When Quite Delightful hosted a giveaway for the first issue of their magazine I was thrilled to find out I had won. Quite Delightful had caught my interest for quite some time; as a newly formed magazine that pitches itself as ‘solely by women, for women’ I was eager to see the results of this ambitious luxury mag.
The version I was sent came with issue one of Quite Delightful, A Photographic Monograph of Stoya, a Photographic Monograph of Nettie Harris, a journal written of confessions titled ‘I Confess’, and a postcard giftpack of self-portrait photography taken by the editor, Katherine Wood. I also got a little thank you postcard for entering the competition, which was a very thoughtful touch.
So in honour of the launch of Quite Delightful (and my winning the first issue) here are some of my thoughts on this stunning magazine.
My initial impression of Quite Delightful was awe.
The attention to detail and level of care that has gone into this magazine is beyond belief and blew my already high expectations out of the water. Each item I had received had its own, perfectly executed, design choices, each one had clearly had great care taken to its detailing and each one was utterly impeccable.
From the moment I unboxed my prize there was no mistaking Quite Delightful as anything else but luxurious. And, while each item I received had been fashioned to have its own unique aesthetic, the items still managed to work as a set—complementing each other flawlessly.
There is so much that can be said about the presentation choices of Quite Delightful—from the various paper choices and how they seem painstakingly tailored to suit their role, to the photograph delicately inserted on the front of otherwise beautifully plain ‘I Confess’ cover, right down to the exposed, intricately detailed spine of the magazine—and I could honestly blather on about them for an eternity but, instead, just trust what I’ve said so far and believe me when I say that they’re fantastic.
Quite Delightful achieves the sort of quality and aesthetic appeal of something that I would expect to find in a contemporary art gallery and I applaud it for doing so.
But what about the content?
Well, as I received multiple items I feel it’s only right that I address each one individually. So here goes:
‘I Confess’ was the first item that I chose to thumb through in any detail. This intimate little journal contains erotic confessions from each member of Quite Delightful’s core team. The challenge presented to the core team was to describe their ‘most shocking’ sexual confession and the aim was to present an accompanying publication to the comparatively hefty (2.5Kg) Quite Delightful mag. Each of the confessions involved is meant act as a pleasurable rendezvous while tucked up in bed at night—easy to read and keen to arouse.
I chose to read ‘I Confess’ first because I felt it would give me an insight into the Quite Delightful team, which would then compliment my reading of the main magazine. I was right in this respect.
When I did eventually get to reading the actual magazine I found myself matching up authors to confessionals and a little smile would cross my face. It made the magazine as a whole feel much more accessible—as I had already experienced the personality of the writers through reading what they considered to be their most shocking sexual encounters. So, in this way, ‘I Confess’ was a very effective accompaniment.
The stories, on the other hand, were a mixed bag for me.
Don’t get me wrong, each and every confession was beautifully written; they really draw you in to the encounter at hand. However, some of the stories contained content that just wasn’t to my tastes.
There is nothing wrong with this and, indeed, it should probably be expected when five different authors are involved (especially when they’re all tackling ‘shocking’ content), but at times it did feel like I had one story draw me in only for the next to promptly banish any arousal that might have been occurring.
My partner had a similar experience and (as if to prove my point) we both chose different stories as our most and least favourite.
As a result I’d be happy to say that ‘I Confess’ is a diverse conglomeration of confessions—some of which will most likely appeal to you while other may not, based upon what you personally find to be arousing.
(For the record my favourite confession was ‘The Zipless Fuck’ by Janey Ballantyne).
The Nettie Harris Monograph*
The front cover of this monograph says it all—total, unwavering allure—that’s what you get from this monograph. The photographs were taken by Mikey McMichaels and he does a great job capturing the emotions behind each shot, giving a rich and substantial feeling to each piece. In an interview at the back of Quite Delightful McMichaels says he is interested in breaking down barriers and creating a ‘barrierless’ effect, and this is defientely the impression I got with his photographs.
The bold gaze and elegant poise of Nettie Harris complements this beautifully, and I found myself simultaneously hypnotised by her gaze and drawn in by her thick, inviting lips. Magnificent.
However, I have to say that my favourite shots of the beautiful Nettie are when she is smiling or laughing. These photographs are just so disarming that they can’t help but to invite you to smile along with her. This is the moment when the barrier is truly broken.
Overall I adore this monograph and find myself drawn in every time I pick it up.
*While this monograph is officially titled the Mikey McMichaels Monograph it felt weird to me to have one monograph names after the model and the other the photographer, so I chose to use the model’s name for the monograph title, so bring some order to my crazy way of thinking.
The Stoya Monograph
In Quite Delightful there is a very well-written article which explores the success of Stoya (among other things). If that article serves to write of Stoya’s success, this monograph acts to explain it, and to demonstrate it in the clearest of terms.
One of the very first images you are met with is a portrait of Stoya, looking at the reader with undeniable confidence, a soft but knowing smile on her face. Stoya is a success story—a confident, sexual woman, who won’t shy away from her success or sexuality—and looking at that shot you know it and you know she knows it too.
The photos that follow (all of which are taken by Splice Pictures) are not as appealing to me as the ones of Nettie Harris, but they are still well executed and allow their refined eroticism to shine through.
Splice’s photos of Stoya are sensual and effective—allowing Stoya’s force of presence to shine through—and I get the impression that this monograph will be a big hit in its own right.
Postcard Giftpack: Katherine Jane Wood
With twelve postcards, this giftpack features self-portraits taken by the magazine’s editor, Katherine Jane Woods.
Each of these postcards bring their own unique eroticism to the viewer’s attention and there are several that I really adore.
This giftpack is something that I could present to a friend or use as postcards but, to be honest, they’re so beautiful that I will be keeping them all to myself!
Quite Delightful Issue One (Quite Frankly)
And, finally, we’re at the main event—the exquisite first issue of this promising new magazine. If I were to praise every individual thing I loved about this magazine (and, believe me, there’s a lot to love) I would be typing for a very long time. So, instead, I have chosen to talk about a few of my personal highlights, and then to touch upon one or two things I wasn’t keen on and leave it at that.
But let me just say that the overall design of this magazine is, to me, flawless. So, even if I disliked some of the content, I would still happily display this magazine on coffee table and to invite others to flick through its tantalizing pages.
Women & Erotica: Text & Photography by Katherine Wood
Written by the editor this article manages to perfectly outline her vision for Quite Delightful by asking some seemingly simple questions: Why aren’t there any ’top shelf’ magazines out there created by women, for women? Why is seemingly no one creating high quality erotic magazines? And why, in a time when erotic literature has opened the doors to female sexuality ever-wider, are both of these things still the case?
Katherine Wood positions Quite Delightful as the magazine to fill the void that these questions have so far produced, and does so in an intelligent and informed manner. This article easily frames the rest of the magazine, and presentments Quite Delightful as a fearless, sensual, and evocative erotic magazine which produces content of substance and depth, and draws the reader in with its rich material.
This is the experience I had with Quite Frankly, and it is perhaps why I love this opening article so much. Katherine Wood’s words expertly prime you for the experience up ahead.
Quite Frankly is not a shallow top shelf mag. It is not a way to look at superficial eye-candy. It’s simply not.
Instead through a mixture of articles, interviews, and expertly executed photo essays Quite Frankly prompts you to engage with the erotic instead of just view it; to explore eroticism and your own sensuality in a manner that I can confidently describe as the antithesis of superficiality.
It’s an eloquent read that sets you up for what’s to come and, quite frankly, I adore it.
Splice Pictures: Ethereal, Modelled by Miss Jennette
In the opening to this photo essay Splice sets his work up as an exploration of intimacy—in which the reader becomes a voyeuristic presence, intruding on people’s lives, forced to experience the moment captured in the shot. Splice also expresses an interest in conveying suburban interiors and the isolation that is encountered in such intimate settings.
All of this instantly got me thinking of the art of Edward Hopper—whose works often confront viewers with a painstakingly isolated and lonesome rendition of everyday life.
So, when I turned the page to unveil the first photograph, I was both happy and intrigued to see that my speculations were somewhat confirmed (at least to my mind).
However, much more than just an excuse to exercise my trivia of Art History, Spice’s shots provide a stunning exploration into the personal space that he has arranged and invited us into. Miss Jennette is utterly gorgeous and the presence that she brings in each photo is impeccable.
A range of expressions and poses are shown, and not a single one disappoints. And (of course) my favourite photo involves a big, expressive smile.
Mikey McMichaels: Turn Down For What? Modelled by Desalle
Quite Delightful is quickly making me into a Mikey McMichaels enthusiast—as both his monograph of Nettie Harris and this photo essay have left me completely enamoured with his style and the models that he has collaborated with.
In this particular essay McMichaels explores emotional contrast and executes it expertly through his photography.
First we are treated to shots of Desalle in black and white; the background is very bright, causing soft edges and a generally delicate feeling. Desalle also mirrors this in her expression and the gentle placement of her hands.
This is then contrasted with powerfully colourful pieces (showcasing the wonderful colour of Desalle’s hair). The background is black and the focus is on Desalle’s face and the exploration of three different expressions. It’s brilliant, visually striking, and straight to the point. Very fitting for a magazine that values a fearless manifestation of erotica.
An Interview with Nettie Harris: Photography by George Pitts
While I adored the monograph involving Nettie, I have to admit that I hadn’t heard of her beforehand, so I was pretty excited to learn more through this interview.
What I discovered was an open, honest, and very caring woman who was willing to talk about a broad range of topics—including her relationship with the camera (and the photographer behind it), her willingness to invest time in perfect strangers in order to help them in life, her feelings about erotica, her relationship with religion, and what she has planned for the future.
I found myself smiling fondly on more than one occasion and, with some answers, I was left deeply touched. Nettie is an extraordinary person but is also incredibly thoughtful and down-to-earth.
Overall it was a really enjoyable read into some of Nettie’s attitudes and worldviews and I’m so happy that it met my expectations.
Sisterhood of the Bush: Text & Photography by Katherine Wood
One of the things that I really admire when looking through the pages of Quite Frankly is that models had differing degrees of pubic hair. Some are completely shaven, some au naturel, and some sport varying styles in between. As someone who happily maintains an au naturel look I admired this variation, wondering why it is that so few images seem comfortable in embracing the bush nowadays.
Thankfully I’m not alone in my musings.
Enter Katherine Wood with another brilliantly insightful exploration of public hair and the way it had been perceived in different cultures over the years.
I’m overjoyed that this topic is being covered at all, but don’t take that as a bias. The bottom line is that Katherine Wood manages to address the issue of pubic hair in a relatable and intelligent way which makes for an enjoyable read.
Her conclusion, too, is brilliant and I don’t think I could have thought of a better way to end the discussion myself.
Sadly there were some things that I was less enthusiastic about in Quite Frankly (though they were few and far between).
The first was an article by Rebecca Milford titled ‘What Do Women Want’. This article tackled the premise that women are more predisposed to infidelity while simultaneously being better at emotionally detaching themselves from the act. It pitched this notion with the addition that men should not only come to terms with this propensity to infidelity but that they should also expect it to happen, because it is near-inevitable.
Call me a prude but this is something that I simply don’t prescribe to myself, and so I had a hard time wrapping my head around it—especially in the very “It’s true, deal with it” terms that Milford seemed to lay out in her article.
That aside it also seemed like Milford’s article was making a lot of assumptions and constantly trying to prove something to the point of being overbearing. “That’s right guys”, she would write, “That’s right chaps. Your wife hasn’t gone off sex—she has just gone of sex with you”.
“Naturally this is sure to evoke a reaction of disdain and alarm from the male sex everywhere” she states, until I start beginning to wonder whether this is actually what would happen or whether it’s what Milford ardently expects to happen. Considering the frequency of similar phrases in the article I tend to veer towards the latter.
Milford also seems somewhat obsessed with the gender divide and the notion of one-upping men in terms of who is more likely to be unfaithful. It leaves me wondering why there is such a need to proclaim the upper hand. I understand wanting to bust preconceived notions, but I feel that there is an aggression or an insistence in Milford’s article which is both too presumptuous and too fixated on trumping the other gender for my liking.
However, Quite Frankly wouldn’t be sticking to its manifesto if it didn’t fearlessly tackle all topics, including infidelity, so I can’t really gripe too much at Rebecca Milford for marching forward with her article’s strong message. To many it will be a commendable article.
Another issue that I have with Quite Frankly in general isn’t one with an easy answer and it concerns the division between erotic imagery and pornography—namely that, in Quite Frankly, there seems to be a need to try and find the division and steer clear of pornography in favour of eroticism.
Again, I can’t really hold this against a magazine that defines itself as ‘erotic’, and Quite Frankly’s multiple interviews readily demonstrate that there is no clear-cut divide to be made. But perhaps the emphasis on the erotic and the reference to porn as this ‘other’ to be finely tip-toed around might be seen as detrimental or unfavourable to some (especially when feminist, indie, and queer porn are all making fantastic work nowadays).
This isn’t really a criticism as much as it is food for thought, and it falls in the same vein as issues of binary gender, notions of femininity, and the like. But, for now, I think I’ll let these issues sit and, instead, meet the magazine on its own terms.
Going back to the positives for a moment, kudos to Quite Franky for representing women across the broad spectrum of sexuality. Honestly, that’s fantastic.
At the end of the day Quite Delightful proved to be a brilliantly engaging read full of excellent articles and phenomenal photography. While some bits were hit-and-miss to me, I think that Quite Delightful hit the nail on the head overall and has provided us with a brand new type of erotic magazine. I personally can’t wait to see what Issue Two has in store and strongly recommend the first issue for anyone who had yet to snap one up.