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4 oktober 2020 

The Hot 1850s: Western Pornographic Daguerreotypes in Times of Shozan and Kuniyoshi

During the last twenty years of the Edo period, while classic shunga still prospered in Japan, there was a time of daguerreotype photography in Europe. This technology, invented by Louis Daguerre in 1839 lied in the usage of polished silver-plated coppers, which became sensitive to the light after had been treated with iodine vapor. Then a plate was exposed in the camera for a time that depended on the intensity of light. After these manipulations, the photographer also treated the plate with mercury fumes to make the image visible.

Fragile

The surface of a daguerreotype was fragile, easily deforming, and required special treatment. Photographers of that time compared it to a wing of a butterfly. Despite the expensiveness of the whole process and the equipment, first pornographic shots appeared already in the 1850s. The photography became an analog of Japanese book-printing in terms of erotic production relatively soon.

Naked woman lying in chair

Anonymous, ca. 1855

Woman lying casually on chair

Anonymous, ca. 1855

pornographic-daguerreotype-nude-in-a-chair

Anonymous, ca. 1855 (detail)

Beauty posing nude on a chair

Anonymous, ca. 1855

pornographic-daguerreotype-nude-female

Anonymous, ca. 1855

erotic-daguerro-type

Anonymous, ca. 1855

The Idea That Was in the Air

In a preface to the book “1000 Nudes: Uwe Scheid collection,” Michael Koetzle says the following: “The concept of linking photography with erotic imagery remained unexpressed, which comes as no surprise in view of the repressive sexual code of ethics reigning during the 19th century. Yet the idea of representing the human body photographically was in the air nonetheless, as an early picture by Daguerre makes quite clear.

Erotic Promise

The 1839 work, entitled “Still Life with Sculptures” and which is a small-scale study of an imitation of the three graces in plaster, definitely can be considered as an hors-d’oeuvre, as a vague and yet to be redeemed erotic promise. <…> An estimated 5000 daguerreotypes had been created – mostly in Paris – by around 1860.”

Woman on chair pulling up dress

Anonymous, ca. 1855

Woman sitting casually in chair

Anonymous, ca. 1855

western-pornographic-daguerreotypes-two-playful-females

Anonymous, ca. 1855

acrobatic-nude-erotic-picture

Anonymous, ca. 1850

Posing nude on a chair upside down

Anonymous, ca. 1850

leaning-nude

Anonymous, ca. 1855

nude-female-reading

Anonymous, ca. 1855

standing-nude-erotic

Anonymous, ca. 1855

posing-nude-western-pornographic-daguerreotype

Anonymous, ca. 1855

posing-nude-from-the-rear

Anonymous, ca. 1855

female-holding-her-vagina

Anonymous, ca. 1855

Anonymity and Lawsuits

The photographers who made sensual shots remained anonymous as well as shunga artists. Koetzle mentions the lawsuit against the photographer Felix Jacques-Antoine Moulin who worked in Paris between 1840 and 1850. He was sentenced to one-month imprisonment and a fine of 100 francs, while his dealer was convicted to one year of imprisonment and a fine of 500 francs. Photographic erotica was available only to the upper class as its’ cost was equal to an average weekly salary. First nude photographers were former painters or lithographers who turned to photography because their previous profession was not on-demand. Also, the newest way to make images astonished them: photographed figures seemed to be almost alive. Therefore, first pornographic images came as a shock to the people of the prudish 19th century.

western-pornographic-daguerreotypes

Anonymous, ca. 1855.

semi-naked-woman

Anonymous, ca. 1855.

cunnilingus-daguererotype

Cunnilingus. Anonymous, ca. 1855.

Man pleasing woman

Anonymous, ca. 1855.

On Morality and Artistic Decline

A modern medium, which was used to objectify the human body, went down the same way as the technology of book-printing. First images were obtained by aristocrats, which let the industry to the almost unproblematic existence. As time and technology went on, erotic photography became more profitable to producers and more available to different social layers, which expectedly led to the ban of this kind of business. Along with that, the growing demand for photography itself resulted in the decline of the artistic potential of this medium, so, according to Koetzle, the second generation of photographers was more interested in the economic potential of their job rather than in the development of art.

feeling-breasts-vintage-erotic-pic

Anonymous, ca. 1855.

vintage-erotic-photo-copulation

Anonymous, ca. 1855.

vintage-erotic-photo-copulating-couple

Anonymous, ca. 1855.

pornographic-daguerreotype-sleeping-female

Anonymous, ca. 1855.

western-pornographic-daguerreotype-copulation

Copulation. Anonymous, ca. 1855.

Pornography and Progress

In his “Short History of Photography,” German philosopher Walter Benjamin criticizes the photographers of his time for being talentless entrepreneurs and praises first mad enthusiasts who were truly magicians in their newly discovered realm. Ironically, pornographers were also among the mad pioneers, however, Benjamin could barely regard them as artists. Until nowadays, pornographers have to stay up to date and thus indirectly help with the development of every new medium, whether it is a recently invented VR or a Deepfake technology.

Doctor and lady with nude breast

Anonymous, ca. 1855.

pornographic-daguerreotype-squatting

Anonymous, ca. 1855.

peeing-erotic-nude

Anonymous, ca. 1855.

peeing-woman-pornographic-photography

Anonymous, ca. 1855.

erotic-picture-copulstion

Anonymous, ca. 1855.

pornographic-copulation-daguerreotype

Anonymous, ca. 1855.

pornographic-daguerreotype-from-the-rear

Anonymous, ca. 1855.

pornographic-on-daguerrerotype-cunnilingus

Anonymous, ca. 1855.

Taken from the rear

Anonymous, ca. 1855.

Sources: “1000 Nudes: Uwe Scheid Collection.” Benedikt Taschen, 2001

Click here for an article on vintage erotic pictures or here for ancient interracial pics…!!

Do you consider pornographic daguerreotypes to be art? Leave your reaction in the comment box below…!!

About the author
Darya is a philologist who lives and works in Saint-Petersburg, Russia. She is specialized in Russian literature.
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