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The difference between glamour and erotic photography work is difficult, perhaps impossible, to define. The sensitivities associated with each of these controversial genres are such that the opinions of every viewer of the work, and of those who have not viewed the work, will surely be as many and varied as the commentators themselves. This article, like every previous article on the same subject, is therefore likely to be accepted, partially accepted, debated, partially rejected and totally trashed in equal measure.

The best way to begin, perhaps rather naiively, may be to consider the meaning of the words themselves. "Glamour" is variously defined but is normally attributed two meanings. The first is typically defined as "allure, charm, beauty, attraction, particularly in an unusual, exciting or mildly sexually attractive manner" whereas the second tends towards "fascination, voluptuous beauty, sexually suggestive or mildly pornographic". The two definitions clearly overlap, and the meaning of the word "glamour" must, at least in part, lie within the observer and is consequently determined by culture, attitudes, background, environment and personal experience.

Glamour/eroticNow consider the meaning of the word "erotic". Every dictionary seems to have its own form of words, but the general intention seems to be along the lines of "related to, or tending towards, the arousal of strong sexual love, excitement or desire". Once again there is overlap - this time with the definition, or at least one of the definitions of the word "glamour". However the associations with subtle or overt sexuality are apparently more strongly emphasized by the word "erotic". The relevance of charm and beauty seems also to be somewhat diluted. The conclusion must surely be drawn that no specific or clearly identifiable dividing line exists.

Does this all get us anywhere? Perhaps not, but at least an objective mind should acknowledge the literal meanings of the words before passing judgement or considering the common usage of the words in the modern world. It is one of the many contradictions of the English language that the same word can carry two almost diametrically opposed meanings. To be described as a "glamourous lady" would be regarded by most as a compliment, whereas a "glamour model" would be likely to be regarded rather more harshly.

Unfortunately, photography bears quite a bit of the blame for the less attractive associations of both words - glamour and erotic. The top shelves of newsagents stores feature material that, at best, might only be described as of marginal good taste. Large sections of the general public are surely and justifiably far more disapproving. The words "glamour" and "erotic" have, it seems, almost escaped their literal meanings - or at least been overwhelmed by modern associations and experience.

In conclusion, it seems that there is no clear dividing line between the two genres - there is no specific limit beyond which a glamour image becomes an erotic image. Glamour work may be erotic, and erotic photography may incorporate elements of glamour. However it may be fair to say that, at the extreme and moderate ends of the combined genres, images are respectively more and less overtly sexual in nature. The meanings of the words lie within the observer to a significant extent, and are consequently determined by culture, background, attitudes and personal experience.


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