steamy stuff.

      Wet Magazine, Mar/Apr 1980

      Then there's the question of whether any part of a naked body always has to be associated with sex. In Talc's interview with Leonard Koren, the creator of WET, a magazine that rose up against the hyper-sexualisation of 70s Los Angeles and based on what Leonard called "gourmet bathing," he says, "WET signified the intersection of non-porn nakedness and design." WET wasn't a magazine made to turn you on, but as he goes on to say, "how can you have a proper bath, without taking off all your clothes?" There's no doubt that an A2 pull-out of Lara Stone dishabille, is completely different to that of a page 3 girl, and appreciating the beauty of nudity is something completely different to stringing pearls across a perfect pair of areolas. "As Roland Barthes writes in Camera Lucida - pornography is only about one thing and that is sex - and I have to agree with that," says Matthew Holroyd, Creative Director of Baron, "so the work that I have seen that does reinterpret pornography, such asBaron,isn't just about sex, its often about sexuality or the naked and the nude, so it's much more calculated than just simply being about sex."

      Although it can be hard to imagine, in a society where the objectification of women is rife, a porn magazine that doesn't carry the taboo or violence of porn, it seems these artists have found a way. Baron, BUTT, Tissue, TALC, Adult Magazine, The Anonymous Sex Journal and more are indulging our utopian ideals of an open-minded society where the human body is celebrated and a desire to learn more about sexuality is healthy, without idealising it. Tinder, Grindr and Blender have normalised sex and fashion has made eroticism part of our daily lives, so why not celebrate it without "incognito" switched on?

      Credits

      Text Felicity Kinsella
      Images courtesy Baron Magazine, TALC and Wet Magazines.

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      Topics:think pieces, baron magazine, wet magazine, tissue magazine, talc, erotica, pornography, photography, fashion porn

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