by Nick Karras
2003. Crystal River Publishing
Petals is a collection of 48 sepia-toned portraits of vulvas by photographer Nick Karras. These photos are more stylized than other books of vulva images, and I think would be less shocking than the full-colour Femalia in some situations. The photographer’s masculinity adds an interesting aspect of collaboration, love and respect between genders that I really appreciate.
Looking at labia is good for you
Karras started photographing “petals” to show a lover the beauty he saw in her labia, when she could not see it herself. His experiences mirror my own interactions with readers on this site: many women are insecure about the appearance of their labia and this can be very emotionally painful, but often a single gesture of affirmation can set our minds at ease, instantly and forever.
One effective way to affirm that a vulva is beautiful is to look at a range of other vulvas. Many women see the variation, find one or two that look similar to their own, and feel better. That’s all it takes. Petals is as useful a resource for this as any other collection of genital images. Many shapes are represented, with perhaps some over-emphasis on shaving and white women.
...but these are also art
Karras photographed his first vulva with different lighting and processes until he could create a portrait that looked beautiful to the model, who was convinced her vulva was ugly— that’s quite a feat. That craftsmanship and style is reflected in all of these photos.
The images are more stylized and simple than other collections I’ve seen. Close-cropped, soft, monochrome pictures are presented in wide, blank margins rather than in the context of thighs, hips, bums, bellies and hair. A few of the photos could pass for abstract forms if they were presented with no explanation.
Petals is easy
I’m currently using Petals as a coffee table book, but it could find a place even in households that don’t maintain 500-page vagina websites. For that reason, I’m happy to add Petals to my list of known non-pornographic genital imagery.
It doesn’t cover everything there is to see about vulvas (colour, for example), but it covers ground that isn’t covered elsewhere. Specifically, it’s about as non-threatening as a collection of genital photos could be, without being bland or evasive.
For a book of full-colour images, see Joani Blank’s Femalia
See also my links to great online images, including various Betty Dodson projects.
See a completely different sort of pictures in Lost Girls, an erotic graphic novel (comic book).
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