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w139 "Black Girl" © 1997 R.C. Hörsch / Eroto~


Interview: R.C. Hörsch

By Cathy Tavel

© 1997 by Art Beat Magazine (Reproduced with permission.)

An interview.


C.T.-- Why "Sex"?

RC-- I'm basically no longer interested in photographing anything which doesn't involve sex in one form or another. No glamour shots, no wide eyed little bunnies. Just sex. In western society, our sexuality is so convoluted, so suppressed, you never know what will crawl out of the swamp. Maybe the wide eyed bunnies could be sodomizing each other, though. That's a possibility.

C.T.-- How do you respond to critics who call your work pornographic?


w199 "Rapture" © 1996 R.C. Hörsch / Eroto~


RC-- I guess I would have to agree with them. I put a lot of effort into appealing to the so-called prurient interest. As an artist, sex and sexuality in all conceivable forms is what I do. It is my subject. But to put my position in perspective, I have to add that to me, pornographic or prurient art is desirable and good. I think it is the sexual denial and suppression associated with the Puritan ethic that causes rape and sexual violence, not pornography. Pornography is the great diffuser. It's healthy and cleansing. People who repress their sexuality are the perverts as far as I'm concerned. I cater to the sexual animal in all of us. The horny beast exists in everyone, no matter how much it is denied.

C.T.-- Certain works have created a hotbed of controversy. "Woman Crucified," for example.

 RC-- That photograph is like an ink-blot test. Everyone who looks at it sees something different. There's no doubt that the image of a naked woman nailed to a cross is a strong one. That was my intention. Everyone viewing it seems to invest the picture with a large chunk of their own psyche. Some see it as illustrating the plight of women and delivering a strong feminist statement. Others see it as violent and anti-female. Some view it as blasphemous, others as a deeply religious statement.

w002 "Woman Crucified" © 1993 R.C. Hörsch / Eroto~

C.T.-- How do you see it?

RC-- I don't think my feelings are important. I already know how I think. I'm much more interested in what you think. I seek a reaction, any kind of reaction. I'm equally happy when someone hates my work as when they love it because hate is a valid emotion. I'm devastated when someone just glances at a photograph and then walks away unaffected. That means I've failed. I want a reaction, any reaction. The stronger the better.

C.T.-- Why do you suppose people get so bent out of shape, then?

RC-- Hopefully, it's because I'm succeeding as an artist. I like to think that I'm forcing my audience to confront something deep inside themselves. Something that they might consider dark and fetid. Something they want to deny, deny violently.

C.T.-- Describe your work.

RC-- I don't have a particular style. People might look at a stack of my prints and think they came from a dozen different photographers. I like to have each subject suggest its own style and treatment.

C.T.-- Is there anything erotic that you wouldn't photograph?

RC-- Probably not. I think our sexual boundaries are artificial, especially in the human species. I grew up on a farm. From watching the animals, I saw that they would sniff each other regardless of sex or even species. There's also a great deal of licking and checking each other out going on. Their sexualities are seamless. I envy that kind of freedom and try to achieve it in my own life and in my photographs. Sexuality is boundless, or it should be. I think that heterosexuals who deny same sex attraction are lying. The same is true for homosexuals who deny opposite sex attraction. Bisexuals might be the most honest, but even they should examine the relationships they have with their pets and appliances. Essentially, though, I just don't like boundaries. Especially in what I photograph.

 C.T.-- You use a computer to manipulate your photographs. Is that proper for fine art images?

w139 "Morning Dream" © 1998 R.C. Hörsch / Eroto~

RC-- Proper? Who cares about proper. Working with analog film and standard darkroom techniques, I have only about 10% control of the finished product. But with a computer, I have 100% control. This gives me total artistic freedom. What I can imagine I can create. It's manipulation at its finest. I have the capacity to play with reality. To create reality. I like that. C.T.-- How do you perceive yourself as an artist? RC-- I think it was Shaw who said something like 'An artist is someone who pukes his guts out in public and then expects to be applauded for it.' That's a pretty accurate statement. That's me! Except that I jack off.

C.T.-- How do you approach your work?

RC-- Unlike many photographers who strive to depict reality, I strive to create my version of reality. I go to a shoot with a preconceived notion, an idea for an image I want to create, and then I push it into shape. I am the exact opposite of someone who documents, who tries not to impose their own personality and ideas. Honesty doesn't interest me. I couldn't care less if the models were having great sex on the set. All I care about is how it looks in the photograph or film. To get a realistic orgasm I might tell a model to pretend she's constipated.

C.T.-- Where do you find your models?

RC-- All over. Some are friends or lovers of mine. Others are professionals or performers in erotic films. Sometimes I prefer professionals because they generally know how to behave in front of a camera. On the other hand, amateurs can bring a refreshing energy and honesty.

C.T.-- Don't professional models have more perfect bodies?

RC-- Sometimes, but that's not what I'm after. Perfect doesn't interest me that much. One of my models is gorgeous but she has four nipples. Is that wrong? Another model has large, Sofia Loren type features. Everything about her is wrong, somehow distorted. But the combination is utterly captivating. They draw me inside. I can't stop looking at her but I don't quite know why. Those are the types I like to use. The ones who possess haunting, lingering qualities.

w180 "Black Girl" © 1998 R.C. Hörsch / Eroto~

 C.T.-- Some of your critics have called you sexist and chauvinistic. How do you really view women?

RC-- As sex objects, of course. I also think of men as sex objects. Seriously though, the differences between the sexes mean less and less to me as time goes on. I certainly believe in total equality. I don't believe in double standards of any kind. I also don't believe that men are anywhere near the sexist villains portrayed by radical feminists. Sure I like using a woman for my sexual pleasure. But I also like being used.

C.T.-- When did this means of employment begin?

RC-- Around 1968-1969. I started making hard-core sex films simultaneously with doing freelance assignments for the Children's Television Workshop. I'd do a 'Sesame Street' clip by day and porno movies by night.

C.T.-- Name some of the projects you've been involved with.

RC-- Probably the best known is something called "The Erotic Memoirs of a Male Chauvinist Pig." I wrote, produced and directed it. It became a bit of a cult classic but it could never be shown today because it includes pedophillia, bondage, urination and rape, albeit in a comic setting. The censorship laws are too stringent now. When it first came out in 1973, Al Goldstein of Screw Magazine rated the sex in the film as 'disgusting.' I considered it quite a compliment coming from him. It was a satirical, fatalistic, dark comedy more than it was a dirty movie. The main character was floundering between his fourth and fifth marriages. He compared marriage to smoking: something he didn't enjoy but couldn't give up.

C.T.-- Was the film biographical?

RC-- I used to smoke, but I stopped a long time ago. And I've only been married two times. Also, unlike the guy in the film, I've had mostly very good relationships with women. They usually ended because the women were too good for me. At least that's what they usually told me.

C.T.-- Can you explain your current involvement with Candida Royalle's Femme Distribution Company?

RC-- I am writing, producing and directing a series of erotic documentaries entitled "Lovers, An Intimate Portrait." The first film has been out since March and has received really great reviews. It's also selling extremely well. The second film is due out in September. They are a completely new approach to erotic film making combining hot, really lusty sex with candid, penetrating interviews. The main thing is that you really get to know the people you are watching.

w108 "Navel" © 1997 R.C. Hörsch / Eroto~


C.T.-- Candida Royalle is, of course, famous for producing and distributing erotic films made by women for women.

RC-- And I am a man?

C.T.-- Precisely. RC-- Well, referring to my earlier films, Veronica Vera wrote that a male chauvinist pig has invaded the Femme hen house and wondered if I would be tamed or if I would end up sitting around picking feathers out of my teeth. The issue hasn't been fully decided yet. But again, seriously, it is the purpose of the films to communicate sexuality. And maybe to educate. The first film features a very powerful, erotic and consensual rape. The second features forms of consensual dominance and bondage. Both films push the envelope. Both try to go just a little beyond the current boundaries.

C.T.-- Do you hope your art teaches people?

RC-- I hope it makes them feel. If it works, it's priceless. If it doesn't, it's worthless. Hell, maybe I just hope it's art. C.T.-- What's the difference between art and pornography? RC-- I've heard it said that if you shoot in black and white it's art but that if you shoot in color, it's pornography. I do both.

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