The Library of Spanking Fiction: Wellred Weekly

Wellred Weekly
Volume 1, Number 11 : October 21, 2012
Items of interest regarding all things spanking

Spanking in Photography
by Jameslovebirch

Vintage spanking photos
Since the advent of photography in the mid-19th century, the medium has been used to create a wide variety of fetishistic birching, whipping and spanking-related pictures. For many decades, erotic adult spanking photos in black and white were produced in surprising quantities.

There are no known spanking daguerreotypes. The earliest spanking photographs date back to the 1850s. Many of these were child spanking photos portraying little boys or girls being punished by their mother. Some were even made into stereograms for 3D viewing. At that time domestic discipline was a more morally acceptable photographic subject than spanking as love play between two consenting adults. However, this position of course reversed during the following decades.

Some of the earliest photographic works are notably modest and romantic in tone. Young women, clothed in voluminous undergarments, are shown bending over, waiting for their chastisement. Some had no nudity while others would show, through open drawers, a demurely exposed bare bottom. As time wore on, these images became more explicit. The most frequently used settings included the schoolroom, the boudoir, the realm of fantasy, mythology, and the great outdoors.

Photographers sometimes created humorous vignettes or used satire to mock social institutions or familiar figures from history or literature. This also reflects the subversive humor in many French and English spanking novels that were being published at the same time. A few of the more daring French photographers even attacked the Church, posing half-naked models as nuns and priests engaged in erotic flagellation. The majority of these photographs were produced in Paris, followed by Berlin, New York, and various locations throughout Europe and America.

Erotic photographs were discreetly sold, individually or in sets, by street dealers, tobacco shops, and a variety of other vendors who bought them for resale to tourists. The notorious "French postcards" were also popular with tourists as they were small enough to be safely mailed inside an envelope. During the 1880s to 1930s era, it was considered a sexual rite of passage for a gentleman to experience the decadent music halls and brothels of Paris and return home with a secret cache of risque photographs (or postcards) as souvenirs. Erotic CP photos also appeared in privately printed booklets in Paris such as Croupes Sanglantes. Scènes vécues (Le Jardin d'Eros, 1935) by photographer Jean D'Ayeud.

Implements and artistry
The pioneers of disciplinary photography concentrated mainly on form (as opposed to the effects of punishment), with much attention paid to pose, setting, and props. Aesthetically pleasing fantasy images of corporal punishment, as well as nude studies, were popular. Harsh realism was not. It is rare to find a vintage photograph that shows expressions of genuine pain or the lacerations inflicted by the birch, cane, or whip.

At this time, pornographic photos (and novels) were not mass produced for the general public. These items were sold mainly to wealthy, upper-class clients who wanted merchandise that was sophisticated and 'artistic' as possible. As a result, many photographers created sleek, elegant images that were inspired by mythology, history, literature, classical sculpture, and painting. Much of this high-quality work was done by professional portrait photographers moonlighting at erotica to earn a supplemental income.

The more traditional 'art' photographers preferred to create stand-alone pictures. Many others, however, filmed endless variations on a single theme. Quite often a simple story was told in a sequence of three to six photos. The most common series was of naughty schoolgirls who misbehave in the classroom and end up being punished, individually or together, by their irate teacher. Domestic scenes of wives or daughters being disciplined at home was also immensely popular.

A maid whips her mistress with
a birch rod (c. 1890)
Numerous photos of maids and other servants being thrashed and humiliated by their mistresses and masters reveal the class consciousness of the period. The social order is often satirized in fantasy role reversal scenarios where the servant gets the upper hand and gleefully punishes her tyrannical employer.

To this day, images of uniformed schoolgirls, flirtatious French maids, and domestic scenes of bad girls punished at home remain the most popular subjects in spanking fetish photography and films.

Historically, it is also worth noting that these anonymous artisans of underground erotica were among the first to see the storytelling potential of stringing together still images into a cinematic sequence. The same concept that, decades later, led to the invention of the motion picture camera.

Hand spanking, especially in the over-the-knee position, was (and remains to this day) the most popular pose. A large, thorny birch rod was the favorite implement in the Victorian and Edwardian era, followed by the cane. In France, the short-handled martinet flogger was in constant use, especially in the latter period of the 1920s and '30s. Now and then, a pervertible item, such as a hairbrush, carpet beater, pointer, violin bow, and even a sauce pot was used as an impromptu implement.

While there is some male-dominant (M/F) as well as specialized male-submissive (femdom) imagery, about 80 percent of these vintage photos show women punishing other women. Intentional or not, this gives them the added allure of an understated lesbian subtext — a practice that continues to this day in the majority of fetish photos and videos. It has also been theorized that an all-female scenario is less threatening and therefore more appealing in general to both men and women.

The rise of BDSM
In the 19th century, no attempt was made to show the type of violent punishments that occur in real life. Instead, many of the early photographs present deliberately absurd situations with a wry, tongue-in-cheek humor. The victims in nearly all of these pictures have a pristine, unmarked posterior. And only a handful of late-period whipping and caning images show faint, painted-on lash marks or welts.

Kinky scenes of bondage and
whipping became increasingly
popular by the 1930s
Modern pictures are the opposite. Today, artistic form and fantasy is mostly ignored with the emphasis on severe, realistic discipline that depicts bruising, welts, crying, and grimaces of anguish.

The 1920s saw a sharp increase in images of erotic bondage and sadomasochism. In addition to playful domestic paddlings and classroom canings, we see the introduction of the cruel, leather-clad dominatrix. She exists in the dark world of the torture dungeon which is stocked with all sorts of nefarious devices. Helpless slave girls are bullied and bound, chained and whipped, and humiliated in every way imaginable. Also around this time, femdom images of submissive men being dominated by powerful women began to appear more frequently.

Interest in punishment images with fetishistic leather and rubber clothing and various BDSM practices such as doggie training and pony play grew until the end of the 1930s. The most well-known suppliers of this period were based in Paris: photographer Jacques Biederer (Biederer Studio and Ostra Studio) and fetish wear/photo seller Yva Richard.

End of an era
The upheaval of the Second World War, with Germany occupying France from 1940 to 1944, and the long reconstruction period that followed, put an end to this era of fetish photography in Europe. Biederer died in a German concentration camp during the war. Yva Richard and most of her contemporaries faded away and never returned to the fetish industry.

Over in New York, Biederer's American counterpart, Charles Guyette, built up a thriving business making and selling fetish photos and exotic bondage-wear items in the 1930s and '40s. But it was not until the early 1950s that a rebirth in spanking/bondage photography would emerge led by Irving Klaw and a soon to be famous model named Bettie Page.

Contemporary spanking photos
Modern spanking photos can be loosely defined as erotic adult spanking art. However, the style and approach has changed dramatically since the first century of mostly European influenced imagery. The once scandalous photos created from the 1850s to 1940 now seem quaint and even innocent in today's world.

References to literature and painting and much of the humor faded away. Erotic photography was no longer exclusively made for a limited clientele of aristocrats. Postwar era photographers were far more bold and daring as their work became available to a wider audience. At the same time, interest in the BDSM lifestyle was on the rise along with new developments in fetish clothing and equipment.

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