New York's Ellen von Unwerth Moment

The word combo — innocent, naughty, humorous, romantic, decadent, fetishistic and erotic —  describing fashion/erotic photographer Ellen von Unwerth’s new show at New York’s Staley-Wise Gallery underscores the complexity of 21st century female desire and the modern atittude around female sexuality associated with third wave feminism: girl’s just want to have some fun.

Ellen von Unwerth, Booty Call, Paris 2007. Note: the Flash setup up the Staley-Wise website means you must look in past exhibitions for more Ellen von Unwerth photos once the show closes end of Jan. 2010On the subject of girls having fun, there’s plenty to see and also imagine in this sex romp of a Soho exhibit called “Fräulein”, a blatantly erotic exhibit that summarizes Ellen von Unwerth’s vision of femininity and individual personality in the fairer sex.

As I wrote in what has been a top Anne of Carversville article for weeks now — Smart Sensuality Women as Envisioned by Ellen von Unwerth — the artist is a woman’s photographer.

“It’s about women with my vision of femininity and individual personality,” she says. “I like to show confident women who are comfortable with themselves, who embrace life and sensuality. Nudity was always a big inspiration in the art world, and a little bit of spice is always exciting.” via NYTimes

Reading some reviews of Ellen von Unwerth’s work, one reads chagrin among men that von Unwerth’s work isn’t rawer — although it can be very explicit.  There’s often a distance in the photographer’s relationship with her subject(s), so that the photo captures her total essence and personality.

Ellen von Unwerth is not a pornographer who specializes in up-close shots of body parts for viewing on i-Phones during Wall Street deal negotiations.

Distance is the key point for the artist: erotic photography, in contrast to porn, should capture the mood and playful seduction of today’s women — at least in Western countries.

The camera’s distance from subjects also reflects the inner mind sanctum of women’s sexual desire, her real thoughts often known only in the regions of her feminine mind, and not front and center for eyes — especially male ones — to penetrate and possess.

Ellen von Unwerth’s women are for possession only on their terms. And yet, they are not coldly aggressive women either, but humanly embraceable.

Ellen von Unwerth, Laced Up, Rouilly le Bas, 2002My big criticism of Terry Richardson’s photography — even in the current Pirelli Calendar - is that Richardson’s porn-boy body is front and center, as if all the babes just gotta have him. The big show is about Terry and his ‘ownership’ of his little angels with his camera.

Richard’s style permits no behind the scenes glances into the boudoir of female eroticism, no layers of ambiguity— which is exactly Ellen von Unwerth’s specialty. As a result, her gaze is often as beautiful as sensual, which is precisely the balance that many women seek in exprssing their eroticism.

Especially in America, ‘bad’ girls are still crucified by organized religion, no matter how many church-going guys watch porn (which is a disproportionate high in their sanctimonious demographic). Even many European men consider most American porn — i.e. Terry Richardson’s lens — to be puerile and amateurish.

Ellen von Unwerth, Follow Me, Paris 2000Ellen von Unwerth is also a European, which automatically makes her more the photographic voyeur and less the porn director. Then layer on her childhood in foster care, and her respectful watch over female sexuality makes even more sense.

Ellen von Unwerth’s show at Staley-Wise Gallery coincides with Taschen’s publican of “Fräulein”

The limited edition series of 1,500 numbered and signed copies is a 482 page hardcover book in a clam shell box and retails for $700. Taschen will also be releasing 100 Art Editions which include one of two silver gelatin photographic prints by Ellen von Unwerth and will retail for $1,800 each.

New York’s Staley-Wise Gallery is located at:

560 Broadway                                                                                                                                   New York, NY 10012                                                                                                                               212-966-6223                                                                                                                            

More Ellen von Unwerth:

Smart Sensuality Women as Envisioned by Ellen von Unwerth

Ellen von Unwerth and Annie Liebovitz Could Give Terry Richardson a Photography Lesson, When the Subject is Erotic, Beautiful Women