Naked Glory

Naked Glory With his gorgeous new book, XXX: 30 Porn-Star Portraits, superstar photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders takes porn out from beneath your mattress and puts it on your coffee table. By: T. Cole Rachel Photo: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders At a time when American culture seems so desperately to be reaching back towards its own conservative roots, it’s strangely appropriate that one of the world’s most famous portrait photographers would decide to use pornography, or more specifically, porn stars, as the subject of his new collection of photos. From an abundance of movies and reality shows shedding new light on the adult film industry, to porn “celebrities” like Jenna Jameson and Ron Jeremy crossing over into mainstream media (Jameson’s book, Hot to Make Love Like a Porn Star is a current bestseller, and Jeremy just completed a recent stint on VH1’s The Surreal Life), the porn industry has come a long way since the shady days of Deep Throat. It’s only fitting then that the most famous names in dirty movies finally meet up with some of the most famous names in popular culture in XXX: 30 Porn-Star Portraits by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. It’s an artfully executed book that moves porn out of the closet and places it where it truly belongs-on your coffee table. “I’ve always been interested in people who are driven,” explains Greenfield-Sanders, “and these people are, quite literally, the best at what they do. It just happens to be that what they do is, well, blow jobs.” The book captures a diversity of the porn industry elite-male and female, legendary performers and rising stars, straight and gay (including such homo icons as Chad Hunt, Michael Lucas, Lukas Ridgeston and Aiden Shaw)-and presents them in a series of portraits that are, at first look, deceptively simple. The photographer takes a cue from Goya’s famous paintings of a clothed and unclothed woman, with particularly interesting results. Each performer is shown in a set of two paired portraits holding the same pose-one clothed and one nude. The juxtaposition might seem obvious, but the contrast proves highly effective. As editor Simon Dumenco points out in the book’s foreword, “That some of the porn stars seem more self-possessed, more of themselves, when they are naked-and others when they are clothed‹speaks volumes about the often-poignant artifice of the porn persona.” The clothed vs. unclothed pairings also have a humanizing effect. Naked, the porn stars look like pumped-up, untouchable sex objects, but in their ordinary clothes they look just like you-or your little brother, or maybe even your mom. And while the bounty of naked flesh presented in the book in undeniably interesting to look at, it’s often the fully-clothed portraits that are the most compelling. Unable to decide on a single writer to handle the task of providing text-and context-for the book, Greenfield-Sanders decided instead to ask a variety of writers and artists to provide their own personal ruminations on the subject of pornography. The resulting pieces approach the subject from a wide variety of angles, all of which attempt to place the often slippery subject in a different cultural context. Gore Vidal provides an introduction that approaches porn from a historical perspective. A.M. Homes offers up the A to Z of porn. John Malkovich reflects on his own early experiences in “Discovering Porn.” John Waters chats with larger-than-life adult film director Chi Chi LaRue on the fine art of shooting a group sex scene (“I start with maybe two or three people and build and build…”). Even Salman Rushdie contributes, offering up an essay that considers the place of porn in the Muslim world. In addition to the publication of the XXX book, Greenfield-Sanders is also producing and directing a documentary based on the book for HBO. The film, which includes footage from the XXX photo shoots, delves deeper into the lives of the profiled porn stars. “It’s all kind of unexpected,” says Greenfield-Sanders. “This whole thing started out as just a few photos, then it became a book. Having made films before, I decided to set up cameras at the photo shoots. That footage became the basis for the documentary. A simple idea quickly turned into a much bigger thing.” Aside from the book and the documentary, New York’s Mary Boone gallery will exhibit large-scale prints from the book in conjunction with the book1s release later this month. “My preconceptions were totally off the mark,” says GreenfieldSanders of his photographic subjects. “These are incredible people. I was amazed to meet folks like Michael Lucas and Nina Hartley, who are just profoundly smart and interesting. I had to reconsider my whole notion of who these people were.” The book itself requires the reader to do something similar, and it does so without attempting to condemn or legitimize the porn industry. The somewhat conflicted view of pornography is perhaps best put forth by Salman Rushdie who writes 3Pornography is almost always an effect, or a dramatic symptom, of some non-pornographic social malaise. It is almost never a cause.” XXX: 30 Porn-Star Portraits is out this week from Bulfinch Press (