There’s nothing like a near death experience to make one throw off the shackles of convention and embrace one’s true self, and the Second World War was that catalyst for a generation of artists. Elmer Batters and Eric Stanton were two such figures liberated by their military experiences; otherwise destined for careers as a commercial photographer or illustrator respectively, they made it out of the war alive and emerged into the new world with a determination to follow their artistic noses, wherever it may lead them.
Photographer Elmer Batters was to become the doyen of foot fetishists everywhere. “The Dean of Leg Art” (possibly the worst ever nickname?) was lauded for his innovative presentation of this particular kink, but the conservative American courts were less impressed by the explicit nature of his photography, labelling it “dangerously perverse” and constantly trying to find grounds to prosecute. For someone who is staunchly anti-feet his work is hard to swallow, but each to his own I suppose. Eric Stanton’s niche, on the other hand, is altogether more palatable. Ever since watching Famke Janssen’s Xenia Onatopp nearly strangling James Bond to death with her thighs in GoldenEye (I’ve always thought that would be among the best ways to be murdered), Stanton was way ahead of his time on the topic of punitive face-sitting. A champion of strong women, his female dominance illustrations showed men getting their just desserts at the mercy of powerful and authoritative women in an age that was still to acknowledge feminism as a movement.
Over 200 original works by the pair are being exhibited together for the first time by TASCHEN Gallery, Los Angeles. Embrace Your Fantasies: Bizarre Life — The Art of Elmer Batters & Eric Stanton is running until 24 May.