I wasn’t sure I’d ever mention the photography of David Hamilton, simply because I don’t like it, never have. I’m not offended by the nudity. I just find it stylistically and thematically tacky – a rather overly-romantic, male-centered erotic fantasy of adolescent girlhood. Personally, I’ve never met any adolescent girl who behaves the way Hamilton chooses to depict them. I’m much more of realist.

I mention him primarily because Eva Ionesco said that her mother’s work went further than Hamilton – and because he provides a good example of how standards, at least in anglophone countries, have changed.

Hamilton used to be very popular in Australia. For years most general bookshops stocked a Hamilton in their photography section (which usually only cater to a broad and uncritical market and rarely carry any substantive titles). It was pure coffee table material. The last time I saw a Hamilton was in the bargain bins in a book sale (and no matter how cheap, I wasn’t the least bit tempted).

But Hamilton’s work seems to have disappeared, despite his latest title Erotic Tales being published in 2006 – well, disappeared from anglophone markets, because Erotic Tales was published in French and German.

There’s good reason. Some people in anglophone countries now regard his work to be child porn. In 2010 David Neal was convicted of the possession of category 1 child pornography material because he owned a Hamilton book. Despite the fact that these books were once widely available and had never been previously classified as child porn; and despite the fact they were still available online from Amazon UK.

Fortunately for Neal, the conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal. The judge, Lord Justice Richards said (The Telegraph):

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3 Responses to How Far Is Too Far? the Case of David Hamilton

  1. Ron says:

    Even though I got my introduction into the genre through Hamilton, after seeing many artists including Ovenden, I realized his work for the most part did not suit my taste. His style seems to be built on a youthful fantasy which he explains in one of his books. He also unabashedly took some lowbrow shots of the women (I hesitate to call them girls), but to each his own. You also mention Ionesco and she is one who seems to have projected her own sexuality onto her own daughter with an eerie theatrical motif. I have to wonder if Eva’s experience was perhaps a bit too extreme and bizarre for her comfort level. Naturally, I would like to hear from her on this as well as her work with Bourboulon. I guess I believe Hamilton straddles the border between the classic artistic nude (by whatever contrivance) and a kind of dreamy soft porn one sees with Alterio or Nikolson.

    • Ray says:

      Hamilton sometimes referenced the painter Balthus, who I plan to look at soon. From what I can gather there is a battle of wills between Eva Ionescu and her mother. She recently wrote and directed a film about her childhood and depicted her mother as domineering. I don’t think Eva objects to the photos as such, more to the personality of her mother.

  2. Rev. Benjamin M. Root IV says:

    While I can almost appreciate Hamilton’s soft-focus, straw-hat and cotton-dress, tall summer grass cliches…after all it was the ’70s (or 80’s for a man still living int he ’70s), my main frustration with his pieces is that none of his models ever smile. That leads me to believe that the artist is directing the ubiquitous pout, over and over.

    Little girls smile…often, and like all humans, are at their most beautiful when smiling. Hamilton makes them look frustrated and bored with the whole thing (maybe they really were…frumpy old photographer). OK, little girls pout too (in fact they are masters of it), but to dwell on that element plays into (what you said about) the artist’s personal fantasies.

    Ahhh, artistic license. But viewers discretion.

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