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Elmer Batters, courtesy of Taschen
Photography by Elmer Batters, courtesy of Taschen

Elmer Batters and the art of foot fetish

The pioneering photographer who brought the tabboo into the all-American living room

Unless you’re rattling around Instagram as a moderator, nudity in the modern age barely warrants the bat of an eyelid. For a marine in World War II, it was tricky terrain – especially if your sexual penchant was for feet. “I felt that people almost saw me as un-American for not mooning over large mammaries,” fetish iconoclast photographer Elmer Batters once told longtime collaborators Taschen. A marine, Batters was clued up that he was a little kinkier than his counterparts, and upon his discharge he promptly ran down the aisle with a leg model. 

Finding his real interest in photography, Batters tapped into a barely touched market. Though controversial at the time, his imagery would go on to inspire some of the art world's greatest provocateurs, such as Allen Jones and Helmut Newton. A fan of 'larger women', the artist took a certain fancy to the now legendary model Caruschka. "Caruschka was a girl who loved to have men masturbate over her. Yeah, she was a tease but isn't every woman worth a damn?" said Batters when interviewed in Legs That Dance To Elmer's Tune, a 1998 retrospective tome on the photographer.

Holding down the moniker Dean of Leg, Batters's journey wasn’t easy. Dubbed ‘dangerously perverse’ by the legal system, the photographer was arrested for publishing his fetish mags Man’s favorite Pastime and Black Silk Stockings. The offensive subject matter? A foot as opposed to a bare breast (tell that to Instagram). But hindsight is a funny thing, and these days the late photographer is more pioneer than perve. Leading the way for festish photography and breaking down the stigma of sexual impulse, no matter how naughty it was. He brought the fetish out of the dungeon and into the all-American living room (well, some living rooms). His longtime collaborators, Taschen, are still celebrating the renegade almost 20 years after his death. Teaming Batters up with fellow provocateur, the late illustrator Eric Stanton for a show at their L.A. Gallery.

Bizarre Life – The Art of Elmer Batters & Eric Stanton is curated by Dian Hanson and Benedikt Taschen, in collaboration with Richard Perez, and runs until 24 May, 2015. For more information, click here