Huffpost Arts

Erotica, Without The Sex

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By David Rosenberg

Eva Stenram has removed people having sex from hardcore pornographic images, covered up pinup photography models with a curtain, and in some cases, has decimated their bodies, leaving only one leg behind.

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It would be easy to think Stenram were a prude (or worse), but that isn’t the case.

“My manipulation does not change the meaning of the original erotic image—it just skews it slightly,” she wrote via email. “It still makes us curious, makes us want to see more—there is still pleasure in looking at what remains of the model and at the interior. We become perhaps more aware of our voyeurism.”

Stenram’s work begins with found images that are scanned or downloaded and reworked to create new interpretations of the original image. She is interested in creating images that “do not pretend to look real” and is excited about being able to “combine different photos that were taken in different places and at different times.”

For her series “Drape,” Stenram incorporated curtains or drapes, initially used as backgrounds, that were repurposed to function as a cover-up in the foreground of the image.

She stumbled upon pinup photography from the 1950s and ’60s on eBay and began to buy medium-format negatives of the erotic imagery. She also scanned pinup images she found in copies of the men’s magazine Cavalcade from the late 1960s. She felt drapes as backdrops were often used in pinup photography as a way to make the model more visible; “Drape” looked to reverse that.

Stenram wasn’t a stranger to erotic and pornographic imagery before “Drape”; her earlier project, “pornography/forest_pics” used hardcore pornographic images set in or around forests. Stenram downloaded the images and removed the bodies from the scene, forcing the viewer to look at the details—blankets, personal items, the landscape—more closely.

For “Drape,” Stenram kept her parameters tight: Images had to be taken in a domestic setting, and the models needed to be posed in front of a curtain or drape. She then only used visual materials that were part of the original image to cover up the models.

“I was interested in using a drape within a photograph as a means to cover something up within the photograph,” Stenram explained. “A pinup photograph is usually a private, intimate photograph that is intended for public consumption. I was interested in the curtain and/or drape as a barrier between what is seen and not seen, what is public and what is private. Replacing the curtain in front of the model restores the privacy of the model, yet of course re-exposes parts of the model for public consumption yet again.”

The Swedish-born artist who calls London home enjoys making work about “being a viewer.” She is currently working on another project, “Parts” that also uses manipulated pinup photography, this time removing everything from the human body except one stocking-clad leg, which she said animates the rest of the scene. “Erotic and pornographic images are some of the strongest visual images we have,” Stenram said. “They always trigger a reaction. For me, these images are interesting because they explicitly address the imagination and fantasy.”

Stenram will have a solo exhibition Sept. 21–Nov. 17 at Pobeda Gallery in Moscow.

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