Chus Martinez On Photorealism and Alt-Porn

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Photorealism is the genre of painting that uses cameras and photographs to gather visual information and then deploys this research to create paintings that appear photographic. The term is primarily applied to paintings from the United States based photorealist art movement that began in the late 1960s.

Alt porn (also known as alt-porn, altporn, alternaporn, or simply alt), a shortening of “alternative pornography”, tends to involve members of such subcultures as goths, punks, or ravers and is often produced by small and independent websites or filmmakers. It often features models with body modifications such as tattoos, piercings, or scarifications, or temporary modifications such as dyed hair. The term indie porn is also sometimes used, though this term is more generally used as a synonym for independent pornography, regardless of affinity with any kind of alternative subculture.

As a full-fledged art movement, Photorealism evolved from Pop Art and as a counter to Abstract Expressionism as well as Minimalist art movements in the late 1960s and early 1970s in the United States. Photorealists use a photograph or several photographs to gather the information to create their paintings and it can be argued that the use of a camera and photographs is an acceptance of Modernism.

While pornography specifically oriented toward alternative culture did not arise until the 1990s, the work of Gregory Dark, David Aaron Clark, Michael Ninn, and Stephen Sayadian are seen by some as predecessors of alt porn. The Cinema of Transgression of Richard Kern and Nick Zedd (as well as Kern’s later photographic work) can also be viewed as early examples of alt porn.

The invention of photography in the nineteenth century had three effects on art: portrait and scenic artists were deemed inferior to the photograph and many turned to photography as careers; within nineteenth and twentieth century art movements it is well documented that artists used photographs as source material and as visual aids—however, they went to great lengths to deny the fact fearing that their work would be misunderstood as imitations.

The first venue explicitly devoted to “subcultural erotica” was Blue Blood, a glossy magazine that began in 1992 and featured models with a goth or cyberpunk look. The biggest market for alt porn, however, has been on the Internet. Other than a few ephemeral personal websites, the earliest explicitly alt porn site was Blue Blood’s GothicSluts.com , established in early 1999. This was followed shortly after by Raverporn.net (later renamed EroticBPM.com) in July of the same year, and later followed by NakkidNerds in December. Supercult began in 2000, followed by SuicideGirls in late 2001, which has grown to become the most popular and financially lucrative alt porn site. With the success of SuicideGirls, the number of alt porn sites has grown enormously since 2002. In addition to the above-mentioned sites, well-known altporn websites include Lazerbunny, Burning Angel, and GodsGirls.

By the time the Photorealist movement began the photograph had become the leading means of reproducing reality and abstraction was the focus of the art world. Realism continued as an on-going art movement, even experiencing a re-emergence in the 1930s, but by the 1950s modernist critics and Abstract Expressionism had all but minimalized realism as a serious art undertaking in the western world. Though Photorealism contains some of the same tropes as the work of American realists such as Edward Hopper, its protagonists attempted to set themselves apart from traditional realism. Photorealists were much more influenced by the work of Pop artists and were reacting against Abstract Expressionism.

The terms “alternative porn” or “alt porn” were coined in the early 2000s in reference to SuicideGirls, RaverPorn, and similar sites; longer-standing projects, such as Blue Blood, generally used terms such as “subcultural erotica”.

Pop Art and Photorealism were both reactions to the overwhelming abundance of photographic media, which by the mid 20th century had grown into such a massive phenomenon that it was threatening to lessen the value of imagery in art. However, whereas the Pop artists were primarily pointing out the absurdity of much of the imagery (especially in commercial usage), the Photorealists were trying to reclaim and exalt the value of an image.

Alt porn websites are often distinguished by their use of message boards, blogs, social networking, and other features of online community, encouraging participation by both models and viewers. While these features are not exclusive to alt porn sites, their inclusion stands in stark contrast to the standard operating procedures adopted by more typical porn sites, which tend to feature more or less anonymous models who are viewed by anonymous visitors

The likening of Photorealism to Trompe L’oeil by many critics of the 1970s and 1980s demonstrates the inherent stupidity of most art world insiders. Trompe L’oeil paintings attempt to “fool the eye” and make the viewer think he is seeing an actual object, not a painted one. When observing a Photorealist painting, the viewer is always aware that they are looking at a painting.

Alt porn-themed videos are also becoming a growing niche in the adult video market. The work of directors Stephen Sayadian and Gregory Dark during the 1980s and early 1990s had many of the features of later alt porn, and are often cited as being contributing influences on current alt porn video. In 2001, two amateur videos under the title Technosex were produced, featuring women involved in the rave scene along with a techno music soundtrack. Since 2004, director Eon McKai has been producing alt porn-themed videos for VCA Pictures (an otherwise mainstream adult video studio), and in 2006 was signed by Vivid Entertainment to produce alt porn-themed videos under the Vivid-ALT imprint. Vivid-ALT has also signed noted fetish photographers Dave Naz and Octavio “Winkytiki” Arizala.

The word Photorealism was coined by Louis K. Meisel in 1969 and appeared in print for the first time in 1970 in a Whitney Museum catalogue for the show “Twenty-two Realists.” It is also sometimes labelled as Super-Realism, New Realism, Sharp Focus Realism, or Hyper-Realism.

Many members of the alt porn community disagree on the definition of alt porn. Some consider it mostly an aesthetic quality while others see it as having a more ideological definition. This includes controversies over whether alt porn sites and videos should restrict themselves to softcore pin-up photography or include more sexually explicit hardcore content, whether alt porn need be explicitly feminist or not, and whether alt porn venues should present models of all genders and a range of body types rather than just conventionally attractive young women. There have been ongoing debates as to whether alternative porn is any more empowering to the models featured in it than those employed in mainstream porn.

In 1972, Louis K. Meisel, developed a five-point definition of Photorealism. The definition for the ORIGINATORS was as follows: 1. The Photo-Realist uses the camera and photograph to gather information; 2. The Photo-Realist uses a mechanical or semi-mechanical means to transfer the information to the canvas; 3. The Photo-Realist must have the technical ability to make the finished work appear photographic; 4. The artist must have exhibited work as a Photo-Realist by 1972 to be considered one of the central Photo-Realists; 5. The artist must have devoted at least five years to the development and exhibition of Photo-Realist work.

2 Responses to Photorealism and Alt-Porn

Michael Roth | September 5, 2012 at 5:03 am In 2012, Chus Martinez developed a five-point definition of alternative pornography:

1. The pornographer uses the camera to gather information.

2. The pornographer uses a mechanical or semi-mechanical means to transfer

3. The pornographer must have the technical ability to make the finished work appear pornographic.

4. The pornographer must have shown work as an alternative pornographer by 2012 to be considered one of the central alternative pornographers.

5. The pornographers must have devoted at least five years to the development and exhibition of alternative pornographic work.

chusmartinezproject | September 5, 2012 at 10:29 am I couldn’t have but it better myself! Hang on a minute, I am Chus Martinez, so I did put it this well myself!


3 Comments on “Chus Martinez On Photorealism and Alt-Porn”

  1. clumie says:

    Well I am glad to read a sensible and intelligent discussion of such things!

  2. […] Chus Martinez On Photorealism and Alt-Porn. […]


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