Vienna exhibition exposes distribution of erotic content 100 years ago
Vienna, Austria, May 29 (EFE).- An exhibition in Vienna’s Leopold museum is showcasing how the industry of pornography started way before the invention of erotic magazines or the Internet.
The Replicating Business exhibition displays 329 images by Austrian photographer Otto Schmidt, who became a pioneer in the global distribution of erotic content over 100 years ago.
Schmidt ran one of Vienna’s largest photographic art studios in the 19th century in which he produced some 4,000 images of landscapes, buildings and portraits.
His biggest business, however, was nude photographs, of which he sent over 8,000 replications to all corners of the world.
“They were supposed to be images for artists to use as models for their drawings or paintings but, of course, there was a much larger audience for them,” Monika Faber, director of the Bonartes Photography Institute in Vienna, told Efe.
NUDITY, CENSORSHIP AND SECRECY
Due to their ‘adult’ content, Schmidt’s studio had to request special permission from the police to publish and sell his nude photographs.
But the photographer hid most of his art from the authorities, who allowed the ownership of nude images but prohibited their distribution because they were considered against the values of society.
This led to Schmidt’s clandestine distribution of nude photographs across Europe, America and Asia as postcards.
“Postcards were the cheapest way to distribute photographs, but there was rarely anything written on the back of them,” Faber said.
Schmidt’s distribution network reached countries like France, where he was able to sell his photographs through Parisian publishing house Calavas, one of the first to distribute erotic content in Europe.
“The studio was a distributor who sold directly to the store, but also supplied people who would request them, a bit like Amazon,” Faber said.
ELEGANCE AND DISCRETION
The most elegant way to camouflage the erotic images was through books of photography studies.
The books served as illustrative material for artists, craftsmen, architects and decorators but also became a discrete way to distribute erotic content.
“They were usually sold in bookstores, but in some countries, like Germany, they were banned,” Faber explained.
Schmidt’s studio also organized events with screenings of photographs.
“This technique was very popular for looking at photographs, usually of landscapes. When nudity was offered, it was called ‘men-only film’ or ‘gentlemen’s films,” said Faber.
The exhibition in Vienna will run through the end of August. EFE