A Short Survey of Sexy Contemporary Photographers [NSFW]

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From the dawn of photography, we have tried to capture the nude, to commit his or her physical details and beauty to paper, and later, to pixel; to carry the immortal image with us long after the model had moved on from the shared moment of intimacy. See a humble collection of just a few contemporary photographers whose oeuvre is charged with an artist-specific erotic energy. For the most part, the photographers selected focus on nude portraiture. Most are quite well-known. Some are on the way. None are safe for work. There are no subtleties here, so if you prefer a gentler visual courtship, this stuff might be a tad aggressive and Richard Kern might be a bit much for you. If you want to see more, proceed. Feel free to add, rant about excessive raunchiness, or complain that we didn’t include Ryan McGinley in the comments. “Sexy” is a subjective word.

Richard Kern made a name for himself with the 1980s New York Cinema of Transgression movement and works like You Killed Me First! , a violent screwed-up family tale starring his transfixing young discovery Lung Leg and Fingered, wherein Lydia Lunch gets… well… He’s since shot erotic projects, celebrities, and endless crops of game New York models, his unmistakable aesthetic that of a very raw, perverse pin-up.

Tokyo’s Nobuyoshi Araki has published more than 450 photo books. Much of his work is erotic and pornographic, combining classic visual culture elements like Japanese rope bondage with skill and some sort of twisted magic. Even his most rapturous scenes of maidens in distress/passion pulse with a precise Araki aesthetic, an aesthetic he’s lent to portraits of Bjork and Gaga. Even his seemingly simplest forms seem so charged, they’re practically fetishistic.

Czech art photographer Jan Saudek has been censored and renowned for his hand-tinted, dreamy erotic tableaux featuring surreal rooms and half-nude models. There are classic elements in his posing of the models, costumed themes, Victorian flourishes, and theatrical interactions, which vary depends on the chemistry of the shoot. You know a shoot has gone particularly well if he jumps in to participate.

A giant, Austrian-German photographer, Helmut Newton put the “Oh” in Vogue, contributing a prolific, charged, mostly black-and-white body of work to fashion photography. Always stylish and slick, if somewhat sterile, his special classy touch was recruited to shoot Playboy pictorials of Nastassia Kinski and others.

Another late great Peter Hujar shot powerful nudes in soft tonal black-and-white, as well as portraits of friend and lover David Wojnarowicz, Divine, and the devastating shot of Warhol Superstar Candy Darling On Her Deathbed , used by Antony and the Johnsons for the cover of I Am A Bird Now. His gallery Mathew Marks refers to the style as “highly emotional yet stripped of excess.” Clean. Open. Sexy.

The ’70s work of Kohei Yoshiyuki is still widely exhibited today. The photographer documented cruising heterosexual and homosexual couples engaging in sex in public parks at night and the crowds of Peeping Toms who stalked, spied, and slowly crawled toward copulating couples. All he needed was an infrared flash bulb and six-month-long reconnaissance mission of befriending the voyeurs to shoot this essay.

San Francisco-based photographer Joan Sinclair labored extensively to gain access into Tokyo’s most exclusive, elaborate sex clubs. Her voyeur-journalistic body of work, especially the Pink Box series, shine a stealthy light onto the culture of the Japanese sex industry. It provides a glimpse into the faces and psyche of the kinds of people who’d enjoy reenacting a groping scenario within a mock train car in a sex club basement. Watch your step.

Self-taught photographer Goodyn Green is inching towards recognition. Her portraits from inside the queer Berlin scene engender each subject with a frank, deadpan sensuality, whether in dance clubs spinning records, or in the woods tangled between tree trunks, or in her kitchen, strutting boy briefs and cooking her eggs, sunny-side up. She’s seems like a charmer.

With a noir aesthetic running through his work, photographer James Graham is drawn toward performance artists more than models, honest scowls over fake smiles. Speaking of his work in TASCHEN’s The New Erotic Photography, he says, “I consider each photo a single frame from a narrative film, like Cindy Sherman without me as the subject — thankfully — or like Gregory Crewdson without the money — unfortunately.”

Brooklyn and New Orleans-based photographer Clayton Cubitt is a bit of a cult personality, doing away with the line separating the personal from the professional entirely. He’s not an exhibitionist, per se — his only filter is his lens. In his most recent project/Pavlovian stunt Hysterical Literature , friends and industry comrades come to his studio to read passages from books in front of the camera while strategically sitting on a secretively placed pleasure device. Naughty.