Barbara Nitke is a New York photographer whose new book, American Ecstacy, is an extensive documentation of sexuality. Her images trace twelve years of on-set shooting for pornography films, capturing an unexpected intimacy – a rare poignancy in between stills.
It’s hard to imagine now, but in 1982 when I started working on porn movies, we shot real 35mm film on big movie cameras. Home video cassette players had barely been invented. There were no DVD’s, no home computers, no Internet. People went out to downtown movie theaters and watched sex movies on the silver screen. Our shoots lasted anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, with a crew of at least twenty people. We all put a lot of care into the script, the acting, the lighting, sound, editing – all the aspects of real movie-making. It was the Golden Age of Porn, and I was thrilled to be a part of it.
American Ecstasy is my memoir of those roller coaster days. I shot the pictures in this book while working as a stills person on 300 hardcore porn shoots in New York over the course of twelve years. My images reveal the contradictions inherent in the business – great beauty, tinged with sadness, punctuated by surreal silliness. I loved ironic moments when, in the middle of an orgy, they’d have to cut to put more film in the camera. Everybody would yawn and look at their watch, hoping against hope there would be something decent for lunch.