Biederer Studio

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A typically elegant image. Note the "B" for Biederer Studio in the corner.
Unusual early photo showing a steel collar, chastity belt, and spreader bar (c. 1930s).
A dominatrix rides a male pony-slave in an elaborate training costume (c. 1930s).
Bondage and martinet whipping (marked "B" in right corner).

The Biederer Studio, a.k.a. Studio Biederer, was one of the main producers of high quality erotic and fetish photography in Paris in the years between the two world wars. Its photographs explored sensational, explicit, and often ironic fantasies that pushed the boundaries of accepted sexuality.

Early years[edit]

In 1908 Jacques Biederer (1887-1942), a Czech immigrant, set up a photography studio in Paris. His brother Charles, who joined him in 1913, helped run the studio. Biederer most probably began as a portrait photographer who later switched to making erotic studies of undraped figures.

His earliest known photographs were fashionable, tastefully posed nudes inspired by classical art. Over time his compositions became more contemporary. He began to shoot outdoors, creating photo-sets that told a simple story, such as a romantic couple cavorting in a park.

At first, Biederer signed his photographs. When he began specializing in more risque subjects, he marked some with his initials J.B. or just "B" beneath an accent mark, and then stopped signing them altogether. Scores of unmarked images have been identified by the repeated use of the same models, costumes, props, furnishings and set decorations.

Style and content[edit]

In the 1920s and '30s, Biederer Studio became well-known for producing sleek, sophisticated photos of erotic nudes and daring fetishistic images depicting bondage, whipping, and spanking. These compositions made effective use of specialized clothing and accessories such as leather and rubber corsets, high-heel boots, leather opera gloves, shackles, chains, chastity belts, and even a metal spreader bar (perhaps the first to be photographed).

Most of the BDSM-themed photographs involve either all-female (F/F) spanking scenarios or a dominatrix humiliating and whipping one or two female slaves. Biederer also made Maledom images (men punishing women) and Femdom photos, some of which feature men being used as pony play slaves.

Ostra Studio[edit]

Sometime in the 1930s a subdivision called Ostra Studio was created. This line of photographs was intended for publication in erotic books, catalogs, and self-published "Editions Ostra" of photo-sets based on a theme. A few of these photos are marked "Ostra", others have a question mark inside an inverted triangle symbol. Most are unmarked, which has created difficulties in separating the work of one division from the other.

The Ostra pictures encompass a broader range of subjects, including fantasy, romance, history, and humor. Unlike the studio-bound Biederer pictures, many of these are taken outdoors. These range from mildly suggestive images of romantic couples on a picnic to more risque, and sometimes humorous, displays of nudity, implied lesbianism, and playful spanking. One series with a historical theme shows a Napoleonic soldier confronting two women and then spanking them. Ostra produced an extensive series of nudes in semi-classical poses and elegant images of corporal punishment erotica that blends into the similar line made under the Biederer Studio name.

Biederer worked for other companies as well. He created photographs for Yva Richard's La Lingerie Moderne mail-order catalog of lingerie and bondage accouterments. Many of these photos bear Ostra's triangle-and-question-mark logo.

The studio also produced some of the earliest known 8mm (non-pornographic) stag reels depicting erotic F/F spanking and whipping scenarios. A few of these brief, silent reels have survived to the present day (see the Ostra Studio page for details).

Demise and legacy[edit]

During World War II, the harsh conditions under German occupation put an end to the erotica industry in France from 1940 to 1944. As the Biederer brothers were of Jewish descent, they were seized by the Nazis and deported to the concentration camp at Auschwitz where they perished.

The legacy of the Biederer Studio lives on in the hundreds of photos that are now widely available on the Internet and the influence they've had on the early development of fetish fashion, art and photography. Jacques Biederer broke new ground and set the standard for later artists such as Charles Guyette, John Willie and Irving Klaw who followed in his footsteps.

Books and films[edit]

There is a book about the Biederer Studio entitled Les Éditions Ostra: L'âge d'Or du Fétichisme (2007) by Alexandre Dupouy. (Astarté: Paris) ISBN 9782909607191. This is a companion piece to Dupouy's book about Yva Richard.

Biederer's work is also well represented in the photobook Jeux de Dames Cruelles 1850-1960 by Serge Nazarieff (Benedikt Taschen Verlag: 1992).

The historical drama Quartet (1981), set in Paris in 1927, shows a fetish photographer at work, most likely inspired by Biederer. A nude model wearing only a maid's apron poses with a martinet, about to whip her mistress. This can be seen on YouTube starting here and concluding in the next part.


See also[edit]