PHOTOS BY MICHAEL GRIEVE
Visiting a brothel in Slough was never high on my list of things to do, but having looked at these shots by the photojournalist Michael Grieve, I’ve categorically ruled it out.
Over the last six years, Newcastle native Grieve has lurked in some of the seamiest boltholes the British Isles has to offer as he took photos for a project which is soon to be published. From Sheffield to London to Brighton, he’s been spending his time attending orgies in some of the country’s most frequently visited “sex dens”. Having skulked around in over 30 assorted venues in search of his final edit of 50 photos, he is now satisfied that he has captured the seedy, emotional void of modern Britain’s sex industry. Waheeeey!
“This portrait was taken at a porn shoot in Crouch End in North London.”
Vice: How did you get into these situations?
I accumulated contacts over time. It’s essential to spend time with the people in question if you want to have any chance of taking photos without influencing the subject. It helps because people don’t look at you with suspicion, you can merge into the background.
So, did you manage to detach yourself from the events round you?
It was hard to remain totally removed in a lot of these shoots. In one, in the infamous swingers’ club La Chambre in Sheffield, it was impossible. There was a strong smell of sex and I could feel the heat coming off naked men standing near me. I was slightly uncomfortable but the photos I was getting exhilarated me.
Was the La Chambre shoot what you were looking for all along?
Well, the project is about being in a sexual environment, anywhere from a brothel to a swingers’ club to a porn shoot. But the thing I am really looking for is the strange atmosphere that surrounds doing something incredibly intimate, but without any real emotional connection. These people are all very much in their own world during these events.
Is the project finished?
It is finished in that there is a publisher ready to print it for me, but if I come across anything amazing between now and going to print then it may be resumed.
“These were the swingers at La Chambre. They were each given a mask and a condom, and then they just went for it. They were filmed having sex with two porn actresses, six at a time.”
“This was the aftermath of an amateur porn shoot in La Chambre. It was full of guys running around in towels. It had a very orgiastic atmosphere—each room had different things going on in them, with viewing screens for voyeurs.”
“This is the girl from the opening shot. She had just finished a scene with the other girl and they were taking a break. I was having a smoke in the garden when I looked in a window and saw this. They had only met three hours before—it was very beautiful.“
“This is a photo I took of a prostitute who was on the phone to a client as I passed her. The light in this picture is coming through a stained glass window.”
“This was taken at a porn shoot in Cuffley, just north of London. I seem to remember this guy was getting a blowjob. Once I got into these situations I became very focused. I totally concentrated on capturing the image I really wanted.”
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