The Real Girls of Nuts – A Review of the Photography of Devonstar12

It hardly comes as a surprise that the photographs found on the Real Girls gallery of the Nuts website should focus predominantly on the body. The homepage alone has links to ‘hottest real girls’ and ‘bedroom babe winners’ – to ‘girls,’ ‘cover girls,’ ‘girl videos,’ ‘TV stars in bras’ and an invitation to ‘assess my breasts.’ [1] As one of Britain’s leading lads’ mag it makes no pretense that its images will be anything other than a “male fantasy,” and even in its most liberal terms it would be difficult to call these photographs art. However, just because these saucy snaps are less Man Ray than Lucy Pinder does not mean they are uninteresting. Perhaps the vast majority who view them are more concerned with the “lovely pert boobs”[2] (to quote one satisfied commenter) than how these photographs fit into a visual narrative of ‘sexing the body’ however that is no reason to dismiss this genre of photography. True, the girls who choose to post their own seductive self portraits would probably prefer a shot that showcased their sexuality than one that followed any particular artistic conventions; it is nonetheless interesting when reading these images that such conventions are often still applied.

And so we are introduced to Devonstar12; according to her profile she loves her job, friends and family, she also has an apparent penchant for basques and suspenders. Her photographs, like many on the Real Girls gallery, are captured using a camera-phone and a mirror and, in the spirit of the website that hosted the “Big Boob Bonanza,” they focus primarily on her breasts and buttocks. It would be easy to dismiss these images as simply lowbrow and low quality; a product of the insatiable rise of the internet and the ever expanding technologies of photography which allow anyone and seemingly everyone to get their image in the public domain. But that would be a little too dismissive. These images are self portraits, self portraits are an intrinsic means of self expressions – and whose right is it to belittle something so personal, even if it has been made public?

   Jan Avgikos identified the “implicit aggression of the photographic act.” [3] To take a self portrait is, crudely put, to “shoot yourself” and this processes of aiming and shooting –expressed in masculine hunting terms – becomes almost masochistic when turned on the self, particularly when that self is a nude (or nearly nude) woman. For Devonstar12, the focus of her aim is her own body. Her images adhere to what some would describe as a patriarchal discourse of the feminine form. Her poses are designed to emphasis her curves, rounding the buttocks and cinching in the waist – accentuating the bosom into an ideal type. But the composition does more than favour the body, more interestingly it denies the face. The iconography of the faceless female in erotic photography is not uncommon. Edward Weston very deliberately ‘beheaded’ many of his nudes cutting from his photographs the women’s “threatening gaze” and in doing so heightening the voyeuristic pleasure of the image – to look upon a woman in secret without her knowing or looking back. [4] In Devonstar12’s photography a similar trend can be seen.

   In one shot the positioning of the camera reflected into the image blocks out her eyes creating a black band that cuts across her face. This in itself already has connotations of bondage, of the innocent blindfolded woman, passive and submissive in the sex act and yet dressed in a deliberately alluring way. But the masked eyes do more than tease the libido, Devonstar12 has made an active decision to remove her own gaze from the image. In doing so she invites others to look upon her without having to face her. In a way this could be seen as a depersonalisation of the body, maybe a way for Devonstar12 to distance her “self” from her portrait, but if this were true surely it would be a consistent trend, however there are a handful of shots throughout her galley that she has not beheaded. This suggests that the ‘blinding’ of her images was indeed a deliberate compositional decision, a pseudo-masochistic defacement (quite literally) perhaps of her own identity. There are some who would argue that this is self mutilation – that the very genre of the image has grown out a of social manipulation that has warped the ideals of women like Devonstar12 into endorsing “this exploitative and degrading business.” [5] It is a debate that could fill many pages and still never be answered. Undoubtedly her portraits signify a provocative penetration of her own space, but whether she is the victim of social exploitation, or is simply reveling in her freedom to be an exhibitionist should not interfere with a visual critique of her photography. If a man’s last moments as he plunges from the 9/11 terror attacks or a half dead child being stalked by a vulture can, and have been, critiqued on their aesthetic merits independent of the moral or ethical debates then so can the snapshots of an aspiring glamour model.

In terms of these aesthetics, at first glance the quality of the photography is poor. Her framing is irregular and her focus sometimes hazy, however this helps her to capture a realism that is only complimented by the disorder of her composition. In one image the background is cluttered with drying laundry and a television still playing – mundane household items. Some might argue that these items are creative tools, that they form a commentary on the beauty or sensuality in the banal. But their real interest in the context of eroticism is in what they are not; they are not ‘natural.’ They break with the traditional discourse of nudity in ‘art’ which often uses nature to justify and counterbalance the naked form. Jan Avgikos identified this desire (particularly by women photographers) to decontaminate female sexuality, to in a sense purify sex through nature.[6] It is interesting then that in her own self portraits Devonstar12 chooses to place herself so obviously in the ‘real’ world, surrounded by such dampeningly unerotic items. The lighting is hardly sultry and while the poses – haunched on all fours with her rear proffered or spreading her legs to tense the clasps of suspenders – have all the typical erotic connotations of Harrison Marks’ glamour photography, there is something about the harsh artificial light that makes them too real. The subject is not a moist skinned, sepia toned Venus but a genuine woman, in a genuine living room making genuinely sexual poses in front of her real life still–to-iron laundry.

   And yet by the very nature of the forum in which she exhibits her photographs it is a paradoxical realism, an almost ironic realism in which the photographs becomes more real than the woman they are of. The very fact that she is so real is what makes her such a wholly sexual idea; she is simultaneously attainable and unattainable. She is normal, she has a life in that living room, she does regular things like washing and watching the telly, but in a reversal of norms it is these things that are kept hidden from her online audience and the sexualised ‘version’ of her is the one that is publicised.

The very notion of an online profile relies on the dualism of the real life person and the online persona and for the ‘friends’ of Devonstar12 the image in a sense becomes a metonymy for the person as a whole. To them she will never be anything more than a “rocking hot body”[7] to look at, but it is a body they have clearly invested time in, many of the commenters make reference to her new pictures or their own favourites, they are clearly regular followers. They have made a photograph of a stranger become a part of their lives, in a sense they have befriended a “character” from an image. From this point of view the ‘sexed body’ becomes something independent of the person it belongs to. Devonstar12 might not be considered an artist but she has created something more than just a few quick snaps in her bedroom mirror she has developed a whole persona. The images might not be original, they are not even particularly polished but, to her ‘friends’ on the Real Girls gallery at least, they are something worth subscribing to.


[1] Nuts http://www.nuts.co.uk/

[2] Nuts commenter jackhayter91, http://www.nuts.co.uk/mynuts/devonstar12/photos/4ef3522911227493036087/album/4ef35227eb7a3350035446

[3] Jan Avgikos, Cindy Sherman Burning Down The House, in The Photography Reader edited by Liz Wells (London: Routledge, 2003) pp 338 – 342

[4] Roberta McGrath, Re-reading Edward Weston, Feminism, Photography And Psychoanalysis in The Photography Reader edited by Liz Wells (London: Routledge, 2003) pp 327 – 337

[5] Daily Mail, Women Blame Lads’ Mags For Sexual Exploitation – Yet Are They Just As Guilty? (September 2007) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-481677/Women-blame-lads-mags-sexual-exploitation–just-guilty.html

[6] Jan Avgikos, Cindy Sherman Burning Down The House, in The Photography Reader edited by Liz Wells (London: Routledge, 2003) pp 338 – 342

[7] Nuts commenter ShaneW20, http://www.nuts.co.uk/mynuts/devonstar12/photos/4ef35229ebb28871282720/album/4ef35227eb7a3350035446

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9 Responses to “The Real Girls of Nuts – A Review of the Photography of Devonstar12”

  1. Yoke-Sum Wong Says:

    Sarah, you will like http://www.digitalgirly.com/
    Natascha Merritt.

  2. This was a really interesting take on the female nude, you raised some points which I didn’t expect (like the laundry in the background of her portraits and the position of the mobile phone linking to bondage

  3. This was a really interesting take on the female nude. You raised some really good points which I didn’t expect, like the laundry in the background of her portraits and the position of the mobile phone representing bondage. The phone also reminded me of the ‘CENSORED’ strips you sometimes see across photographs too.

  4. sarahamy14 Says:

    Ooh that CENSORED thing is a really good point I hadn’t though of at all … I like that a lot. There were some other snaps that she had ‘censored’ in a way – in the bath, typical “conveniently placed bubbles stuff” could be fun to have a look at the connotations of all these things …

  5. sarahamy14 Says:

    Also, thanks for the link Yoke-sum looks very interesting – Its a shame its not released before our projects are due, but I’ll definitly hunt it down when it’s out.

    • I had her first book and it was ‘revelatory’ in all sense of the word when it first came out because of what you could do with the digital camera. I say ‘had’ — wish I kept it.

  6. A very Intresting point of view on my photos, enjoyed reading it and agree with your outlook x

    • sarahamy14 Says:

      Thanks for commenting Devon! It’s really great to hear from the photographer herself, I’m pleased that you agree with me – is there anything else you’d like to add about your photos? 🙂

  7. Have many more photos on twitter now @devonstar12

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