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Smokey Flame

Dutch writes:

Mr. Watson,

I read your postings the other night with some pleasure and noticed your ongoing flame war over whether Porn can be Art. Your position seemed to me that motive determined if creative product could be defined as Art. The contrary position seems to be that Art occurs if you are seriously artistic enough. I think you are arguing apples and oranges.

In my opinion Art is when the mastery of a craft and creative inspiration as informed by Genius. This begs the question what is Genius? I don’t know but like the Supreme Court regarding Porn I know it when I see it.

Mastery of craft besides the obvious technical acuity, in your case photography, also involves executing aesthetic judgment, the tossing of the bad. All photographs contain three elements: content, what the photo is of; execution, the technical competency of the finished product and the design, the arrangement of the graphic elements. The rubric about professionalism applies to this, your product is executed with attention to standards that may be only instinctive but I imagine it pains you to see your less than best efforts on the internet no matter the money it makes you.

Creative inspiration should be obvious but it has nuances, it is notable mostly in its absence. You describe your process as a formula, I think it was twenty-seven minutes and a pop shoot, the formula is the money maker and sound business practice. Creativity presses against the boundaries of the formula and tries to make it new, this is dangerous. My favorite aphorism about art turns the “I don’t know anything about art but I know what I like,” saying on its head, “People don’t know what they like they like what they know.” Getting too far ahead of the crowd is dangerous if your product is based on a formula.

Photography is moving a frame in space and selecting the elements included, based on a limited exposure to your work I’d say creativity is happening. I have met only one genius in the visual arts, Lucien Clergue, I can’t say I like everything he has done, he chooses eccentric angles sometimes and sometimes they are pointless but some of it soars. My point is when genius transforms art into Art, it is only recognizable when its behind you, be willing to acknowledge it when you see it.

I think your disdain for your efforts is based on your empathy for the flawed human clay you use to create your product. This is praiseworthy as is your own willingness to put your self on the line by publishing your portrait. I think your disdain for Eon McKai is based on the correct assumption that these folks take themselves way too seriously. At any rate, this started as a few lines to complement your blog and turned into a book proposal; I should take my own advice and not be so serious. Do the right thing and go ahead, don’t sell your self short and keep up the good work.



Thanks for your kind words – and your argument – even though parts of it were so fancy, I’m not so sure exactly what it is you’re saying. Let me reiterate porn isn’t art and can never be art; porn is nothing more that a mastubartory device, and it’s a wonderful one at that. Motive doesn’t determine art; and you can be one serious motherfucker, but if you don’t have any talent, you’ll never create art.

Before I can proceed, we need some definitions here, brother…problem is, coming up with a way not only to define words like “genius”, but define them in a way we can all agree makes sense. Well, wait. We probably can all agree on a definition for “genius”; it’s coming up with examples of genius that will only add fuel to the fire.

For example, ask my dad if Bob Dylan is a genius; then, ask my grandma is Frank Sinatra is one.

So let’s define art…or, let someone else define it: according to, art has many different definitions, but number one on their list is the “quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.”

In other words, is saying Porn can be Art. It just depends on what we find “beautiful”? Is this silkscreen of an electric chair Warhol executed “beautiful”? How much “significance” does it carry? How about that pretty still-life my grandma painted in her studio? (My granny was a painter, by the way, and sure, I’ll call her an artist – but certainly not a genius.) And nothing she ever produced as an artist is “significant”.

How about Mr. McKai’s film Neu Wave Hooker? He sure did give it an arty spelling. And I’m sure it’s beautiful when you have your pants down around your ankles and you’ve just blown your wad all over your stomach and it’s time to grab the blast rag and clean up. And that’s all the significance it has.

It ain’t art, my man. Sorry. It’s a mastubatory aid, and that’s that.

With that, I shall now define pornography, cause, honestly, I have no idea what art is, but I know it when I see it…just like you have your art, and Eon McKai has his…anyway:

Pornography – anything visual or auditory that helps a fellah blow his load when he can’t have the real thing.

In fact, the second a piece of art helps you blow a load, it becomes porn, and it loses any and all artistic integrity it may have posessed.

Finally, I don’t “disdain” Eon McKai at all; I really have no idea about him as a person, although some of the talent I’ve shot that has worked with McKai have nothing but nice things to say about him. I dunno if he’s a genius, and, in fact, I’m not sure of anyone’s “genius”…but I think I know it when I see it. Or hear it. Or taste it. Or feel it.

Hope this clarifies things…and, I think, it’s time to bury this topic – at least on my blog.

Your pal – Billy

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