CK: Can you tell us
something about your erotica?
Moss: It was sort of a progression.
I started with what people might call artistic nudes, which is a
term that makes me cringe. Or glamour nudes. There's all these funny names
for shooting nudes. I started with that and then during the one shoot, it
went beyond that and I started interacting with the girl...a girl that I
was dating, and I kept shooting. I never put the camera down basically.
I remember quite clearly there was one frame where I was behind
her and my hand was on the small of her back and I photographed my hand.
Sounds like nothing, but it's quite strange for a photographer to be in
his own picture. It was unsettling to me. I didn't think twice about it. I
buried it because I almost felt exposed. I didn't know what to make of it.
But then as I continued to shoot this kind of artistic nudes it
started to bore me because they felt so Hallmark-y, like greeting cards. They
felt two dimensional. They might be pretty, you might like them but they didn't
seem to have a voice or tell a story. And when I looked at this happy accident,
those seemed much more compelling to me, and in keeping with everything else I
was shooting: reportage, real life, just shooting and trying to
find interesting moments as opposed to taking a girl and placing her on a
bed and just shooting these happy shots. It sort of took off in that
direction. Visually and artistically, I needed those shots to make me
happy. When I showed them to people, they said, "wow! I've never seen sex
or orgasm shot that way."
And as I wanted to continue on that body
of work, I realized that if I only relegated it to my own sex life, it
would be a long project. How am I going to find enough women that I'm
dating that are okay? So, how can I not always have myself involved and it
would be much easier to have women masturbate to orgasm rather than be
involved in that process. When it happened, that's cool. But, I needed to
open up the font a little more.
And that's when I came up with the
idea that even when I am shooting point of view it's not about me, it's about
the orgasm. I needed to focus on the woman's orgasm. I don't need to be a part
of that for masturbation. I can just go back to being a voyeur—setting it
up and letting it go. That's how it grew. It opened up a gene pool for me to
find people that are okay with me photographing those really private moments as
well as those that can't do that. Not every woman can cum being watched like
that...if we are to believe that the women I am shooting are cumming which of
course, would always be a mystery.
CK: Where do you find the
women in your photographs? Are they art models, porn stars or prostitutes
which, in America, are now more euphemistically referred to as "escorts"?
Brian Moss: Actually, I have shot all of
the above. They could be just anybody for whom this is a cool project. I've
shot "escorts" or "working girls" as they would call themselves.
you any particular preference?
Brian Moss: Women During Sex
Brian Moss: I tend
to prefer non-professionals, meaning "working girls" and models are
professionals. I like to shoot girls that don't think they are models because
then you don't get the knee-jerk "toss of the hair" which always feels
"pornish" to me. They're always concerned that they are not a model. That's
okay. I'm good with non-models. I've had girls do their very first naked shoots
with me, and gotten thank yous. "Like wow! I'm so glad you were my first", so
to speak. I'm really easy to be around and to do that with as they learn more
and shoot with other people. So, I like non-professionals probably. They
haven't learned artifice which I hate. Even non professionals will give you
that but that's because they're used to being girls in America which means they
cock their head, they toss their hair, things that they would do in the bar. I
try to defuse that in the beginning by saying, "let's try not to do that." But,
invariably they are unaware of it until they are called on it. ! "You're
cocking your head again". They don't know. It's cultural because it gets a
reaction from men in their real world. So, that's what women do, but it looks
totally set up. The shoot is set up but I want as little artifice as
possible.... I try to erase all of that and get to the really good stuff.
CK: What do you
consider the good stuff?
When they lose all of the above. You can throw away the first two or three
rolls. That's just saying "Hi, how are you doing?". Trying to get them into a
groove. Once they start focusing on themselves or pleasure, all bets are off,
and then it's okay...especially if your eyes are closed.
French writer once qualified pornography as images of bodies the viewer wanted
to posess whereas erotica idealizes.
Brian Moss: I've
actually written down that quote...not because I am conflicted over what I do.
I always want to intellectualize what I do because I need to be prepared to
say: "Oh it's this, oh it's that and so I have read books about the history of
pornography. It's still a really complicated issue. I think "artistic nudes" by
that term "artistic" tend to idealize the nude and I think that's a safe place
for people...even the photographer never having shot a naked woman. "Oh it's
black and white"...I love black and white" You can feel safer because black and
white idealizes, whereas colour realizes the nude. And if you were to look at
colour work versus black and white work I think it's more eroticized because
you can now see the colour of flesh. You can see the colour of an aureola. So,
it's a tough one: what is pornography? I don't know. The Supreme Court doesn't
know. For me, I fear nothing when I shoot it—meaning I don't think about
those things when I shoot. All I do when I! edit, I say, "do I like that shot?"
then it passes my test...whatever test that is. You might call it pornography
but I don't care.
Would you comment on a few of these photographs for
Brian Moss: This pregnant woman
was amazing. I had never even seen a naked pregnant girl prior to shooting her,
so it was an experience for me. I don't have a child. I have never dated a
pregnant woman. I don't fetishize pregnancy. I don't have videos of pregnant
women lactating, yet I was struck by her beauty and her fearlessness about her
pregnancy. It was an amazing shoot. These pictures actually ran in a gallery on
nerve.com and you might go there for comments by viewers. Women were actually
commenting about how thrilled they were that finally pregnancy had been
portrayed honestly and sexually, because they claimed that, as pregnant women,
they were sexual. And again this was news for me. But when nerve.com
interviewed me for the little piece that accompanied the gallery, they asked if
I was afraid that people would fetishize it because pregnancy and lactating
women are fetishes. I basically replied, once you take a photograph, like a
child, you send it into the world. You have to let them go. You can't worry
about what people are going to attach to it. I might take a picture of a
garbage can and somebody could fetishize it. I can't worry about it. One that
was amazing and published in Stern was of a woman licking her hand as
she cums. That was a great experience for me.
Brian Moss: Women During Sex
This one is of a "working
girl". This one is of an adult model. Here is a lesbian dominatrix. This is one
of my girl friend, Here we have a porn star or porn actress that I met off site
during an assignment who, incidentally, is a computer programmer by day. This
is an interesting series because the more you shoot the more you realize that
there is a common thread with masturbation. You would think that I posed these
women. I said nothing to them. It's interesting to see how they ended
up—almost identical. Different women, months apart, same bed, yet there
seems to be something universal. Here is an aberration with women that need to
be on their stomach. It was fascinating that as I edited I started to see
universal themes and some very individual themes. We spoke about the
democratization of bodybuilding. The women I've photographed for this project
are Black, Asian, Latina and Caucasian. I have made an effort to represent
various body types because I am interested in showing the democracy of the
orgasm. Although it's achieved in many different ways, with many different
visible results, there is an element of universality to sexual climax. Whether
we are black, white, gay, straight, from America or China, we are pretty
similar at that moment which is pretty wonderful.
CK: Why did you
Brian Moss: Women During Sex
Brian Moss: You cut
to the chase. You are looking at nudes. Why are they there? Are they meant to
arouse? Ultimately, don't all roads lead to orgasm? It's this great
uncontrolled moment. It's finally when the person that I am photographing can
maybe seperate themselves from being photographed because they are focused on
self-pleasure or pleasure—where you are not thinking of anything else.
Other than that they can become a little self-absorbed in front of the camera.
You can see that there is not a whole lot of that going on. It doesn't seem
that way when you look at the pictures. There is a calmness. They're disarmed.
The way that I have broken it up, as I was putting together the dummy book and
editing, I was trying to figure out what's the story. And it turned out that it
was before, during and after, thus the name During Sex. There's clearly
moments before, clearly moments during and you have these wonderful moments of
repose after. It sounds cliché, but it's not. In highlighting how these
experiences have patterns and how they diverge from one another, I hope my
photos get closer to showing a version of beauty that is not cosmetic and not
Was there something in particular about the lesbian
dominatrix that intrigued you?
Moss: She was the only woman to use erotic photographs to get her
going. She brought her favourite book of erotic photography and looked at that
as a sort of primer. I've never had that done before. It's sort of man-like....
Clearly this is a woman that is visual. This is a whole series of her cumming.
When people hear about it, they're thinking, "Oh yeah, it's about orgasms,
pussy shots, whatever. I am not afraid of that. Here she's cumming and I am not
anywhere near her pussy. Here's the story. It's not pussy-centric." The other
comment I would like to make is that I have tried to seek out every different
archetype of female body. It would be silly to pick only strippers which often
have these unobtainable, surgically enhanced bodies.
CK: In the
manner of Irving Penn?
Brian Moss: Right,
with that dancer friend of his—pictures of interesting full-bodied women.
I've done the same. It's not easy to find women willing to do that. Maybe
they're not feeling as good for whatever reason to be naked in from of a
camera. I think that's why people tend to shoot barbie doll women because they
love being naked.
Isn't the Internet already full of reality porn pics
of ordinary people?
reality / amateur. That can be fascinating. I have never liked polished porn.
When I was growing up, I liked Hustler's girl next door. That was
fascinating for me. I wanted to know what the girl next door looked like naked,
not the star because the star is unobtainable to me. I want to see something
that maybe could happen. So, I think it makes sense that my images are also
interested in that.
CK: And the carnival, circus and Elvis Presley
Brian Moss: Killer Clown
Brian Moss: These
are concept shoots, where I dream up some concept and then I cast it using
people from my world, whether it's Elvis or Frankenstein, or a killer clown.
It's a fun way to look at things that we have looked at before. I tend to make
a distinction in my photography between taking pictures and making pictures.
This is making pictures. Backstage with the bodybuilders I am taking
pictures.... I like living on the edge, having to find it. You can't stop real
life. Here, with the concept shots, I could have taken two hours. It's pretty
safe. If you've done your homework, set it all up, styled it, how can you not
get the shot. But when you are back stage, you might not get the shot. I like
that energy. I have a few pictures which are a little of both: a beautiful
female boxer, a girl from Survivor, hot rod and kids, sports people,
tatooed people, a national stripper convention in Vegas with two hundred of the
top strippers in the country.
And how did you get the stripper convention
Brian Moss: I pitched it
to Penthouse and they wanted it.
CK: And these?
Brian Moss: These
are several series devoted to extreme sports, wrestling and prison workouts
where I got to shoot guys under lock and key....pretty intense.
CK: Could you be
Brian Moss: They were
just really needy. They were craving attention, more than anybody I've every
worked with. And this was compounded by the numbers. It was a really intense
couple of hours. But again, because I owned a gym, andI know everything about
training, it was just the right combination of my knowledge of what they were
doing and photographing them. Where if you were just a photographer you might
have been stepped on by those guys. Here, I could clearly say what I wanted
each guy to be doing and knew if they were doing it what wasn't working. So, it
worked quite well. I love those shots.
CK: And this series?
Brian Moss: Feet Up
Brian Moss: This was
just a narrative I created for Penthouse, but I think it went over their
heads to be honest with you. It never ran. It was beautifully styled. Just
because a girl is getting naked doesn't mean that she can't start with amazing
clothing. Just beautiful even though it was shot in this wonderful, sleazy, no
tell motel. It's all the details: astro glide and condom wrappers.
CK: What's next?
CK: Can you tell
us something about that?
Brian Moss: It is a
continuum of female body types. From fitness and figure right up to
bodybuilding. The common thread is that they're athletic, fit and they have
muscle. What seperates them is the amount of muscle. The web site will respect
that difference. One with less muscle or one with a lot of muscle. I think more
men like a lot of muscle than care to admit.
you be more specific about why men like a lot of muscle? Do men want to be
dominated by muscular women?
Moss: Not necessarily. It's within the realm, but it's too broad a
stroke. Dominatrix tend not to be muscular. With exceptions, they tend to be
more about mental, financial and physical..
CK: But why do you think men are attracted to
very muscular women?
Brian Moss: If you
remember the female wrestler China of the WWE was on the cover of
Playboy and it was considered one of the most succesful men's magazine
Will shemuscle.com be a pay site and when?
Brian Moss:Yes, and we launch in 4 - 6 weeks.
the women similar in background to those in your Women During Sex
Brian Moss: Everything from a local amateur to a professional
Any "escorts" or "working girls" ?
Brian Moss: Yes, one to my knowledge.
CK: What is
Brian Moss: When
men, typically, hire a woman with a lot of muscle, to worship her muscle. The
women will pose and the men will worship her.
CK: Does it involve sexual
Brian Moss: It's sexual
but it isn't really about sex. I suspect these men have sex with their
girlfriends and their wives. .
CK: And what do they do with their chosen
Moss: It's a function of what the woman will allow—anything if
at all. I would imagine he masturbates.
And this sort of site doesn't exist on the Net
Brian Moss: Yes, but not
with my photography.
CK: Will these images be for sale? .
How and where do you like muscle?
Brian Moss: Muscle always intrigues me,
whatever the arena. I am known more for muscle in the arena, and backstage, but
I believe it is equally fascinating in the bedroom.
Antoine du Rocher is a
French cultural journalist and writer based in New York. He is also a member of
the editorial board of Culturekiosque.com.
images copyright © 2003 Brian Moss. Used with