Making Lust

Sam Guelimi, founder of Edwarda, an erotic magazine devoted to the art of desire tells us about mystery, philosophy, discretion and expression.

AR — What is your ‘elevator pitch’ about the magazine? Describe Edwarda.

Sam Guelimi — Edwarda is a magazine that combines literature and photography to express the art and imagery of eroticism. This project was born from a desire to question the evolution of eroticism, and to offer artists and readers a space where notions of sensuality could be reinvented. The drive behind Edwarda and its editorial direction comes from two objectives: to give shape, voice and image to desire, and to initiate an aesthetic adventure guided by sensuality and beauty.

How does a 25-year-old woman decide to make an erotic magazine?

Marilyn Monroe once said, “I used to think as I looked out on the Hollywood night—there must be thousands of girls sitting alone like me, dreaming of becoming a movie star. But I'm not going to worry about them. I'm dreaming the hardest.”

How has Edwarda evolved since the first issue launched in 2010?

Edwarda explores the game of desire, touching on everything that stirs the senses and leads to rapture. With each issue, as we find new ways to question the nature of desire, Edwarda evolves into something more exacting. But one requirement has remained since the beginning—never to repeat ourselves.

Is it even ok to call Edwarda an ‘erotic’ magazine?

It is erotic in that it seeks out the same sensuality pursued by writers, photographers and filmmakers in the art they make. I think the story is especially important to eroticism in that it provides the distance needed between seeing and being seen. Sex is currently hyper-visible and the tidal wave of pornography on the web mostly consists of coded images that have lost their potency. They have lost all potential for subversion, showing, if anything, a great lack of desire.

What is the creative process behind an issue of Edwarda?

For each issue, I choose a theme—inebriation, madame, blondes, precision, inevitable, etc. Images then begin to come together in my head (Murnau’s film Aurore and an urban woman; the Japanese film Tales of the Pale and Silvery Moon After the Rain and a winged shadow), along with excerpts from writing, to help me develop a direction. For the last issue— Inevitable—it was Kierkegaard’s Diary of a Seducer, Proust’s The Prisoner, Barbey’s Impossible Love, and Rene Girard’s concept of mimetic desire. At this point, I can begin drafting an editorial that explores various perspectives, for example, l_a femme fatale_, l’homme fatal, an actor forgetting his lines, what is revealed, what is inevitable, etc. This becomes the basis of our search for collaborators who can meet the challenge...

The subjects in the photographs seem like real women, raw and un-photoshopped. Do you think men are attracted to them because they look like the ‘girl next door’?

We seek to create images that will give our readers—and ourselves—shivers. Images that give the kind of sensual and even spiritual pleasures that society’s manufactured sexual products cannot deliver. Disrupting your thoughts, creating new fictional devices and images that inspire fantasies and dreams hint at the bizarre or kidnapping scenarios; all of our images explore the darker side of passions and what we hold most dear, the mysteries of seduction and beauty. They dig beneath the words and images of desire, going beyond the impossibly smooth and plastic bodies we see in advertising. They also compel us to distance ourselves from the standards that society imposes.

There seems to be some debate over the representation of women in erotic magazines and how they are presented as sexual objects. What is your perspective?

Certainly, the female figure in erotic magazines is still represented as an exaggerated seductress, who gives in to her man’s desire, existing solely in this coded environment as an object of pleasure. However, women are not the only ones being viewed as mere objects: the masculine figure is now being used as a symbol and object in marketing and other medias. There is a new masculine ideal that demands to be aspired to and has become the absolute merchandise that Baudrillard predicted. An image that we can rightfully deplore as it signals the triumph of marketing and mass production over the creation of fantasy. From another angle, however, it can also be seen as a parody, a universal virtual figure that will eventually position the female-object, child-object and male-object as part of an online game, flights of fancy in a tender trap.

Why do you think women are speaking up about their sexuality now?

Whether we’re talking about female or male sexuality, I think the most important aspect is securing the freedom to express one’s desires. The magazine features numerous scenarios in which different sensibilities are matched or juxtaposed to express everything from glamour-chic-erotica to trash-erotica, from S&M fetishism to a libertine sexuality, from high fashion to no fashion at all, with great flexibility and plasticity for instinctual tropes. It is this liberty to explore all interpretations of eroticism that fascinate us and help us discover new things about ourselves—that is what guides Edwarda. Everything is erotic: the batting of eyelashes, a woman’s sparkling laugh, a furtive embrace in a parking lot, a smudge of lipstick on the pillow, the sound of high heels tapping on the sidewalk, a husky voice, a veil that whispers of the skin underneath...

On that note, there is a bit of mystery about a young woman who launches an erotic magazine. Do you think mystery adds to the Edwarda ‘effect’?

There is no eroticism without mystery, without a thousand and one secret places. The mysteries of the self, of the beloved that is constantly disappearing into the unknown, subjects that Proust relentlessly addressed, are at the heart of all intense desire. Most pornography, with its overdose of naked bodies and its consumption rationale, do not possess this kind of mystery. As for me—there is no mystery. I have simply chosen to be discreet. My only excess is Edwarda. I am perhaps different from the rest of contemporary society in that I believe that a fantasy must remain a fantasy. My erotic life is in the pages of Edwarda and its stories.

To us, ‘new media’ is more than blogs, Twitter and Facebook. It’s the new ways of working with traditional media, like magazines and books. Guelimi’s venture shows us how a small group of ambitious individuals can target and explore a niche that they love and create something modern and exquisite--offline. It’s very post-digital; using the best tool for each job, whether ancient or hi-tech, for an elegant, interesting and modern end product. — AR

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