Honey Lee Cottrell, a visionary photographer and filmmaker who pioneered lesbian erotica in the 1980s through her contributions to the women’s sex magazine On Our Backs, died September 21 in Santa Cruz, Calif., from pancreatic cancer at the age of 69.
Cottrell donated her archives to the Cornell University Library Human Sexuality Collection in what it declared “a gesture in keeping with her lifelong goal of empathetically reflecting and documenting the lives and sexualities of the lesbian and gay community.”
Cottrell revolutionized the female nude, validated women’s right to pleasure, and opened possibilities for women to see themselves and their desires in new ways through her engagement in a variety of feminist, artistic, and sex-education projects.
She was one of the “core four,” along with Debi Sundahl, Nan Kinney, and Susie Bright, who gave On Our Backs its style and success. Cottrell was a contributing photographer to the publication for seven years.
She photographed her lovers and friends and documented queer and kink cultures for decades with her first camera, a 35mm Nikkormat. In addition to I Am My Lover, a 1978 feminist book celebrating masturbation that she co-authored with Joani Blank and Tee Corinne, and On Our Backs, her photography has appeared in publications including The Blatant Image, Coming to Power, Sinister Wisdom, and Nothing but the Girl.
Top image: Coastbound Train, Rachael and Elexis, 1985, image by Honey Lee Cottrell, first appeared in On Our Backs. Below: Cottrell photographed by Tee A. Corinne
Courtesy of Cornell University Human Sexuality Collection (Coastbound Train); Copyright Lesbian Herstory Archives (Cottrell Portrait)