Life & Culture

A Mysterious Series of Amateur S&M Photographs from the 1970s

‘Floral dresses, rope play, in a setting that looks like an air raid shelter’ – Launching December 13, Kane features a mysterious and erotically-charged series by an anonymous photographer

  • TextMiss Rosen

Anna Howard first discovered a single series of amateur S&M photographs made during the 1970s through an American porn dealer while doing research for 77 Broadway Market, the shop she owns with Conor Donlon.

“What spoke to me was the ambiguous power play, and how easily I found myself empathising with each of the different women,” Howard reveals. “They proposed a real visual riddle too; I couldn’t place them – the floral dresses, rope play, in a setting that looks like an air raid shelter.”

Howard showed the photographs, which bore the mysterious name “Kane,” to Emma Capps, her colleague at Donlon Books. “We’d talked for ages about doing some kind of project together, and when we came across this collection of photographs, it suddenly felt like: Oh, this is it,” Capps says.

With Howard’s background as a book designer, Capps’s editorial expertise, and their mutual affinity for rare and esoteric subjects, they have come together as EVA.C. On Thursday, December 13, they will launch Kane, their first book, along with a limited edition print.

The book’s production perfectly complements the content, underscoring the allure of the unknown. “It’s important to us that people access the work through the same lens that we did. We didn’t want to insert any narrative, so for that reason, we kept it simple, unfussy and fast,” Howard explains.

Printed in an edition of 280, the photographs are printed in duotone to underscore the rich, complex nuances of each work, heightening the intensity of the moment. “The photographs are essentially amateur S&M porn, although they contain many strange and beautiful elements that give them a very distinct, peculiar tone,” Capps observes.

“There’s a very unusual dynamic to these pictures; there’s something quite off-kilter about them. Anna and I were both drawn to the central, inscrutable woman who plays the dominant role in these scenes.”

Howard adds, “Her gaze cuts right through you and sometimes makes me think she has a relationship with the photographer or is, in fact, the photographer herself. The pictures don’t feel voyeuristic because they seem staged, not posed. At times, the women’s body language makes it look like they’re rehearsing for a performance, with a camera stationed on a tripod. Ultimately, it’s a question of power, and who wields it.”

That power extends to the publication of the book itself, an eloquent declaration of EVA.C’s aesthetic sensibilities. Capps reveals, “EVA.C is not an overtly politically project, and we’re not intentionally trying to become pornographers – although working with erotic images was and remains an attractive prospect.”

Kane launches at Donlon Books on December 13 and will be available on www.eva-c.com and donlonbooks.com.