Wednesday, July 24, 2013
The Evolution of Black Erotica
Today, I was looking for inspiration for my book, In Loving Color, and it really struck me how much of an impact I've had on Black erotica. When I started AfroerotiK in 2003 there were literally no photographers shooting erotic images of Black couples. There were vulgar porn shots of booties and GYN shots of coochies. There were erotic shots of men. There were more erotic images of white couples than I could shake a stick at. True Black erotica, with couples, was so rare that is was like looking for a needle in a haystack. There was Black erotic art but it was drawings and paintings. Photography was limited to romantic images but there was nothing erotic.
Rundu was big back then and she was the only photographer doing erotica. She was shooting those calendars with men with jheri curls under the waterfalls and Black gay men were worshiping at her altar but she was saying that her images were not for gay men. (I thought that was like biting the hand that feeds you but hey, that's just me). I remember naively calling her and asking her to shoot images of couples for me. She had just published her coffee table book with Black couples but, IMO, they were not very erotic. All the poses were impossible for any normal people to achieve. You had to be a UniverSoul Circus performer to get into those positions and I just kept thinking to myself that wasn't erotic, it wasn’t stimulating or arousing it was more of a curiosity. I had two or three photo shoots with photographers and I asked them for erotic images and they gave me porn shots. They were giving me shots of individuals and I wanted couples, I wanted intimacy, connection, passion, and love.
At the time, I kept saying, "I'm a writer, I'm not a photographer, I don't want to be a Jill of a trades. I just want to write." But it was apparent to me that I had to start taking more control of the photo shoots. I hired a photographer and a female model and asked a friend of mine who was a fitness trainer to model for me. The female model cancelled about two hours before the shoot and I called a girlfriend of mine and she agreed to fill in. I took control of that photo shoot and I posed the models, I told the photographer what I wanted. It was from that photo shoot that I got all the images from the first AfroerotiK website. I couldn't show any faces because my girlfriend had just started dating someone and she didn't want her face shown so I kept that theme throughout the entire website. I didn't show any faces of any models. I started to understand that if I wanted truly erotic shots, with couples that looked like they were in love, with emotion and passion, I had to shoot them myself. That's when AfroerotiK was more than just erotic stories, that's when I knew that AfroerotiK was about more than just erotic photography. I knew then that AfroerotiK was bigger than me. It was a movement.
I was still shooting with various photographers but none of them were giving me what I wanted. I remember one photoshoot where the photographer kept telling me to stay out of it, not give him advice, that he knew what I was looking for. All night, I kept my mouth shut and he took over 1000 images. If 3 of the images were usable, it was a lot. They were just horrible. One photographer bought his own model and all she cared about was getting paid and he was literally shooting with a point and shoot camera. She was a stripper and she was giving me porn poses. It was clear he was one of those guys that called himself a photographer and was only trying to fuck models. I wanted AfroerotiK to be about real people, not strippers.
In 2008 I convinced my best friend to start shooting for me. He fought me tooth and nail, he kept insisting that he wasn't good enough but I knew that he had the talent I was looking for. This time, I wanted faces to be shown. I wanted people to not be ashamed of their sexuality because the images were truly erotic, not porn. We started shooting in my loft and every photo shoot we would get better and better and better. I didn't have a penny to pay models at that point. All I could do was provide dinner and some drinks and try to make everyone feel comfortable. My website wasn't even up and running. Someone had hacked it and I had to shut it down but I knew AfroerotiK was still alive in my heart. My best friend and I did 10 photo shoots together that make up the majority of the photos that are on the current website. Every image was more erotic than the previous one. We got into a groove. I would hire the models, he would design the lighting, I would direct the models and we created magic.
I started rebuilding the AfroerotiK website in 2011 and it launched last year. My best friend and I had both moved from Atlanta so I recruited someone else to be my photographer. He's a little more uncomfortable with shooting nudes, and I'm a lot more demanding about what I want now, so we didn't get as many shots as I wanted but the ones that we did get were breathtaking. The next version of the website is going to be my best friend and I reunited again. We are going to graduate to even more sophisticated images.
Anyway, I said all of that to say this. I'm so incredibly proud of all the erotic images of Black couples that I see today. I know in my heart that I've been the inspiration for lots of people's careers, even if they don't admit it. I can point to the images they used that copied mine. I can see my influence everywhere. The fact that there are thousands of Black photographers shooting couples now, actually trying to shoot more than must porn and oiled booty shots of strippers makes my heart glad. People are actually looking at Black bodies as art now, not just genitals. I had a huge hand in that. I was the start of a Black erotic movement.
I've seen my images stolen and used everywhere. You can't find a website dedicated to Black erotic photography without some AfroerotiK images. Someone stole one of my images and used it on their book cover. People have stolen my images and used them for their websites, ads, etc. The images for my book are going to make everything I've done to date look like tame. I can see it clearly now. I'm going to have a coffee table book of erotic stories and images and I'm going to have an even more explicit (but still classy and sophisticated) edition with nothing but images. And it's going to be full of beautiful Black people. I can't wait.