Review: Petals



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.

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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.

This site has lots to read about labia, vulvas, colour, symmetry, pubic hair, etc.

See a completely different sort of pictures in Lost Girls, an erotic graphic novel (comic book).

From the 2004 Arts & Crafts Issue: Boxing Katrina’s body casts and vulva sculpture, and Dorrie Lane’s Wondrous Vulva Puppets.

From the 2005 Sci-Fi Issue, digitally manipulated vulva portraits by Vaginarts.

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