Philadelphia photographer Tony Ward has led a charmed life, moving as he has from the documentary style reportage of his youth, snapping church life at 16th and Fitzwater, to the deeply grainy black-and-white erotica work that made him famous. Throughout the 1980s and '90s, Ward was a fixture of glossy high-minded photography, often involving alternative lifestyles, graphic sexuality and, in the case of his monograph, “Obsessions,” many local faces and bodies. Since 2010, Ward has taught photography courses at University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design, and this weekend commences a softer, more PG-rated exhibition of new work, “Persistence of Seduction,” at the Jed Williams Gallery in Bella Vista.
How did you make the transition from corporate work to the racy, erotica work you’ve become known for?
I had an epiphany in the spring of 1993 that revealed a destiny to explore elements of life that are indivisibly linked to humanity. In many ways during this period I felt a kinship to Alfred Kinsey, the legendary investigator of human sexuality. That led to the exploration of sex in its innumerable manifestations. Fortunately, I had a patron, a publisher that supported my vision: none other than Bob Guccione, the founder of Penthouse.