Since the invention of the daguerreotype in 1837, photographers have aimed their cameras at the human form, celebrating the erotic. Below are wonderful collections of their work, much of which was hidden for decades to avoid arrest and confiscation.
Recommended Books on Erotic Art in Photography
Erotique: Masterpieces of Erotic Photography
This stunningly produced large-format collection profiles the most fascinating and significant work in erotic photography. Erotique is an extensive collection of female erotic photos starting from the beginnings of photography (mostly anonymous classics), continuing into the middle of this century (Man Ray, etc.) and ending with modern photographers (Bob Carlos Clarke, etc.). Some photos are very subtle, some are explicit, and some are downright disturbing. The book is a complete survey of the history of erotic photography and demonstrates its connection to general cultural trends. 1998, Thunder's Mouth Press
Femmes: Masterpieces of Erotic Photography
A visual feast of the erotic, this impressively produced volume contains 190 photographs (in colour, duotone and black and white) along with appropriate text that (thankfully) resists any heavy breathing. One person's eroticism is another person's pornography, the saying goes, but only the most illiberal are likely to be upset by the sumptuous offerings here. The photographers range from the workaday to the truly inspired, but nearly all are suffused with a heady erotic charge that (in certain cases) virtually leaps off the page. This could make a very tempting present for any sensualists of your acquaintance, particularly if they are aficionados of lingerie, black leather and elegant Sapphic couplings. 2001, Carlton Books Ltd.
Mark Rotenberg was inspired to begin collecting lost and forgotten erotic photographs after he stumbled upon over a thousand very graphic vintage photos in a dumpster in Brooklyn. His collection now contains over 95,000 photos covering the period from 1860 to 1960. This special 25th anniversary edition draws highlights from Rotenberg's collection of crazy hardcore photographs that would make your grandmother squirm. How odd it is to see ladies in bloomers and corsets with men sporting handlebar moustaches, transfixed in the raunchiest of positions! 2005, Taschen, 25th Anniversary Edition
Love and Desire collects a diverse range of images that attest to Ewing's belief that "all photographs are, at some level, about love, and all photographs are triggered, to varying degrees, by desire." In pursuing this theme, Ewing classifies the photographs into eight different categories--Bonds, Icons, Observation, Propositions, Tokens, Libidos, Reveries, and Obsessions. Each of these chapters begins with an essay in which Ewing draws on his deep knowledge of the history of photography to explain the relevance of the selected images. The photos themselves run a full gamut of historical imagery, from the beginning days of the medium up through contemporary art and recent commercial photography. Julia Margaret Cameron explores a family bond in her depiction of the Madonna and child, dated 1865. In 1955, Frank Horvat, in all likelihood standing on a Paris bridge, observes a couple kissing on the quay below. Helmut Newton explores obsession in the mid-1980s with his portrait of a stockinged ankle and foot in a black stiletto heel. Brassaï's 1932 portrait of Janet--in which Janet is depicted from the waist up, lying back on a bed, her eyes closed, with a look of ecstasy on her face--opens the Libidos chapter. There are hundreds of other compelling images here, and together they go far to define the complex nature of human love and desire. 1999, Thames & Hudson Ltd
LoveSong: The Erotic Photographs of Arnold Skolnick
These photographs were taken in the early 1970s for a book on sexual love. At a time when people were jailed for depicting acts of intimacy, artist and photographer Arnold Skolnick made some of the most memorable and erotic images of the twentieth century, many far too sophisticated for the book for which they were taken. Of the few that were exhibited at the time, a critic wrote: "These photos give the forms of two people making love the grandeur and power of sculpture. One is, of course, reminded of Rodin." With good reason not to promote them, Skolnick stored the negatives and contact sheets away for over thirty years, but he did not forget them. Now, having reached his seventieth birthday, Skolnick has gone back to the work, to produce an extraordinarily beautiful lovesong -- a lush and highly sensual celebration of the union of man and woman. LoveSong features fifty-five stunning tritone images, printed in Italy, and is bound in full satin, with a satin slipcase. 55 tritone photographs. 2008, Quantuck Lane
Andrew Einhorn asks New York women he meets randomly to pose nude for him in their apartments. The women look like they are mostly in their twenties, with a few being slightly older. Einhorn manages to make his models relax and there is often a sense of fun to the pictures. (He also appears naked in the background in a few of the photographs.) Most of the women have tattoos, belly-button rings or nipple piercings. The first woman, Skye, has two kittens with her, clambering over her and looking very sweet. . The contrast between the fluffy kitten and the metal of Skye's nipple rings is effective. As a collection of pictures of attractive women, Naked Happy Girls is pleasing and a little unusual. While undoubtedly erotic, it avoids most of the clichés of standard glamour photography. It remains voyeuristic and feminists might condemn it as objectivizing, but it certainly isn't pornographic by contemporary standards. The work is playful and even cheerful, showing beautiful women in natural light. 2003, Goliath Books
The New Erotic Photography is the room, and 55 photographers from 12 countries are the hosts of this intimate gathering. In this 420 page volume you will meet Ralph Gibson, Jan Saudek, Terry Richardson, Natacha Merritt, Petter Hegre, Richard Kern, Bob Carlos Clarke and the many fresh new talents currently redefining eroticism. Playful, provocative and exuberantly sexy, these aren't your granddad's art nudes; this is The New Erotic Photography. The international cast of visionaries captures the allure of women doing everything from eating ice cream or licking their own nipples to lounging languidly for a smoke or simply showing off a sumptuous behind; the book includes quotations from the photos articulating their inspiration. 2009, Taschen, 25th Anniversary Edition
The Nude Male: 21st Century Visions
David Leddick brings us the latest and most current survey of the male nude form, as seen through the eyes of today's most important and influential artists who recognize the inherent physical and emotional beauty of the subject. This collection showcases such prominent photographers and illustrators as David Hockney, Sam Taylor-Wood, Clive Barker, Mark Beard, Tom Bianchi, Reed Masengill, Nan Goldin, Bruce La Bruce and Duane Michals, presenting images ranging from the erotic, to fantastic, romantic, dangerous, and funny. The Nude Male features the work of more than 120 established and emerging visual artists, making this collection nothing less than the premier catalog of the genre. 2008, Universe
Dylan Rosser focuses on the purity and sensuality of the male form, often showing not much more than a smooth, sexy male body using light and shadow to accentuate the athletic curves and shapes of the models. The key idea of X-Posed is to keep it all nude, because as soon as items of clothing are added, one inevitably ends up with an image dated in time. But Rosser's aim is the timeless and classic. 2008, Bruno Gmunder Verlag Gmbh