The Best Of Taschen's 'Sexy Books'

Taschen's “sexy books” editor selects some favourite images from her years at the cutting edge of upmarket erotica

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Dian Hanson has one hell of a day job. She’s the head of the “sexy books” department of Taschen, the up-market publishing house founded by German entrepreneur Benedikt Taschen in 1980, which is responsible for some of the most exclusive, outrageous and expensive art books ever made (Helmut Newton’s Sumo was first published with a price tag of $15,000 – though you did get a free Philippe Starck book stand). 

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In her division, Hanson has overseen titles like The Big Book of Breasts, Terry Richardson’s Terryworld and the recent My Buddy: World War II Laid Bare.

Taschen’s sexy books are the acceptable face of smut: glossy, beautifully produced volumes by sought-after photographers and artists, that just happen to contain the kind of explicit images that were once upon a time available only under the counter in a brown paper bag.

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Not that this straight-talking American needs the civilising veil of art publishing to feel at ease in her oeuvre: starting out in 1976, Hanson worked for, and in some cases edited, magazines including Big Butt, Juggs and Leg Show before arriving at Taschen in 2001. Given that she’s been looking at erotic pictures for close to four decades now, surely the exercise must have lost some of its lustre. “Never with good images,” Hanson insists. “I’m always curious and excited by a new project. What does get old is bad submissions. I think, ‘Hasn’t he/she seen a Taschen book?’ I can’t believe some of the crap people confidently submit. Where’s the healthy sense of self-doubt?”

Selecting which work will become a Taschen sexy book is an inexact science – “there are no guidelines except the legal ones,” Hanson says – and she and Benedikt Taschen usually decide between them. It helps that she has a good grasp of her boss’s taste: “Likes: happy, shameless women and men exposing themselves seemingly for their own pleasure; colour photography; work done before 1980. Dislikes: artificiality in face, body or pose; artistic pretension; anything that looks forced or painful. I pretty much agree with him on these, so we get along.”

Hanson has selected some of her favourite images from the Taschen sexy books she has overseen, and explains what makes them great; just in case – for some mysterious reason – you can’t see for yourselves.

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"Maybe my all-time favourite photo; I love it so much that when I saw the print’s owner put it up for auction, I implored him to take it down and sell it to me rather than risk losing it to a last-minute bid. I’m looking at it now, here above my desk. Classic composition, mid-century furniture, stunning natural light, that vulnerable curve to her neck and stupifyingly huge, natural breasts. And this was just done by some nameless in-house photographer for a nudie magazine back in 1965.”

 – From The Big Book of Breasts by Dian Hanson

"What’s so great about this photo is not the girl in the road and her dangerous proximity to the big truck, but that tiny little white truck coming the other way. The blur shows it’s in motion, and you just know this is no member of the crew — because there was no crew — but some rough, old desert rat living up in the high desert outside Los Angeles, where those Joshua trees seen in the background grow. He comes around the bend and, ‘What the hell? There’s a half-naked girl in the road.’ I can’t stop wondering what happened next.”

– From The Big Book of Legs by Dian Hanson

“Why is the dog in the bathtub? How does he relate to the serene nude in her fishnets and heels, so sexy from the neck down, and so mumsy above? And why is he grinning so widely? I love a photo that asks questions.”
– From The Big Book of Breasts by Dian Hanson

"An anonymous found photo worthy of a museum. Those trousers! Made of some harsh synthetic, fly gaping, though his penis is nowhere in sight, so you figure the ‘dancer’ opened them and our bachelor was too passive to protest and too shy  to go further. The bills pasted in sweat to her butt just cap it.”
– From The Big Butt Book by Dian Hanson

"In cheap fiction, we often read of breasts entering the room before the woman, but how often does that really happen? With the help of Caren Castro’s Sixties’ torpedo bra and a brick wall, the words come to life. Love her sultry pout, that two-tone vintage car in the background, and the sharp perspective of the wall. So hot and totally clothed.”

–  From The Big Book of Breasts by Dian Hanson

taschen.com

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