Jean-Daniel Cadinot: The Visionary Pornographer and Artist

Warning: This article may contain content intended for mature audiences and may not be suitable for individuals under the age of 18. Viewer discretion is advised.

By Răzvan Ion

In the era before widespread internet access, acquiring Jean-Daniel Cadinot’s gay porn movies was akin to unearthing a rare gem. Unlike the readily available and often crude tapes of the time, Cadinot’s work offered a distinct experience – one that transcended the boundaries of typical pornography and ventured into the realm of art. Most of the people were exchanging them. The almost impossible to find to exchange were the ones of Cadinot’s movies because nobody wanted to exchange them. Those were the ones to keep. 

Jean-Daniel Cadinot (1944-2008) was different. Every time where watched these movies was like I discovered other details, other angles, nothing was the same. Extremely porn, but with a topic. Always was a topic. And the way he was filming reminded me of the artistic movies. His skills as a former photographer showed in the celluloid. What set Cadinot apart was his ability to infuse his films with a sense of artistry reminiscent of mainstream cinema. His scenes unfolded like surreal tableaus, underscored by a haunting soundtrack and vintage aesthetics.

Cadinot had mainly non-professional models that he sometimes met randomly. Jean-Daniel Cadinot deals with particularly exciting subjects, ones which are dear to him. From the communal baths, through the kitchen, the infirmary, the sinks and the dormitories at nap time, Cadinot’s camera, as light as a breeze, rolls up the shorts and reveals a world of special friendships that we knew, or would liked to have known. Their candour, tenderness and perversity disturb the adults who surround them: the gardener, the cook, the nurse, and perhaps also the reverend father. The sex scenes are so natural. The actors have such angelic, flowing features.  It’s a kind of sensual, romantic sex, with the main (and true) sexual organ being the skin and not just the genitals. All the scenes are like an ethereal surreal orgy, which together with the soundtrack and the old photography make them pornographic masterpieces.

The  French director of emblematic pornographic gay films, producer, and photographer played a significant role in the LGBT+ rights movement. His images, created between 1973 and 1980, offer a glimpse into a period when his work challenged societal norms and discriminatory laws surrounding sexuality. Cadinot’s career began in photography, capturing portraits of prominent musicians like Patrick Juvet. However, his later endeavours ventured into filmmaking, where he translated “gay fantasies” into narratives exploring themes of desire, pleasure, and liberation. These films often depicted settings like leisure camps and adventurous trips, pushing the boundaries of the time. 

The best photographic and film works of Cadinot’s were before the emergence of the AIDS crisis, which significantly impacted his later work and filmmaking career. He challenged societal norms and discriminatory laws surrounding sexuality. By publishing the book on Cadinot’s photography, the Hors Champs Editions not only celebrates his artistic talent but also acknowledges his contributions to the ongoing fight for LGBT+ rights and self-acceptance. 

The recent publication of “Sous l’objectif de/Under the lens of Cadinot” by Hors Champs Editions celebrates Cadinot’s multifaceted artistry. The book features his captivating photographs alongside essays that delve into his life and work. It also coincides with the exhibition of his work at the Au Bonheur du Jour Gallery (until the 20th of April) and the now-closed show at the LGBT+ Center in Paris marking the publishing of the book. A kind of Cadinot festival in Paris.

Unavoidable for some, cult for others, the cinematographic and photographic work of Jean-Daniel Cadinot will have left its mark on gay imagery, in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. In an age of repression and censorship, he dared to dream of a world where love knows no boundaries.

“Sous l’objectif de/Under the lens of Cadinot”, the artistic photography of Jean-Daniel Cadinot with essays by —- was published on the 5th of March at Hors Champs Editions together with a limited edition of a postcard pack of 6. You can order the book directly from the publisher or your local library.

Răzvan Ion is the founder of GAY45. A professor of curatorial studies and critical thinking in Vienna, he is passionate about comic books, technology, the stock market, art, alternative indie music, movies, literature, drag queen shows, and artificial intelligence.

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