Monday, March 27, 2006

somatophilia/somatophobia: what self-pornorates on Flickr tells me

As one of the million amateur photographers in need of occasional pettings on our artsy-fartsy ego, I use Flickr. Last Thursday, I posted a few black and white photographs of my legs and left hand, which I decided to call "self-pornorate."

thursday's legs #2
Thursday's legs #2

left hand
left hand

Nothing too dangerous--one might even call them "art nude" photographs, although I'm not sure if I want to call them that.

But they're getting soooooooooo much more views than my other photographs of landscapes, architecture, plants and so on. Two of the four self-pornorates were clicked on more than 400 times over the weekend, whereas most of my photos get less than 30 clicks over many months.

What does that tell us about human nature? I'm not saying that we are driven only by our "basest" instincts, which is a Victorian way to say our sexual desire (although it is tempting to say so). Rather, the disproportionately large interest shown in these body shots in the Flickr community seems to point to our strange curiosity and affinity toward our bodies. I, for one, sometimes find myself clicking on small icons of photographs that seem to zero-in on bodies or body parts. It could be the absoolutely beautiful curves defined by the back of a young (and super-fit) woman in a perfectly lit studio. Or it could be the rough texture of a creased hand of an old farmer in an African savanna under the scorching sun.

Human bodies, when photographed right, seem to be far more powerful and beautiful than a shot of the most beautiful and elaborate flower. It is often said that our modern culture teaches us the strange somatophobia (fear of bodies and bodily functions) and it is so true, but behind that drape of somatophobia, there seems to be the curious and tender child of somatophilia (love of bodies) pushing us to test our boundaries, if in the semi-secrecy of the internet.

I'm sure many of the clicks my self-pornorates get are out of sheer lust, but the rest of them testify to our universal love of, and interest in, human bodies.

keywords: photography, nude, self-portrait, sexuality, somatophobia, somatophilia, body, desire, Flickr


At 3:19 PM, Blogger Seth Anderson said...

A good friend of mine was, for a while, a freelance photographer in NYC, and one of his clients was a performance artist who wanted my friend to take extreme closeups of various parts of her body, after pressing various objects into her flesh to make a mark. I only saw a few, but they were beautiful enough to be interesting. Or is it interesting enough to be beautiful.

(Discovered your blog via GapersBlock rearview - I happened to recently walk by the wall your featured photo had captured)


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