In Hans Maes & Jerrold Levinson (eds.), Art and Pornography. Oxford University Press (2012)

Bence Nanay
University of Antwerp
One striking feature of pornographic images is that they emphasize what is depicted and underplay the way it is depicted: the experience of pornography rarely involves awareness of the picture’s composition or of visual rhyme. There are various ways of making this distinction between what is depicted in a picture and the way the depicted object is depicted in it. Following Richard Wollheim, I call these two aspects, the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of pictorial representation ‘recognitional’ and ‘configurational’, respectively. Some pictures emphasize one of these aspects while underplaying the other. Pornographic pictures try to trigger as little attention to the ‘configurational’ aspect as possible. Instead of examining pornography, where the ‘configurational’ aspect of experience is underplayed, I focus on a historical attempt to create images of the female body where the ‘recognigional’ element is the one that is underplayed and the ‘configurational’ elements of the picture form an essential part of our experience. The pictures I have in mind are André Kertész’s series of photographs from 1933, called Distortions. I argue that Kertész’s Distortions are in this respect the counterpoint of pornography: they may be the least pornographic representations of the female nude. Instead of ignoring the ‘configurational aspects of the picture, making the picture transparent and fully at the service of showing the female body and thus to trigger arousal, Kertész aims to achieve the exact opposite. His photographs strip the female body of all its sexual connotations and draw our attention to the formal features of the picture – which is quite a feat in the light of the subject matter of these pictures that normally draw our attention away from the formal features of pictures.
Keywords Twofoldness  Depiction  Picture perception  Photography  Pornography
Categories (categorize this paper)
Buy the book Find it on
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Translate to english
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Perceiving Pictures.Bence Nanay - 2011 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 10 (4):461-480.
Inflected and Uninflected Perception of Pictures.Bence Nanay - 2010 - In Catharine Abell & Katerina Bantinaki (eds.), Philosophical Perspectives on Depiction. Oxford University Press.
Is Twofoldness Necessary for Representational Seeing?Bence Nanay - 2005 - British Journal of Aesthetics 45 (3):248-257.
Pornography at the Edge: Depiction, Fiction, & Sexual Predilection.Christy Mag Uidhir & Henry Pratt - 2013 - In Hans Maes & Jerrold Levinson (eds.), Art and Pornography: Philosophical Essays. Oxford University Press. pp. 137-160.
Seeing-in and Seeming to See.R. Hopkins - 2012 - Analysis 72 (4):650-659.
What is Pornography?Michael C. Rea - 2001 - Noûs 35 (1):118–145.
The 'Fine Art' of Pornography?Christopher Bartel - 2010 - In Dave Monroe (ed.), Porn: Philosophy for Everyone. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 153--65.
Taking Twofoldness Seriously: Walton on Imagination and Depiction.Bence Nanay - 2004 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 62 (3):285–289.
Pictures and Singular Thought.John Zeimbekis - 2010 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 68 (1):11-21.
Art or Porn: Clear Division or False Dilemma?Hans Maes - 2011 - Philosophy and Literature 35 (1):51-64.


Added to PP index

Total views
179 ( #61,237 of 2,462,246 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
45 ( #19,684 of 2,462,246 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes