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OVER A QUARTER CENTURY OF DEDICATION TO PROTECTING, PRESERVING AND PROMOTING EROTIC ART.
THE MALE ‘SEEN’
DIANORA STRIPS MEN BARE

by Valentine Hooven

When women began moving into the arts and professions in force, who would have predicted that photography would be a field they'd conquer so completely? Oh sure, it doesn't require much upper body strength to point and click a camera, but a photographer also has to handle physically challenging location shoots (Margaret Bourke-White hung off the end of the Chrysler Building's aluminum gargoyles for one assignment), portray an unflinching reality (Diane Arbus' studies of the insane and the mentally retarded will both stop your heart and wring it with a single photograph) and control the ego politics of both sides of the camera for high-pressure commercial work (Annie Liebowitz, whose photos range from a naked, painted Keith Haring to a naked, painted Demi Moore and on to near-nude Olympic athletes, has become the celeb photographer of the closing years of the millennium, often getting her subjects - Sly Stallone, say - to pose au naturel or thereabouts).

But in the field of male erotic photography, women got a late start. The earliest and longest-lasting muscle magazine, Physique Pictorial, published the first physique photo by a woman (`Kay') in 1957, but never printed a second one. The Foundation archives do hold a few photos of naked men by women but almost always as one half of a couple (Patricia Ridenaur) or by a photographer whose main interest lies elsewhere (Janet Ryan).

Fortunately, we have the photography of Dianora Niccolini. David Leddich's monumental survey “The Male Nude” (fromTaschen, 1998, and available from the Tom of Finland Company) not only includes a number of her photos, but one of them is the cover.

Dianora's current project is a book of black male nudes but her medical work helped her with the challenge of lighting and photographing the rich tones of black skin as early as this one, from a series done in 1975, well before Mapplethorpe's more famous photos of black men.

Taken from her 1983 book `Men in Focus' (Morgan & Morgan), this fireman worked so hard he wore out the crotch of his uniform!

Love is just a pair of butt prints in the sand. Her wry sense of humor is apparent in this work.

Part of Dianora's success as a photographer rests in the ability (and it's no minor art) to get a naked model to relax in front of the camera, leading to fresh and original shots.

Born in Italy, much of her childhood was spent in Firenze, where her most powerful memories were of the Allied raids that rained bombs down around `David' and the other masterpieces of the Renaissance (which were fortunately boarded up and heavily sandbagged). Postwar, her parents (Italian father, American mother) moved her to the U.S. where, once she finished growing up, she made a bee-line for New York City to study art, though her real passion was ballet.

Then in 1963 she meet Weegee. He inspired her to take up a camera and that led to her becoming a medical photographer, work that she did on and off for twenty years. She found that it tended to be gory and occasionally depressing, but it did give her a mastery of the clear, accurate depiction of the human body.

In 1973 she began to use those skills to a happier end, expressing her appreciation of the beauty of the nude figure. Her studies of both clothed and naked men hark back to her early upbringing and prove she is a true child, not just of an Italian father and an American mother, but of Donatello, Michelangelo, and Cellini. Australia's gloriously-produced magazine `Blue' will feature a portfolio of Dianora's work in their Spring 1999 issue.


TOM OF FINLAND FOUNDATION 1999

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TOM ON HIS WORK
"Yes, I consider my work pornography. Pornography means to stimulate peoples' sexual feelings, and I'm always very aware of that. My motive is lower than art." — Tom of Finland from the MSC Finland Website.