On Pornography, Art and Fashion
by Richard Kern
If it's going to be in a porno mag, it's going to be porno, if it's placed in a gallery, then it's art. It's the same with fashion.
I was looking at a magazine of a shoot in which the guy was in the water up to his hips: you could see his crotch hair. There was a model coming out of the water. She had her hands on something and her bare butt was sticking up at the back. I thought 'you know, I know that model and she's fucking fifteen!' Fashion, can do that. If I did that, it's off to jail for child pornography.
They passed a law in the United States yesterday - number 2257 - that's going to affect all kinds of photography. It's just insane. If you are a United States photographer you are no longer allowed to shoot any woman that doesn't have United States documentation in anything that could be interpreted as a 'sexual manner'. According to this, I can no longer shoot foreign women! I had to cancel a whole bunch of shoots, as I travel places and shoot foreign women. The law is obviously set up to go after all kinds of hardcore pornographers. There are all these sites on the web that are just out of control and that's who they aim to target. Anywhere the imagery will appear needs to be backed up with all sorts of documentation. The problem is that they don't define what 'sexual' is. It's just another Bushism: a law to ensure that if someone wants to make trouble for you, then they can.
If I'm shooting for a sex magazine, there is a set of rules you have to adhere to. You have to show: 'girl with clothes on'; 'girl undressed'; 'girl showing her butt'; 'girl with her panties a little bit down'; 'she's looking over her shoulder, sticking her butt out'; she's laying on her back with her boobs squeezed together and you're shooting right up her crotch. All sorts of variations of that. You could pick up any kind of porno magazine and find one of those poses. In fact, one of the photographers I work with has a big book of all the possible poses, composed out of tear-sheets. Fashion has the same thing. I just did a shoot for Purple and the stylist was telling me about all the poses we could do. I picked up a magazine and referred to a pose I thought interesting - a girl holding her foot - and he said 'oh, no, that's a very common pose'. I thought it was a new one!
Guys want to see naked women and will do anything - including inventing new technologies - to achieve that. I think ninety percent of people producing pornography are totally unaware of fashion and couldn't care less about it. Pornography is for one reason. However, I do notice that if you look at the style of figures like Paris Hilton, that is straight out of the LA porno scene. The way they dress, the hair; she made porn too. But fashion, it certainly influences other people, but I'm not sure about porno people. Pornography is a lot more acceptable now. Here, Howard Stern is listened to by millions of people and he talks about porn all day. Literally, you hear about it all day and all night. It's no longer a taboo subject and that definitely influences people's acceptance of it.
I hardly ever shoot for porn any more, but when I do, it's strictly for money. When I'm doing it, I think 'this is going to cover me for a couple of weeks'. Then I try to get something on the side, for my own art work. Usually, when I'm shooting I have several different things that I'm working on, in my head, but the model doesn't necessarily know that. She knows if it's going to be for porn. Most of them will only shoot for galleries and books: they want to work with me for that reason. The first thing I ask them is 'would you be in magazines?' and some of them say 'yeah, I don't care, it's all the same' and other ones say 'no, and I don't want to be in Vice magazine either!'. You have to have these conversations if you don't want to end up in court.