The question has been posed: "What defines a nude or erotic photograph as a
'Work of Art'?"
All art is an attempt by its creator to express a concept or idea to an audience. Great art
is usually more subtle and requires a certain sophistication from both the photographer and
A photograph may be worth a thousand words, but only if the artist is an effective communicator.
Otherwise, the audience may not be induced to understand the message.
Before a photograph of any subject may become a work of art, a variety of technical skills
are required of the photographer. These elements may include, but are not limited to, a creative
perspective commonly known as composition and exposure. Pre-programmed camera equipment may
reduce the technical knowledge required to create a photograph, but with such technical
assistance comes creative limitations. Using pre-programmed camera settings to generate a
photograph is much like demanding a painter color-by-number and stay within the lines.
Beyond the technical elements of photography comes the "magic" of art. This is the
subjective level where a simple image becomes a work of art. It speaks to the artist and
maybe an extended audience.
A basic nude picture becomes a work of art when it goes beyond the commonplace to creatively
express a concept. Beauty and humor are two of the most common representations of a
work of art. However, the opposites may be equally viable as photographic topics. The creative
talent of the artist is the critical catalyst in the transformation from photograph into art.
Nudity is rarely the true message of the artwork. It is merely one element of the
Nudity is readily associated with eroticism in modern America and other Western countries
because of the repressive nature of current political or religious culture. In an inhibited
society nudity equals sex and the mere suggestion of sex is deemed erotic. In a progressive,
educated society, nudism is simply a fact of life.
Eroticism is in the mind of the beholder in much the same way as a fetish leads to arousal.
Agalmatophilia, Galeteism, Statuophilia, Pictophilia, and Pygmalionism are all terms for a sexual
fetish for statues. Does this mean that all statues or photographs of statues are erotic?
Does it take a nude model with a statue of a nude figure for the photograph to become erotic?
Does nudity or eroticism alone confirm a photograph as a work of art?
Does nudity or eroticism exclude a photograph from consideration as a work of art?
Eroticism is in the mind of the beholder. Nudity is a fact of life. A photograph of a nude
subject does not have to be erotic in order to be considered art. A photograph becomes a work
of art when technical skills combine with creative insight to produce visual magic.