In another life I got into trouble with my family for asserting that the images of a tiny puppy being cosseted by a hairy-armed man over the course of one last night were erotic.
In my family, you don’t assert things like this unless you have backup. Backup needs to be in a form they understand, preferably based on the Greek, or Heidegger, or some school of thought known only to the Ivy League. My theory was based on my feeling about the images. I felt they were erotic. I wish I had read the American writer Audre Lorde’s “The Uses of the Erotic” before I tried to take on my entire family of unbelievers. It doesn’t fit the situation precisely, but it might have at least given me a little room before they started tilting their heads. In Lorde’s view, “erotic” doesn’t equate to “porn” as it does elsewhere.
I now have what I think might be a better candidate in this category. And I think maybe if I had just said “kind of sexy” and not involved the word “erotic” which nobody, not even the Ivy League apparently, understands, they might not have yelled at me. Herewith, another set of young hairy masculine arms, and a teeny wittle adorable animal:
This is taken from the Instagram feed of one Benjamin Hole, who farms, takes pictures and coddles lambs on his family farm in the Isle of Purbeck which, in that unfathomable British way, is not an island at all but a section of Devon on the southwest coast of England. The entire Hole family seems to know their way around a camera. ( To make the situation even more seductive, at least to me, they’re about to start producing their own yarn, about which you can learn more here: http://www.holeandsons.com.) I’m in love, head over heels.
But back to the hairy arms and the lamb.
Hole’s pictures are without exception exceptional. They’re well-composed, romantic (another problematic word), technically perfect. In other words he probably had an artistic reason for the appealing juxtaposition of strong hairy arms with vulnerable newborn lamb. No human face competes with the sweet face of the baby animal. And the baby is being protected, a feeling we can all relate to. (That feeling is why so many women, back in the puppycam days, used to say “I wish I were an SFShiba puppy.”)
In this picture there’s such an unobstructed line between the object and the viewer, or, put another way, between the seducer and the seduced. I don’t know Benjamin Hole except through his photographs, but the person I imagine when I look at them is a person who has the confidence and generosity to share with everybody, not just a chosen few, the way his days go. His animals, the sky, the tractors and the land, the barns, the wildlife. No strings attached.
It’s such a powerful approach, leaving the one who’s looking free to make of it what she wants.