Signs of our time

Signs of our time

Each era brings with it a certain spirit of the times. The 70s were characterized by the spirit of the hippie movement. Love, Peace and Happiness. In the 80s, computers made their first appearances in everyday life and music, and the economic boom shaped a decade. And where are we today?


For me, the current zeitgeist is characterized by one thing above all: confusion. We are actually a very enlightened society. We know almost everything about biological processes in nutrition, medicine and sexuality. And yet Germany is becoming more and more stuffy and uptight over the past years.

We live in times of confusion.

Female nudity has become a taboo subject again. At the same time, many women no longer wear bras. By taking off their bras they want to meet men at eye level. That, too, confuses me.

The prudish mentality from the American corporation Meta (Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp) has subtly cemented itself in people's minds via social media after more than a decade. Nipples are banned again and have to be censored. Nevertheless, many girls loll around in tight clothes and sometimes obscene poses on Instagram and vie for likes.

Censorship has become a big issue again, though. Unfortunately, it regularly happens that Google's Gmail pushes emails I write to customers into their spam folder. Just because words like "Playboy" or "Nudes" appear in the email (those are business terms in my job).

Even though we live in a free democracy, sometimes it seems opinions are only free as long as they conform to the mainstream. And anyone who expresses critic is quickly seen as a waffler (or alternatively as an old white man). A vicious circle.

A new prudery

In our society, one can also observe a retreat to very conservative sexual ideas, a new prudery. There is now a morality subtly dictated from above which actually is a contradiction for a free and self-determined society.

The danger of a prudish society is the loss of liveliness and it is usually accompanied by a depressive mood.

Mag. Astrid Pfneisl, sex therapist

Sometimes I wish the 80s back. A decade without cell phones, without constant accessibility and — I'm certainly romanticizing it a bit too much — a very free time. But not everything was better back then. I definitely don't want a return of the unnecessarily male-dominated society and stupid role models which also define the 1980s.

But today's counterpart of the woken society also gets on my nerves sometimes. It's no longer the majority that decides in our democracy, but those who shout the loudest.

Here I miss tolerance, especially from the people who claim to determine the new values.

For example, when white people are accused for wearing dreadlocks, it definitely is going a step too far in my opinion. Cultural appropriation is an accusation that I find downright ridiculous.

Also gender speech is not automatically making sense to me, it raises many questions and not all of it is an enrichment for our culture.

Just to avoid misunderstandings: I am pro equal rights!

But when new gender rules mean that a human can identify e.g. as a cat — sorry! — I am missing the joke, I have to admit.

What does all this have to do with photography?

Unfortunately, a lot. Because as part of society, I observe very closely how the way we live together is changing.

It is necessary for me to understand the zeitgeist and to see what's commercially working in terms of visuals and what is outdated.

I also get a clear sense of the present mood of our society in conversations about my work.

I know only too well the superficiality and the quick labeling, downright pigeonholing. Judgments are made about nude photography without even getting to grips with the genre.

For example, people have an opinion about Playboy and say it loud even though they have never actually browsed through the magazine.

It especially annoys me when my work is casually titled as wank templates. And I often get stampeded and feel prejudice about my work (in the year 2022 still).

Yet, I would even call myself a feminist (different than the radical ones, obviously).

And to make matters worse, people often act in anticipatory obedience. More than once, I have not been granted permission to photograph e.g. in an event location. What should other customers think if nudes have been taken in the same location?

And it's not only that: Also, it has become very difficult to find models who are willing to take their time to create photo stories other than for social media. Commitment and dedication have, unfortunately, greatly diminished in our current era.

Approaching women on the street who I find potentially suitable for my works has also become impossible since even complimenting a female for their looks is labeled as cat calling today. Other misbehaving men (and criminal men) are to blame for this development, of course. Still, it's a change in our society that had influence on me as a nude photographer.

Is this the free society we want to live in? Live and let live was once considered a credo.

Take it easy

From my observations, I can say that the older generation is the coolest. Cooler than the young people. When I talk to old people (and this includes elderly women), they are mostly not uptight at all, they take everything easier and more relaxed. Please, dear twens and thirty-somethings, take an example from the cool old people!