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Jock Sturges - art or porn?


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Marc Fraioli , Sep 29, 1997; 09:38 a.m.

Adam/Critic/Peanut? Is that you?

William Bell , Oct 01, 1997; 12:06 p.m.

Excellent composition, perfect exposure, prints to die for...damn good work by one of the half dozen working photographers I most admire. The pinheads who trashed his stuff in the name of the U.S. government should be the subjects of some non-freedom-loving country. Sturges is a wonderful craftsman - only time will tell if he is considered an artist, but he is certainly no pornographer.

Travis Koehler , Oct 07, 1997; 06:29 p.m.

Jock Sturges' work is astounding. We see life as it is without the imposition of artificial constructs, namely, clothing. There are many interesting essays on the net about clothing. One thing is certain, it's utilitarian purposes are secondary. Jock recalls us to the freedom and beauty that each of us has sacrificed in the interests of The City.

There ARE sexual overtones in the photographs within his books. Why is this disturbing. Every child, every person on this planet is the result of sexual interaction. Additionally, in pre-industrial cultures, it was most common for individuals to be intiated as adults when they began puberty. Look at the statistics and remember your individual past; children/adolescents are sexual beings. If teens are lying on the sand with their genitals exposed it's probably because it feels good. And when somebody feels good, they usually look nice. Why do we need to lie about this.

Jock simply photographs people being themselves. Our culture is a tangle of decorum and deceit. His model-friends stand in front of his huge 8x10 camera and reflector array and offer a smile from their hearts. I think people should applaud Jock for giving us insight into the honesty and community we have forsaken in the pursuit of propriety.

Raymond Tai , Oct 26, 1997; 08:16 a.m.

I have seen Jack Sturges' pictures and they are art. However I think the question is whether Sturges' art is interesting, and not whether they should be displayed at all. Sturges' works are subject oriented - the power of his pictures depend solely on the specific subject matter depicted. If his subjects were to, say, wear panties, the pictures would lose much of their impact. Much like a picture of a pretty girl - find a pretty girl and a half decent photographer and you have a pretty picture. Better yet, find 32 pretty celebrities and you'll have a coffee table book. To be fair, Sturges is a top notch craftsman - his prints are beautifully printed and tack sharp. Technical perfection is necessary for these types of photography.

David Longerbeam , Apr 01, 1998; 03:07 p.m.

This is an old thread but I'm reviving it because there was a very interesting call-in radio interview program with Jock on the show "Forum" today on KQED-FM in San Francisco.

One of Jock's main defenses of his own work is that in Europe, where most of the photos were taken, family nudity is not big thing and it is not sexualized. I must admit I was surprised to hear people who otherwise describe themselves as liberal calling in and calling Jock "sick".

I once saw his book displayed at a local bookstore and browsed through it. I found nothing titillating about it, but I admit I am disturbed to know that some people find photos of nude pre-pubescent girls a turn-on.

Obviously it's quite relative. Some people find women's shoes to be sexual objects. Reminds me of the time I travelled in Egpyt for 5 weeks, then went to a beach town in Israel. I was in a sandwhich shop and an attractive young woman in a bathing suit walked in. I found it a bit disturbing to see here there, after only 5 weeks of seeing only covered women in Egypt. I was shocked at my own reaction! I can imagine that a lifetime of shame over the unclothed human form could result in a violent reaction to suddenly being exposed to these sorts of images.

Steve Bingham , Apr 16, 1998; 09:36 p.m.

Jen, The continueum between normal, exotic, and pornographic varies from culture to culture, generation to generation, and person to person. So I can only speak for myself. From a purely artistic point of view I love the work of Jock Sturges and Hamilton but find some of the pictures very erotic - never pornographic. Some disturb me even. And I wonder about the photographer that would take these pictures. However, I will defend his right to take and publish them. And as fascinated as I am with some of the images, I would never choose to display most of them in my home. I will leave that to someone else. Steve

J.Martin -- , Apr 16, 1998; 11:59 p.m.

In a better world, Jennifer Montgomery's movie, "Art for Teachers of Children" would be as widely seen as Sturges' pix. In the Toronto International Film festival Guide entry for the movie, she is quoted: "In 1989 I was harassed by the FBI. They were attempting to exact testimony from me in a much-publicized case against an alleged child pornographer. As one of the photographic subjects in question, I have my own perverse angle on the case and the surrounding storm of controversy."

Michael Gatov , Apr 18, 1998; 08:09 p.m.

I admire Jock's technique and skill as a photographer, but I disagree with his choice of subjects. His subjects are under the age of consent, and I question the need to display the genitals of pre-pubescent girls. Considering the high rates of sexual abuse of children in this country, I am having a hard time understanding the need for the display of his subject matter. I guess that I have a couple of questions: who gave the consent? Did the child really know what they were doing? Who is Jock's target audience? Who is Jock's actual audience?

While I do not agree with some of Mapplethorpe's subject matter, he was perfectly within his rights to photograph what he did, because his subjects were above the age of consent, and any behavior that his photographs may encourage is entirely legal.

Lest anyone think that there is no connection between images and actions.............. we need only remember that entire industry is built around motivating people's behavior through images. It is known as the advertising industry, and there is incontrovertable evidence to show that it is effective.

J Greely , Apr 19, 1998; 07:19 a.m.

At a camera show in San Jose today, I found a dealer selling assorted books, including volumes by David Hamilton and Jock Sturges. He reported a fair amount of hostility, including a warning that he'd be thrown out of the show if the promoter saw the Sturges book being opened on-site (it was loosely shrinkwrapped, and was in fact a Japanese import, which struck me as quite funny, considering the location).

In other words, the only person with the guts to carry a controversial work was unable to let people even decide for themselves if the photographs were "art" or "porn", based solely on hearsay. Hamilton's book, which did include some "innocent" display of genitals (as well as the accompanying text, which openly acknowledges the intent to portray the sensuality Hamilton perceived in his subjects) was not so restricted, being considered a less-offensive brand of "kiddie porn". Customers were free to leaf through a display copy, although purchasers were encouraged to accept an opaque bag to conceal it on their way out of the show.

Araki's Tokyo Lucky Hole, on the other hand, which includes explicit sex acts, didn't even rate a comment from anyone.

I bought the Hamilton book (the "25 years" collection, which the dealer had purchased in England), but I thought $75 was a bit high for the Sturges book, although I'd be delighted to pay him that much directly. Reading Hamilton's words and seeing the candid photos of the happy, well-adjusted models makes you wonder who it is that's disturbed, him or us?

If anything, the very real crimes perpetrated against children are as much the result of the cultural suppression of sex in the US as they are any inherent psychosis in the molestor. Perhaps it could be profitably compared to the incidence of alcoholism in countries where liquor is not treated as a thing sacred to adults, which of course makes it irresistable to teens.

Some years ago, I had a summer job with a public school district, and one of our tasks that year was moving things out of an elementary school that was being closed down. School wasn't out yet, and on several occasions I saw children on the playgound. I was struck by the apparent physical maturity of many of the older girls, none of whom was over twelve.

Was I feeling what Hamilton feels on the beaches of St. Tropez? Or was I reacting less to their native sensuality than to their deliberate attempts to hurry the process of becoming adults? They didn't dress like little girls, they dressed like the models they saw in magazines, and wore makeup (badly) and perfume (far too much). The sixth-grade girls were quite conscious of their physical development, and visibly cut off from the rest of the kids on the playground.

E-M Bergren , May 13, 1998; 06:57 p.m.

Check out this interview with Jock.


Go, Jock. I completely support him on his artistic journey. I also appreciate the longevity of his project, watching his models grow up and documenting their existence as sensual humans. What's wrong with us that we are so afraid of human sexuality? I agree with him about our stringent definitions associated with age. When someone turns eighteen, he or she is really an adult? Anyway, a good article and good foundation for this forum.


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