Woman penetrating another, Anonymous (1885)
The attraction of these photographs was largely that, for the first time, they represented real women. This was in contrast to the idealised product of the imagination of an artist who, even if using a real woman as the basis for the image, was still manipulating it extensively through not only the technique but the medium itself. The attraction was similar to the later efforts by Playboy to dub its centrefolds as "girls next door" in the nineteen fifties and intimate that they were not professional models but "real people". A person that the viewer could, possibly, actually meet. Likewise, when Penthouse started publishing in 1965 it declared that none of its Pets had posed nude before. In the nineteen seventies Gallery magazine boosted its circulation by getting readers to send in picture of their wives or girlfriends. They, perhaps, weren't as attractive as the professional models but the key selling point of all of these approaches was that they were of "real" girls and not the product of the same sort of image manipulation, in a way, that the earlier artists undertook. Some of the very early Playboy centrefolds, for example, actually look closer to contemporary pin-up art than photographs.
Two women, Anonymous (1855)
Although these early photographs were often composed in a way that aped classical poses found in art and sculpture before long more overtly erotic works were being produced, ranging from the portrayal of women displaying their genitals, through to lesbian encounters and actual intercourse.
Deux jeunnes filles couchées, Felix Jacques-Antoine Moulin (1850)
Many of the photographers, such as those responsible for these images, preferred to reamin anonymous. Even in France, where most of these image originated, the law punished those who took and, especially, distributed such photographs. In 1851 the well-known Parisien photographer Felix Jacques-Antoine Moulin had his Monmartre studio studio at 31 rue du Fauborg raided and many of his pictures confiscated. Moulin had been taking nude pictures of young fifteen and sixteen year old girls since the early eighteen forties. He was fined 100 francs and imprisoned for a month. His dealer, M Malacrida was sentenced to one year in prison and fined 500 francs.
Two standing nudes, Felix Jacques-Antoine Moulin (1850) The scratches demonstrate one of the drawbacks of the glass positives
Initially, the distribution of this new photographic erotica was limited by the process itself. Daguerreotypes, as direct positives, are unique and were unable to be easily reproduced except by photographing them again. Only around 5,000 daguerreotypes were ever produced, mostly in Paris. This made them expensive; and an erotic daguerreotype in the eighteen fifties could cost a week's salary. From the authorities' point of view this was a blessing as their circulation was limited to those from the upper echelons of society. Once photographic prints were easily available the authorities were fighting a losing battle. In 1874 London police confiscated 130,000 photographs and 5,000 negatives of erotic subject matter from one distributor alone.
Two women in striped stockings 1, Anonymous (1885)
However, the demand for more and more photographs led to pressure on chemists to find ways of enabling the reproduction of pictures which took them back to the pre-daguerreotype calotype process invented by Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877). By 1884 Geroge Eastman had essentially invented modern film, removing the neccessity for photographers to travel with cumbersome glass plates and bottles of chemicals. By 1888 his Kodak camera was on the market opening up the possibility of easy location photography for the first time. Initially, for technical reasons, erotic photographs were confined to the studio and sets had to be constructed to represent outdoor settings as with the ladies disporting in the "field" above.
Two women in striped stockings 2, Anonymous (1885)