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The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Mormon Porn: Charles Ellis Johnson's Erotic Stereographs

Mary Campbell, Assistant ProfessorCollege of Arts and Sciences - School of Art

​If you look up the category Producers of Erotic Stereoviews in the standard reference text on stereography, you only find two names: the Climax View Company (New York, 1920s) and Charles Ellis Johnson (Salt Lake City, Utah, 1856-1927). The pairing is an unusual one. One can come up with many descriptions for Charles Ellis Johnson—prominent turn-of-the-century Mormon, Brigham Young’s son-in-law, and one of the Latter Day Saints Church's favorite Temple photographers. Headliner on the shortlist of America’s erotic stereographers, however? It's unexpected, to say the least. As this presentation will show, however, Johnson's stereographs root their salacious thrill in their LDS origins. In Johnson’s pictures of half-dressed odalisques and dancing harem girls, we discover the larger nineteenth-century nation’s shared fantasy of the Mormons. Johnson’s religious affiliation might be surprising, in other words, but it lies at the very heart of his erotic work.

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