How Monochrome Pornography Turns Into Art

Recently, there was a surprising statement in one of NSFW feeds that usually just post photos:

Any picture done in monochrome is automatically art; its practically one of the governing laws of the universe…

Now, this theory is worth exploring. Especially because in this case it taps in one of my favourite questions about relationships of art and pornography. For your office-reading convenience all the examples are just linked to (and you probably don't want to open them in the office).

Fact is, much more people will tell this is art (though pornographic) and this isn't, no matter that the both pics are depicting more or less the same thing.

While I think that in some cases it's the hypocrisy on the job and that all the art-porn vs. just-porn story is just a way to calm down the inner voices of guilt, the question remains. Why monochrome makes a photograph artistic? That is not just a question of pornography. It works for almost any subject that comes in front of the lens.

nudity photographersphoto by Flavio

 Probably there's no single reason for this. But there are some suspects that nicely combined can shed some light on the matter.

  • First photos were monochromatic. And they were art. Back in those days, photographers were rare and they were into art, not just snapshooting their holidays. Though there was pornography in those days, it's not what comes to our minds first. Later, when the color was introduced to photography, black and white remained the choice of art photographers. So we stick to that habit of treating monochrome as artist's realm. 
  • For the same reason, monochrome looks old to us. It belongs to history. And history doesn't go easily with our dirty little hobbies. Sure, if you think about it it doesn't make any sense. But our minds are easy to trick with a bit of habit. 
  • Today's mainstream porn is done with strong lights and colors are oversaturated. With monochrome, you go to the other extreme. It looks so different that we don't pay attention to the similarity of the subject. 
  • Color of the flesh (and accompanying pink) is one of the turn-on elements of the porn. One that the monochrome images lack. Though it's not the only turn-on element, it's an important one. Important enough to make some of us change the feelings towards the photo. 
  • Color is too close to reality. Unlike "art", coloured porn has that "forthright" feeling. Take that away and one can think of artistic process behind the image. Like there is something more than what directly meets the eye. 

I can hear so many of you screaming that those arguments above are missing the point and that art is not what's implied above. Which is true. But there is no reason why pornography can't be art, and those two are not opposites. Not just killing the color of the photograph makes something art.

But still, the feeling of connection of monochrome image and the art is so strong and common that it's worth exploring. So, give me your thoughts why is that so. 

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  • You are forgetting the elements of composition: like Hitchcock using chocolate to emulate blood, so too must the photog either consciously "see"  the lack of color, or rely on serendipity to effect the vision.
    Art is Art when it is the result of choice:  so when techniques are mastered one can call up  at will one's Joy in creation.
    If pornography is exalting in the human form using imagery or words [no music?], then your claim makes sense to those whose passion is released by such— as is mine.  

  • I can see the point that the monochrome picture looks less like porn to my mind because of the lack of color and the other one screams porn. This is an age-old debate, but to me it comes down to taste. Art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. You can't tell another person what is art. It's up to them to decide. It's the wonderful thing about each of us being individuals. We have individual taste.
    I don't believe that taking the color out of a picture makes it art. That's too simplistic, to your point. Imagine a picture of horrendous acts. Taking the colour out wouldn't make them less horrendous. But, a more innocuous picture, without colour, does seem to be softened. It's not as harsh or in your face, so to speak. It seems less real.
    To me, both pictures are pornographic in nature. The monochrome one, though, is easier to look at.

  • I agree. lack of color doesn't make art. Art is so much more. 
    But it was fun to explore the role of the color in the photographs :)

  • it still is fun~!!  but most ppl seem to dress in grey, so it's after flowers and other nature scenes…

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