Emil Cadoo: Works from the Sixties


Glenn O'Brien

Photos by Emil Cadoo originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 32 in 1964.
Text excerpt by Glenn O'Brien originally published in Emil Cadoo: Works from the Sixties in 2001 and featured in The Evergreen Review Issue 105 in 2002.

Emil Cadoo was one of the defining photographers of the Sixties. His semi-storied career perfectly exemplifies that decade's lust for change, its commitment to experiment and its boundary-bridging ambition. Cadoos work ranged from high level photojournalism at Life to beat generation portraiture to artistically ambitious and sexually ambiguous erotica, which became a cause celebre in the fight against artistic censorship.

In May of 1960, Cadoo emigrated to Paris, as had Richard Wright, James Baldwin and many black Jazz musicians of his generation, who found that racism was less pronounced in France. Cadoo found that as an African-American and as a homosexual he was more at ease in Paris and he has lived there ever since-except for an extended visit to New York in 1965, when he created his series exploring two sides of the Sixties: Central Park and Children of Harlem.


Paris was a congenial atmosphere for Cadoo's interest in erotica. It was there that he created the work for which he is best known: dust jackets commissioned by Barney Rosset's Grove Press and similar publishers of barricade-storming literature, as well as portfolios for the Evergreen Review. Cadoo illustrated a memorable 1963 edition of Henry Miller's Sexus. It was in Paris that he published the homoerotic book Hommes, in which his photographs were accompanied by a Paul Verlaine poem, Mille et Tres.


Much of Cadoo's work was devoted to creating double-exposures-photomontages made in the artist's eye-often combining images of statues, the human form and botanical forms, with more abstract images of varying textures. Sometimes the double-exposures involved erotica, which had a substantial audience in the readers of the Evergreen Review. But he did not exclusively rely on the erotic, and one of his best known images is the cover of Genet's Our Lady of the Flowers.


April/May issue of Evergreen Review, America's only Bohemian glossy magazine, at the binders. The county's District Attorney had deemed the publication obscene. The issue contained works by Norman Mailer, Jean Genet, William Burroughs, Bryon Gysin, Michael McClure and Karl Shapiro-a who's who of the day's practitioners of perceived outrage-but what provoked the seizure was a portfolio of erotic photographs by Emil J. Cadoo.

On June 12, 1964 a Federal Court in Brooklyn put an end to one of the more bizarre episodes of censorship in recent memory. On that day, three judges condemned police seizure of 21,000 copies of Evergreen Review No. 32 as "unconstitutional" and ordered their immediate return to the publisher..