What Is Fetish Photography?

Dirk Hooper Photography-http://www.dirkhooper.com/

Fetish photography is a catch-all phrase for a number of different subjects and subject matter that is largely composed of sexual fetishes, fetish fashion, bondage, domination, submission, and the people and community that practice those activities or identify as a member.

Some of the subjects of fetish photography include, but are definitely not limited to, foot fetish, dominatrix, fetish fashion, BDSM, shibari, ass or leg fetish, gender diversity, balloons, furries, amazons, wrestling, pregnancy, giantess, sploshing, and just about anything else you can imagine. Most of these things take on a sexual element, but that’s not necessarily required.

Fetish photography differs from other types of photography because it includes those subjects and characteristics, but often the lines are blurred. Fashion photography, music videos, movies, comics, and advertising have appropriated the look and style of fetish photography to give their work an edge or make it sexier.

It’s much easier to show you what fetish photography is than to try to explain it, so if you’re easily offended or you’re at work, now is the time to tune out.

Fetish photography goes all the way back to the origins of photography itself.

Here is the work of Czech photographer Jacques Biederer from the early 1900s.[1]

So, well over 100 years ago, fetish photography was alive and well.

During the 50s, Irving Klaw produced bondage and domination photos. Among his subjects were fetish icons Bettie Page, Lili St. Cyr, and Tempest Storm.[2]

During the 70s and 80s, Robert Mapplethorpe gained fine art notoriety for his photos of the gay and BDSM communities. His deep involvement with the BDSM community opened doors for him that were not available to photographers who were not trusted (something that still occurs today).[3]

My all-time favorite fetish photographer (and someone who was deeply influential in my own work) is Hemut Newton.[4] Newton loved dominant women, and his fashion photography, initially for French Vogue, eventually found its way into luxurious books, fine-art galleries, and everywhere else you can imagine. Not only was he an amazing fetish photographer, he’s one of the best photographers who ever lived.

After publishing his book White Women in 1976, Time Magazine proclaimed Newton “The King of Kink.”[5]

Fetish photography has exploded over the past thirty years, due to the proliferation of devoted beautifully-produced glossy magazines like Skin TwoMarquis, and Von Gutenberg. Obviously the internet made this work widely available to everyone in the mid-nineties.

Another reason for the proliferation of fetish photography is the stigma surrounding the BDSM and fetish communities have relaxed considerably over time, but particularly in the last five years, largely because of psychology studies that have shown that practicing BDSM can actually be good for you[6] , and the runaway success of 50 Shades of Grey, which is universally reviled by the BDSM community, but introduced kink to moms around the world.

Modern fetish photography has some absolutely amazing photographers who are pushing the limits of the medium.

Here’s the work of Steve Diet Goedde.[7]

Here’s one from Peter W. Czernich.[8]

Japan’s best known photographer Nobuyoshi Araki has a long history of fetish photography, particularly including shibari, or rope bondage.[9]

Lady Gaga recently shot with Araki.

Speaking of bondage photography, I’m a big fan of the work of Victor Lightworship.[10]

There’s no way I could cover all the great fetish photography or all the fetish photographers who are out there right now. Many young photographers are taking the elements of fetish photography and fusing them with digital painting and backgrounds to create a whole different world. The look of fetish photography is always evolving.

What separates fetish photography from other genres can simply be the intent of the photographer.

The above photo is a collaboration between fashion designer Christian Louboutin and filmmaker David Lynch for a fetish collection.[11] While most people would look at that photo and see something mundane, or maybe even ridiculous, the intent behind the work is to provoke a response and be seen as fetish photography.

While the characteristics of most fetish photography are easy to identify, anything that is intended to be seen as fetish photography could also be included under that genre, and what is recognized as fetish photography right now will forever continue to expand, and be appropriated by photography at large.


[1] Vintage S&M Photography by Pornographer Jacques Biederer (NSFW)

[2] The Vintage Erotic World of Irving Klaw

[3] Robert Mapplethorpe: Meet the Famous Photographer of the ’80s

[4] Helmut Newton Foundation | helmut-newton.com

[5] Your ultimate guide to Helmut Newton

[6] 5 Reasons BDSM is Good for Your Health: Break Out the Handcuffs, Girl

[7] Steve Diet Goedde | Gallery

[8] Fetish Photography

[9] NOBUYOSHI ARAKI – Elevating the Obscene

[10] L I G H T W O R S H I P

[11] Christian Louboutin’s Fetish Ballerine

About the Author

Dirk Hooper is an award-winning fetish photographer, professional writer, audiobook narrator, podcasting producer and host, journalist for the fetish community, BDSM mentor, and adult personal branding and marketing consultant for Sexy Networking.

Dirk Hooper won Best Fetish Photographer at the 2017 Fetish Awards in St. Petersburg Florida. As a fine-art fetish photographer, Hooper’s work has been exhibited in England, the Netherlands, Belgium, China and all over the United States.  His work is part of the permanent collections of the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University and the Leather Archives and Museum in Chicago, Illinois. Dirk Hooper’s work has been published in magazines like Skin Two, Von Gutenberg, Fet Erotica and Sinical Magazine.  His work was published in the German hardcover art book “Fetish Fantasies: The Best of International Fetish Photography.” He has done professional photography for bands, books, posters and the adult film industry.  Hooper co-founded the alternative modeling site Toxic Goddess.  He offers his photography services for portraits and commercial projects.

Hooper’s articles have recently been published at Business InsiderInc. MagazineHuffPostSlate MagazineThe Sporting NewsMSN Sport, and Quartz. He has won the Quora Top Writer award for the past two years. He has also been published as a comic writer, a poet, and performed numerous copywriting assignments for professional and private clients. He is currently working on an erotic novel and a non-fiction book about social networking.

Dirk Hooper is the Host and Executive Producer of “The Fetish Show.”  He has also recently launched a new podcast about success and inspiration titled, “The Dirk Side.” Hooper has been podcasting since 2005 and has produced hundreds of hours of shows over several networks. His first audiobook narration was for the Suzanne Steele novel “Glazov.”

Dirk Hooper does journalism for the BDSM and fetish community through The Fetish Show News, FETISHWEEK articles, the Daily Fetish Chronicle and freelance writing.  Hooper’s award-winning website, http://www.DirkHooper.com features a gallery of his work, informational articles and is the home of “FETISHWEEK.”

Hooper’s inspiration for his work is an extension of his interests and experience in the BDSM and fetish community.  He is a BDSM mentor and has helped guide or train both dominants and submissives.

Hooper works as a consultant on personal branding, social networking, SEO, copywriting, design and marketing through his Sexy Networking business at http://SexyNetworking.com.


  1. croppedcutie says:

    Wonderful piece! Thanks for breaking down such a beautiful art medium Dirk!

  2. Thank you! As a lifelong photography enthusiast this article is very helpful.

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