Spanking in photography
Vintage spanking photos
Since the advent of photography in the mid-19th century, the new medium has been used to create a wide variety of erotic spanking and other fetish-related pictures (depicting birching, whipping, bondage, etc.). For over a century, black and white adult spanking photos were produced in surprising quantities and privately sold as an illicit, under-the-counter commodity.
In most countries, the law made little distinction between these images and blatant pornography until the late 1960s. By that time spanking photographs had been appearing in underground fetish specialty magazines and booklets for over two decades. In the early 1970s, slick, newsstand-quality periodicals entirely devoted to the spanking subculture (featuring glossy full-color reproductions) entered the mainstream market. These publications would proliferate until the Internet era came to dominate the industry in the late 1990s.
Artistic nudes and erotica
In the early days of photography there was a legitimate niche market for non-erotic nude photos produced for artists in the study of contour, modeling, proportion, and gesture. These carefully posed images emulated the classical art of antiquity, especially Greek sculpture and paintings by the old masters. For example, well-known French photographer Louis Igout (1837 – 1881) specialized in showing multiple images from various angles of a single pose similar to the scientific studies of Eadweard Muybridge (1830 – 1904). This type of work legitimized the study of the nude figure and paved the way for all sorts of experimentation with non-artistic erotic photography.
There are no known spanking daguerreotypes. The earliest spanking photographs date back to the 1850s. Many of these were child spanking photos portraying little boys or girls being punished by their mother. Some were even made into stereograms for 3D viewing. At that time domestic discipline was a more morally acceptable photographic subject than spanking as love play between two consenting adults. However, this position would reverse in the following decades.
Some of the earliest photographic works are notably modest and romantic in tone. Young women, clothed in voluminous undergarments, are shown bending over, waiting for their chastisement. Some had no nudity while others would show, through open drawers, a demurely exposed bare bottom. As time wore on, these images became more explicit. The most frequently used settings include the schoolroom, the boudoir, the realm of fantasy, mythology, and the great outdoors.
Photographers sometimes created humorous vignettes or used satire to mock social institutions or familiar figures from history or literature. This also reflects the subversive humor in many French and English spanking novels that were being published at the same time. A few of the more daring French photographers even attacked the Church, posing half-naked models as nuns and priests engaged in erotic flagellation. The majority of these photographs were produced in Paris, followed by Berlin, New York, and various cities throughout Europe and America.
A broad spectrum of erotic photographs (artistic nudes, spanking, and even raunchy sex acts) were discreetly sold, individually or in sets, by street dealers, tobacco shops, and a variety of vendors who bought them for resale, primarily to tourists. The once-notorious "French postcards" were popular with male tourists as they were small enough to be safely mailed inside an envelope. During the 1880s to 1930s era, it was considered a sexual rite of passage for a gentleman to experience the decadent music halls and brothels of Paris and return home with a secret cache of risque photographs (or postcards) as souvenirs. Erotic punishment photos also appeared in privately printed booklets in Paris such as Croupes Sanglantes. Scènes vécues and La Fesseuse passionnée by Jean d’Ayeud, both published in 1935.
Early enema art
What is surprising is the sudden appearance of erotic enema art as early as the 1860s. The dreaded rubber hose and steel plunger is central to countless domestic vignettes that take obvious delight in the extreme anal humiliation of shapely young ladies.
These generally appear as part of a series that tells a story. For example, a mother-daughter or mistress-punishes-maid scenario where a thrashing is followed by an enema. A popular variation on this theme (depicting a humorous power exchange) has the maid giving her mistress the enema.
Many of these photographs may have been inspired by the countless erotic flagellation novels (some of which were illustrated) coming out of France that depicted enema punishment scenarios.
Implements and artistry
The pioneers of disciplinary photography concentrated mainly on form (as opposed to the effects of punishment), with much attention paid to pose, setting, and props. Aesthetically pleasing fantasy images of corporal punishment (depicting naughty maids, schoolgirls, wives, etc.), as well as nude studies inspired by classical art, were popular. Harsh realism was not. It is rare to find a vintage photograph that shows expressions of genuine pain or the lacerations inflicted by the birch, cane, or whip.
At this time, pornographic photos (and novels) were not mass produced for the general public. These items were sold mainly to wealthy, upper-class clients who wanted merchandise that was sophisticated and "artistic" as possible. As a result, many photographers created sleek, elegant images that were inspired by mythology, history, literature, classical sculpture, and painting. Much of this high-quality work was done by professional portrait photographers moonlighting at erotica to earn a supplemental income. (There were no commercial facilities for amateur photographers to develop and print their photos.)
The more traditional "art" photographers preferred to create stand-alone pictures. Many others, however, filmed endless variations on a single theme. Quite often a simple story was told in a sequence of three to six photos. The most common scenario involved naughty schoolgirls misbehaving in the classroom and being punished, individually or together, by their irate teacher. Domestic scenes of wives or daughters being disciplined at home was also immensely popular.
Numerous photos of maids and other servants being thrashed and humiliated by their mistresses and masters reveal the class consciousness of the period. The social order was also satirized in fantasy role reversal scenarios where the servant gets the upper hand and gleefully punishes her tyrannical employer.
Historically, it is also worth noting that these anonymous artisans of underground erotica were among the first to see the storytelling potential of stringing together still images in a sequence to form a cinematic-like narrative. The same concept that, decades later, led to the invention of the motion picture camera.
Hand spanking, especially in the over-the-knee position, was (and remains to this day) the most popular pose. A large, thorny birch rod was the favorite implement in the Victorian and Edwardian era, followed by the cane. In France, the short-handled martinet flogger was in constant use, especially in the latter period of the 1920s and '30s. Now and then, a pervertible item, such as a hairbrush, carpet beater, pointer, violin bow, and even a sauce pot was used as an impromptu implement.
While there is some male-dominant (M/F) as well as specialized male-submissive (Femdom) imagery, about 80 percent of these vintage photos show women punishing other women. Intentional or not, this gives them the added allure of an understated lesbian subtext — a practice that continues to this day in the majority of fetish photos and videos. It has also been theorized that an all-female scenario is less threatening and therefore more appealing in general to both men and women.
The rise of BDSM
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, no attempt was made to show harsh, realistic scenes of punishment. The early photographers generally presented deliberately absurd fantasy scenarios, often with a wry, tongue-in-cheek humor. The victims in nearly all of these pictures show a pristine, unmarked posterior, and only a handful of late-period whipping and caning images show faint, painted-on lash marks or welts.
By contrast, modern corporal punishment imagery takes the opposite approach. Ever since the 1960s, artistic form and fantasy has been mostly ignored in favor of increasingly severe depictions with vivid bruising, welts, crying, and grimaces of anguish. This gradual transition began in the late 1920s with the sudden appearance of darker, more serious images of bondage, sadomasochism, and suggested sexual slavery. This change in tone reflects the much-exploited "white slavery" hysteria of the period. Muckraking journalists, pulp and pornographic flagellation novels, as well as the cinema all churned out sensationalized tales of innocent girls being kidnapped and forced to work in brothels.
As a result, in addition to the traditional playful domestic paddlings and classroom canings, we see the introduction of the cruel, leather-clad dominatrix. She exists in the dark world of the torture dungeon which is stocked with all sorts of nefarious devices. Helpless slave girls are bullied and bound, chained and whipped, and humiliated in every way imaginable. (The occasional male dungeon master appears as well.) Also around this time, femdom images of submissive men being dominated and degraded by powerful women began to appear more frequently.
Interest in punishment images with fetishistic leather and rubber clothing and various BDSM practices such as doggie training and pony play increased up to the outbreak of World War II in 1939. The most well-known suppliers of this period were based in Paris: photographer Jacques Biederer (Biederer Studio and Ostra Studio) and fetish wear/photo seller Yva Richard.
End of an era
The upheaval of the Second World War, with Germany occupying France from 1940 to 1944, and the long reconstruction period that followed, put an end to this era of fetish photography in Europe. Biederer died in a German concentration camp during the war. Yva Richard and most of her contemporaries faded away and never returned to the fetish industry.
Over in New York, Biederer's American counterpart, Charles Guyette, built up a thriving business making and selling fetish photos and exotic bondage-wear items in the 1930s and '40s. But it was not until the early 1950s that a rebirth in spanking/bondage photography would emerge led by Irving Klaw and a soon-to-be-famous model named Bettie Page.
Contemporary spanking photos
Modern spanking photos can be loosely defined as erotic adult spanking art. However, the style and approach has changed dramatically since the first century of mostly European influenced imagery. The once scandalous photos created from the 1850s to 1940 now seem quaint and even innocent in today's world.
References to literature, painting, and much of the humor, faded away in the postwar era. Erotic photography was no longer exclusively made for a limited clientele of aristocrats. The next generation of photographers were far more bold and daring as their work was designed for a wider audience due to new, mass-produced "girlie" and fetish magazines and books. At the same time, interest in the BDSM lifestyle was on the rise along with new developments in fetish clothing and equipment.
Irving Klaw and Bettie Page
In the early 1950s, Bettie Page became the first well-known mainstream model to pose for erotic fetish photos. Working for New York photographer Irving Klaw, Page appeared in hundreds of bondage and spanking photos as well as dozens of single-reel 8mm stag films (non-pornographic film-loops depicting bondage, spanking, female wrestling, pony play, etc.). Page was equally convincing playing a stern dominatrix as well as a helpless victim who gets tied up and spanked. The photos and films were sold out of Klaw's Manhattan store and by mail order.
Klaw got into the fetish business totally by accident. He began selling conventional movie star stills and cheesecake pin-ups. But an increasing demand from his clients for kinkier fare led him to create his own brand of iconic fetish photographs and film-loops. Besides Page, he hired a number of local art models, strippers, and a few well-known burlesque performers. The transformation of his business reflects a cultural shift that was just beginning to emerge from the shadows.
Adult stores selling erotic books, comics, and nudist magazines gradually began to openly display what were called "art photos". These were usually 3″ × 5″ (76 mm × 130 mm) black & white prints of nude models, including "exotic" sets with a bondage, spanking, or fetish-wear theme. They were often sold in sets of around 5 to 10 photos. An example captured on film occurs in the 1966 sexploitation movie Maidens of Fetish Street (which also contains scenes of spanking and whipping). One scene is filmed inside an actual Los Angeles sex shop that has fetishistic $2 photo-sets covering its walls.
The late 1940s saw the sudden rise of countless underground fetish-lifestyle magazines. The majority came from New York and Los Angeles. Many were covertly published under fictitious names. These under-the-counter, digest-sized booklets featured a variety of kinky black & white photographs of bondage, spanking, domination (male and female), pony play, doggie training, and other fetishistic subjects.
By the 1950s titles appeared such as Ultra, Unique, Masque, Exotique, and Connoisseur. Perhaps the most well-known of this genre is Bizarre (1946-1959), published in New York by artist John Willie. Bizarre is distinguished by Willie's vivid, realistic artwork as well as its fetish photographs, some of which were purchased from Charles Guyette's burlesque and BDSM equipment store.
The more permissive climate of the sixties led to a sharp increase in kinky imagery of every type in nearly every medium. The new wave of "roughie" exploitation films, underground 8mm fetish (and pornographic) stag reels, spanking/bondage novels and comics, girlie magazines and lurid "true adventure" and gory crime periodicals, and even mainstream magazines and movies became increasingly daring. All of this had an effect on spanking photography.
Still images from 8mm fetish films (along with posed shots taken during filming) in black and white and glossy color were also sold in sets and published in various men's magazines. Some even ended up on the covers as seen in Forced Enema (c. 1968, see Bizarro Sex Loops 15), Sapho, and Teens in Bondage (aka Dungeon Orgy, see Bizarro Sex Loops 23). Color stills from black and white roughie sexploitation films such as 1969's The Pick-Up (see photo) also illustrated adult film journals.
Stills from fetish films were endlessly recycled. For example, in the 60s, actress/model Michelle Angelo (photo) made sexploitation films, posed for pin-up magazines, and did bondage/spanking loops (photo). Her stills were reprinted into the seventies in magazines such as The Iron Mistress (1972). A still photo from Mondo Keyhole (1966) of Cathy Crowfoot in her bizarre dominatrix outfit was published as late as 1971 in the same magazine.
By the mid-sixties, single-issue specialty magazines devoted entirely to spanking photography began to appear, albeit covertly, at newsstands and adult bookstores. Perhaps the first ongoing all-spanking magazine was Corporal (c. 1967-1974) from New York publisher Leonard Burtman. The number of publications increased over the next three decades. The best-known British magazines to come from this period (all with an emphasis on the caned schoolgirl theme) are Janus (1971-2007), Roue (c. 1978-1988), and Kane (1982-present), created by Harrison Marks.
Another interesting change that occurred in the sixties is the sudden appearance of ethnic models in the heretofore all-white world of erotic fantasy. African women in particular make frequent appearances, usually playing a dominatrix or "switch", in spanking magazine layouts, 8mm stag films, and sexploitation movies. This trend toward diversity, and gradual increase of Asian models, continued into the next decade.
Fashion and art photography
The sixties and seventies also saw the emergence of a new type of upscale art photography that either came from or overlapped into the realm of high fashion. One of the first and most influential figures in this area was German fashion photographer Helmut Newton (1920–2004). Newton often explored the seductive sexuality inherent in sadomasochism, roleplaying, and spanking which he presented in elegant, stylish settings. (One of his most iconic and controversial images shows a beautiful model in riding clothes crouched on all fours on a plush bed with a horse saddle strapped to her back.)
Newton's carefully composed and restrained images lifted fetish obsessions out of the sleazy, sordid milieu of back-alley pornography. In contrast to his contemporaries, he created provocative glimpses into the private, decadent world of the wealthy. These images have the same stylish flair and cool detachment as his fashion photography for glossy magazines such as Vogue. His sleek photographs, mostly black and white, were published in magazines and compiled into several pricey coffee-table books which gave the once-taboo imagery a more respectable veneer as a subject worthy of artistic expression. Newton's influence on other photographers (Robert Mapplethorpe, David LaChapelle, Ellen Von Unwerth, et al.) and directors of boundary-pushing films and provocative music videos continues to the present day.
Influence of videos
In the early 1980s the booming home video market ushered in a new era of fetish photography. Nearly all of the major producers of erotic bondage and spanking videos (London Enterprises, House of Milan, Harmony Concepts, Nu-West/Leda Productions, Shadow Lane, et al.) as well as many smaller companies began publishing their own ancillary photo-magazines and illustrated catalogs.
Fetish clothing maker House of Milan transitioned into publishing, and then video production, after their magazine, The Bizarre Costume Catalog, sold out in adult bookstores. They went on to produce dozens of slick BDSM periodicals starting with Knotty (1971-2000), Hogtie (1972-1992), Bondage (1972), et al.
Nu-West also sold catalogs packed with still photos promoting their videos and other products. This expanded into a line of cheaply produced booklets with black & white photos. More ambitious companies produced glossy full-size periodicals that emulated the format of mainstream lifestyle magazines. These publications, such as London's Spank Hard and Shadow Lane's Stand Corrected, were loaded with spanking photos (mostly cost-cutting black & white with a few pages in color). Some also printed amateur snapshots sent in by their readers.
Many professional bondage models and other adult entertainers made the quick transition to fetish videos and became popular celebrities within this new niche industry. The video producers were quick to capitalize on their popularity and sold photo-sets featuring their new stars. Some sets consisted of still photos taken from video productions, while others were created from exclusive photo-shoots.
Various "tie-in" magazines were also introduced to promote videos and create a second product line from a single source. Instead of posed photo-sessions, these consisted entirely of stills taken during the filming of a video. London, once again, was at the forefront of this concept. Now one had the option of buying, for example, London's Bondage Cheerleaders video or its companion magazine (also called Bondage Cheerleaders) which was packed with photos from the movie plus a bit of narrative text.
However, this is not an entirely new idea. Irving Klaw did the same type of cross-promotion back in the 1950s. While making his 8mm bondage and spanking film-loops, he would simultaneously shoot hundreds of still photos. Many of these photographs became best-sellers and helped to increase sales of his stag films.
One negative result, among companies with less diligent quality control than London and HOM, is the intrusive clicking and whirring of still cameras and the glare of flash-bulbs going off during a video. This can be distracting as well as destructive to the fantasy the film has tried to create. The low-budget videos from Nu-West in the '80s and '90s are especially noteworthy for this practice.
Realism replaces fantasy
While spanking art photos have always been staged, today you can often see close-up views of bottoms that show real — or realistic looking — cane or whip marks. In an interview with veteran fetish actress and bondage model Kiri Kelly, she revealed that the standard practice among models is to paint on welts and bruises with rouge makeup.
The increase in more realistic and severe-looking spanking imagery is largely due to the influence of video-based magazines that published, for the first time, vivid, color photos of actual punishment sessions. This, along with an overall demand by the public for more intense and realistic imagery — as part of a broad cultural shift in mainstream entertainment — has made significant changes in the industry.
Although modern depictions of corporal punishment are primarily authentic and hard-hitting in nature, fantasy story elements are still being explored, especially by video producers (Lupus Pictures, Punished Brats, Dallas Spanks Hard, et al.). Spoofs of popular films and television shows, as well as historical periods and folklore tales turn up in the occasional spanking parody video.
Child spanking photos have faded away due to a wide array of laws put in place to prevent the exploitation of minors. Most that still exist today are either vintage (see above) or digital stills from mainstream movies (see Spanking in mainstream films), or innocent images with a playful theme.
Erotic adult spanking photos of every type and description can be found on the Internet. An increasing number of amateurs post their own photographs on personal websites, spanking blogs, and shared image sites such as Instagram and Flickr.
There are thousands of free spanking sites of every variety as well as specialized spanking pay sites. Countless online databases of historical as well as contemporary photographs can be accessed for free or for a nominal membership fee.
The main difference is today one usually purchases viewing access instead of buying individual photos. Online access allows the user to print out images or download them onto their computer where they can be stored, uploaded to other websites or manipulated in a variety of ways.
Most producers of fetish/spanking DVDs also sell photographs (still photos taken from videos as well as posed pictures) directly from their websites. They also tend to display a great number of free pictures used to promote their videos. Some even offer customized videos or photo-sets based on specific client requests. And many professional spanking models and actresses, as well as a wide variety of amateurs, have personal websites from which they sell exclusive spanking photos of themselves.
- Jeux de Dames Cruelles 1850-1960 by Serge Nazarieff (Benedikt Taschen Verlag: 1992), a photobook that traces the history of erotic disciplinary photography from 1853 up to 1960 in Europe and America. It includes many images from the Ostra Studio, Biederer Studio, and Irving Klaw, among others.
- Les Éditions Ostra: L'âge d'Or du Fétichisme by Alexandre Dupouy. (Astarté: Paris, 2007) ISBN 9782909607191. This history of Jacques Biederer's photographic work (Biederer Studio and Ostra Studio) is a companion piece to Dupouy's book about Yva Richard.
- Charles Guyette: Godfather of American Fetish Art (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017) by Richard Perez Seves.
- Picture index of World Corporal Punishment Research (Disclaimer: Please note that this site features images of real corporal punishment.)
- Image Gallery on The Spanking Blog (adult spanking photos, , severe)
- Vintage Spanking Photos
From Croupes Sanglantes: Scenes Vecues (1935) by Jean d'ayeud.
- List of spanking photographers
- Spanking fakes
- Spanking magazine
- Biederer Studio
- Ostra Studio
- Yva Richard
- Charles Guyette
- Irving Klaw
|Spanking in various media and art forms|