Ed van der Elsken
To paraphrase L. P. Hartley: The 1970s is a foreign country: they do things differently there.
The sexual liberation that favored metropolitan areas in the 1960s spread across country during the seventies. Suddenly—or so it seemed—everybody was enjoying the “zipless fuck.” There were guide books offering useful tips on how to have a better sex life. Married couples were swinging. Nudity was celebrated. Porn was ubiquitous. Orgasms compulsory. Yet, it was still very much the male heterosexual eye that influenced everything.
In 1971, a small group of Dutch artists, photographers and graphic designers—Ed van der Elsken, Anna Beeke, Pieter Brattinga, Anthony Beeke, and Geert Kooiman captured this (newish) sexual freedom with a naked human alphabet—published in Avant Garde Magazine No.14: Belles Lettres. The letters were created using naked women—who lay, curled and bent into the appropriate shapes.
But this wasn’t just mere titillation—this artful display of female nudity was a protest “against the supposedly ‘dehumanising’ and thoroughly ‘indecipherable’ mechanistic alphabets.”
The typeface (in case you’re wondering) for these photographs is said to be Baskerville Old Face.
More barenaked letters, after the jump…