V

Sexuality

There is a myth circulating that feminism in the 1970s was anti-sex. That certainly was not true on the West Coast where experimentation and non-monogamy were explored in theory and in practice.

I (Tee Corinne) was born in the South in 1943. By 1973 I found myself in San Francisco, newly divorced and seeking to redefine myself and redirect my life. I was thirty years old, had completed my M.F.A. five years earlier and was active in the populist changes being made in sex education. Becoming involved with women for the second time in my life, I determined to photograph lesbian lovemaking, creating a body of work which engages me to this day. I decided on lovemaking images because lesbians are so often defined by sexuality, but loving images were, at that time, very difficult to find.

 

fig. 24: Sinister Wisdom magazine cover and poster 1977
© Tee A. Corinne

Born in 1945, Honey Lee Cottrell's effect on West Coast photography began with exhibits in the mid-1970s and I Am My Lover, a book of images of women pleasuring themselves published in 1979. Cottrell came from a Midwestern working-class background, learned photography in her late twenties and studied film in her mid-thirties. Cottrell influenced the development of lesbian-themed sex magazines in the mid-1980s through her work for the first and most successful publication, San Francisco-based On Our Backs, edited for many years by her lover, Susie Bright.

fig. 25: Debbi and Nan
© Honey Lee Cottrell

Many exceptional photographers published in On Our Backs, including Katie Niles (b. 1951), a Midwesterner who has spent the last fifteen years in Seattle. Niles published an early erotic image in The Blatant Image I (1981). In an ongoing series of self-portraits, she uses the rounded forms of her own nude body and the repeated icon of her ever-present pipe to craft an ideosyncratic portrayal of identity.

fig. 26: Kiss, published in The Blatant Image I, 1981
© Katie Niles

By the end of the 1980s, Jill Posener (b. 1953), a British photographer and playwright was the photo editor of On Our Backs. In the mid-1990s Posener and Susie Bright collaborated in the production of the award-winning book Nothing But the Girl: The Blatant Lesbian Image which continued the tradition of somewhat raw, sometimes transgressive, often confrontative imagery established in On Our Backs.

fig. 27: More Serious Pleasure, cover, 1990
© Jill Posener

See also the work of Roberta Almerez and Gaye Chan.


Next
VI. Photojournalism


All text Tee A. Corinne.