Thursday, November 11, 2010



How do you define erotic?

When I first came across Joe Lazara’s work that was the first questioned that formed in my head. And until that point, I had a rather standard answer, and I was careful to impart that my response was solely from my own perspective and not meant as the definitive definition. I recognize, as many people do, that what I viewed as being merely an erotic representation of sexuality could easily be dismissed as pornography by someone else and I’m also careful not to pass judgment on those who have a less broad aesthetic.

Visually speaking, we are still somewhat behind as a culture in our response to the male nude. Playboy is an accepted part of our nation’s consciousness, yet no magazine that celebrates the nude male body has ever reached the same level of acceptance. We photographers that do shoot male nudes often have to look to our peers for praise in spite of the increasing number of images that are appearing, as well as the growing number of photographers, both male and female, who are responsible for them. It may still not have the recognition that it deserves, but at least the public isn’t as shocked as they used to be when they come across an image with an actual penis visible.

Anyone can take a nude photograph. It may not be one that is great in terms of composition, but it may still contain erotic elements. Raising the bar on erotica and making it artistic involves creativity, vision and talent. There have been a few photographers in the past who managed to build a name, as well as brand recognition for their work, such as Old Reliable, George Plyatt-Lynnes, James Bidgood and most famously, Robert Mapplethorpe, who not only blurred the lines between art and erotica, but also crossed racial barriers with his collection of images in Black Book. Present day artists such as Tom Bianchi, Mark Henderson, and the incomparable Justin Monroe have presented us with their own brand of sensuality, and each of them does it uniquely different than the other. And we have emerging artists like Comrade X and Joe Lazara.

Joe stands apart from his peers in a few aspects, such as his reinterpretation of the classics in modern day erotic imagery. He redefines the genre, like a visual remix or redeux, to achieve what he calls hyper-realism in his images. The standard expectations are there, such as models with gym physiques, but his subjects retain a sense of familiarity in the respect of not always being the typical "model gorgeous" standard. Viewing his work is like taking a trip into the past in regards to literature, performance art and film, and then having those elements placed into a creative mixing bowl, with an added dash of modern sensibility. He is an another artist who blurs the lines of how we view art and pornography, and in some instances we are treated to photos that are confrontational in their tone which forces us to reexamine our own views of erotica.

I have had the chance to get to know Joe a bit through our interactions on Facebook, but it was not until this interview that his character and motivations were truly fleshed out for me. A few of his pieces are included in this feature, and he is going to debut his more explicit work later in this issue.

©2010 Sean Dibble

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