There is no doubting that digital technology has made an enormous difference to the way we enjoy fetish imagery.
The internet bombards us daily with the products of digital photography and videography, and everyone now knows that computer programs such as Photoshop are used to tweak raw material before publication, whether to remove minor imperfections, inflict major surgery or create completely new images.
But while we can say that digital photography and computer image manipulation is responsible for pretty much all the high quality fetish photography we see today, the same sadly cannot be said of digital fetish art.
With a few notable exceptions such as the work of Tsubasa and Stuntkid (both featured in portfolios on this site), digital fetish art seems to suffer from the same paucity of imagination and technical skill that afflicts so much paper-based fetish art.
Computer drawing programs are still being used more often in the fetish genre to give badly executed form to juvenile masturbatory fantasies than to create anything that is original, exciting, and truly deserving of the description “art”.
So it’s great to discover something new that does genuinely deserve such accolades.
Petgirls.de is, as the URL suggests, a German website devoted to the fetish of pet play — humans dressing and behaving as kept animals and their keepers.
Though regarded by many in the fetish community as something of a fringe activity, pet play embodies all the qualifying characteristics of fetish/BDSM behaviour such as costume, control, bondage and discipline.
These days, it is most commonly encountered on the fetish scene in the form of pony play, a particularly refined manifestation of the genre with some beautiful dedicated accessories.
But pet play can take many other forms too, from the desire to be kept locked in a cage like a zoo animal to the fantasy of being “walked” on all fours on a public street wearing a doggie-mask, collar and leash.
Petgirls.de embraces these fantasies and many more, using original computer-generated images lovingly crafted to give exciting virtual form to fantasies which would be in many cases either extremely expensive or simply impossible to create by any other means.
What separates this work from the products of lesser digital artists is not so much that it looks more ‘real’ than other computer fetish work. The images have an obvious digital quality that makes no attempt to fool us into thinking they’re pictures from real life.
And yet the style of the work, with its attention to detail and its fondness for dressing characters in bodywear with the appearance of highly-polished latex, suggests a kind of hyper-fetish reality that is visually extremely pleasing.
As the name suggests, the “pets” are mainly female characters, though males make some appearances too. The females tend to have beautifully sculpted and toned bodies and cute, fresh faces with the slightly exaggerated, doll-like features often favoured by virtual artists.
Many of the images on the site portray pet play pure and simple, with lots of catsuited, collared and leashed doggie-girls in various pet-like poses. But there are also many excursions into the more exotic realms of anthropomorphism, such as human insects, birds and reptiles, and even some Egyptian deities.
At the same time, the work has an important theme running through it that binds it more strongly to real-life fetishism than to the broader genre of ‘fantasy art’. In all the images, the transformation to animal is achieved, significantly, by the addition of costume and/or other accessories.
There is no attempt to suggest metamorphosis of actual flesh. Even though all is digitally created, the message is quite clearly that transformation is essentially achieved through what is worn on the body.
In this way, the characters remain anchored in their humanity, and this creates a strong sense that what we see in the images, though fictitious, has the possibility of real existence.
Characters remain anchored in their humanity, creating a strong sense that what we see in the images has the possibility of real existence
But who are the people behind this unusual project? The story of Petgirls.de is that of a unique creative partnership between a man called Mathias and a woman called Eva, who first met about five years ago. In their work as artists they are known as Myrho and Rehtiger.
Eva/Rehtiger explains to me how their artistic collaboration began.
Before the two met, she says, Mathias had led a bourgeois life. He had studied architecture, had married and was the father of two children. “But he was also aware of certain inclinations — of fantasies that seemed to come from the deepest possible abyss of the imagination.”
Eventually his marriage failed, and before meeting Eva, he got involved in the fetish and pet play scenes with several different partners.
Eva herself was a nomad. She ran away from home when she was 17 and stayed in Italy, in various international artist communities. She had a daughter by an artist and earned a living doing leatherwork. Her alter ego “Rehtiger” is a name that was given to her by a shaman, and means Deer-tiger in English.
When she was 23, Eva met a guy with whom she began a special relationship. “I told him that he could do anything to me, and I felt like I belonged to him,” she says. “I didn’t have a name for these feelings.”
When she eventually met Mathias/Myhro, he had already started doing virtual art. “Both of us were hurt and tired when we met,” she says, “but something happened with our imaginations. When we were together, imagination began to flow and there were so many ideas that it was not possible to realise them all.”
They began to travel a lot. The desert, in particular, became very important for them and on their travels they formed a deep friendship with a Bedouin family. Eva feels that the experience was creatively very beneficial: “Travelling without any organisation and sleeping in nature stops the mind and opens the imagination.”
Nevertheless she says the couple’s relationship today is still “difficult and complicated, full of friction and heat, but also growth and development”. They have still not found a “definite form” for it, she claims.
“I’m the one who always pushes to go new ways, whereas Mathias is more set and keeps things on the ground. Only the art flows easily together.
“Our way now is to create ‘beings’ that are virtual but seem more and more human because they are imperfect just as human beings are imperfect,” she explains. “A perfect being is not perfect. An imperfect being is perfect. To create warmth and deep expression is a hard fight.”
The ‘humanity’ of the characters does lead one to imagine that the Petgirls images might easily have begun life as reference photographs. But Eva assures me this is rarely the case, and that normally the work is totally virtual, created using Poser 3D figure design software and The3DStudio.com.
“The only time we have models is when somebody wants something for himself,” she explains. “At the moment we are creating an image of a man who likes to be woman and horse. We are creating this with his face and body, which we modify according to his wishes.
“He can influence our work while we are doing it. We send our work to him and he tells us how to continue. So this work is exactly between fantasy and reality. It is possible to make dreams visible.”
She says the couple regard their most important work as the private commissions for “people who want to have images or animations of their dreams — of what they want to be.” For this, they will alter the person’s body as they wish, change their sex or give them the power of flight.
But the pair are clear that they want to do more than create illustrations, and there are already plans to translate some of their creations into the real, three-dimensional world.
“We are in contact with a well-known artist who he wants to create the outfits in reality, photograph them with real models, and then change the images in such a way that the photos seem virtual,” Eva reveals. “Hopefully one day you will see the results of our collaboration with him.
Other than this, Rehtiger and Myrho just dream of earning enough from their art to live off it. “We are already doing a lot of exhibitions,” says the Deer-tiger, “and it could happen if more people ask us for private work.”
Petgirls.de art will be exhibited in Essen over Easter, as part of the Fetish Evolution Weekend (April 10-13). The work will be displayed in the foyer of the official event hotel, the Bredeney.
The couple regard as their most important work the private commissions for people who want images or animations of their dreams