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Real Sex in Front of a Camera?


After years of soliciting other photographers’ erotic and sexual images for Norway’s Cupido magazine, I decided in late 1999 to try my own hand at capturing something real and meaningful about sex on film. I was fascinated by the dynamics inherent to sexual photography. How does a third party, with a camera in his hand, encourage a couple to feel unselfconscious enough to share with the camera and the outside world the subtleties of their most intimate and private connection? After over 180 sexual photo shoots, that question is more intriguing to me than ever.

I work primarily with people in loving, long-term relationships, in the familiarity of their own homes. Each shoot is completely experimental. We all have to leave our expectations and preconceptions at the door. No one knows what will happen. Whatever happens will be fine. The worst thing that can happen is that we waste some time and some film.

I try to follow the sexual energy of a shoot, rather than to lead or direct it. I don’t pose people or tell people what to do. Inevitably, I notice and record the aspects of sex that interest me most — intimacy, play, passion, small gestures, the quality of a touch, moments of obvious surrender and trust. I focus more on faces and hands than on genitals — though genitals do have a special interest and appeal all their own. Each shoot is unique and properly so, reflecting the individuality of each couple, or individual, or group.

It is a true privilege to be allowed to watch and photograph people in these most intimate and personal moments. My hope is that some of my images honestly capture some of the emotional richness and complexity that, I believe, lie at the heart of deep and satisfying sex, but is almost completely absent from the sexual imagery that is most commonly produced and viewed — commercial pornography.

I’m committed to photographing as broad a range of people as possible, to challenge the common notion that sex and sexiness are somehow reserved for the young, thin, glamorous people we see in advertising and on television. I have photographed people ranging in age from 19 to 73, heavy people as well as thin, disabled as well as abled. I’m interested in all genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and sexual inclinations. I’m always interested in finding new people who want to be photographed as part of this project.

My couples photographs have been published in Photo Sex: Fine Art Sexual Photography Comes of Age, and The Mammoth Book of Illustrated Erotica, and shown at the Kinsey Institute, Good Vibrations and Stormy Leather in San Francisco, the Seattle Erotic Arts Festival, ErosFest Northwest, and conventions of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality. In April 2010 I was named Erotic Photographer of the Year by the Leydig Trust in London, and in May 2011 I was named one of five Erotic Masters by the Seattle Erotic Art Festival. Two books of my sexual photography, Loving Couples, and SexAbility: The Unappreciated Sexuality of People with Disabilities are in progress.

How we think of sex, and how we think of ourselves as sexual people, is shaped extensively by the images of sex and sexual attractiveness we see around us. Images that trivialize sex encourage us to relate to sex in trivial ways. Images that portray sex as complex, intimate, and mysterious encourage us to become sexual in deeper, and ultimately more satisfying, ways. In recent years, more and more photographers have begun to acknowledge sex in this way. I’m delighted to be part of that process.