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[NSFW] Sophie Ebrard Spent Four Years Taking Behind-the-Scenes Photos of Porn Shoots

"Pornstar" is really just a job, anyway.

by Leander Roet
18 March 2019, 4:24am

Young Harlots, Schotland (2012). Images courtesy the artist

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

Satan's Whores. Young Harlots. Anal Debauchery II. When you scroll through the movie titles of porn director Gazzman, you don't really get the idea that his films are made in the coziest, most laid-back settings. But that's exactly the feeling that stays with you after you see It's Just Love, a photo series by the French-born, Amsterdam-based photographer Sophie Ebrard. For the past four years, Ebrard followed the director to his sets around the world, in an effort to find love and beauty in an industry that is typically surrounded by taboos and prejudices.

The results of that endeavor were displayed in the photographer's own home as part of the UNSEEN Festival in Amsterdam. We talked to the photographer about swinger parties, double penetration, and finding love in weird places.

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Young Harlots, Scotland (2012)

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The Cult, Barcelona (2012)

The Creators Project: How did this project come about?

Sophie Ebrard: Four years ago I went to a swingers party hoping to find a topic for a photo series where people would be naked. It was the first time I went to such a party, and also the first time I witnessed someone having sex in front of me, and I was really surprised by how beautiful it looked. It was such an eye opener I thought, wow, this is amazing, this is gorgeous. And I really wanted to photograph that beauty. As if it was faith, that night I met Gazzman, a porn director from the UK, who invited me over to shoot some photos on one of his sets two weeks later.

How was your first time on a porn set?

I was lucky that Gazzman is quite a high-end director, so the sets were really beautiful and the girls, lovely. But for myself, I hadn't really done any research or ever seen a full-length porn movie before, apart from maybe some clips on YouPorn. So it had to get used to seeing people having sex in front of me and learn the language they use, which is ridded with abbreviations. The first time I was on set a guy came up to me saying, "You're really lucky because tomorrow you're going to see a DP." And I'm thinking, surely there must be a Director of Photography at the set right now: we're filming. It took me about half an hour to realize he meant "double penetration."

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Young Harlots, Scotland (2012), Sophie Ebrard.

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Retribution, Portugal (2015)

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Wasted, Los Angeles (2011)

The object of your series is to try to humanize porn actors and their industry. Why do you feel that's important in today's world?

What really struck me was how normal these actors actually were. They're just normal people doing their job. A lot of people have very strong opinions about the porn industry, like [that] it's a form of modern slavery, but for the girls and guys that I've met, it was just their professions. They are happy to be there. Pornography is one of the largest and most profitable markets in the world today, and yet its actors and works are still subject to widespread scrutiny and taboo. I wanted to show a lighter side of that world with this series, with intimate moments that show what working on a porn set is really like.

What I don't want is yet another debate whether porn is good or bad. I don't want to be the one to say: porn is great. I just want to say, from what I've seen, being on sets of just one director, it is not as bad as everyone says. And when it's done properly, and the people are professional, it can actually be beautiful. When you're on set together you start forming a small community—you eat together, you share a room, you become friends. That, in the end, is what I hope that these photographs communicate: the idea that even something like porn, when done professionally, can be beautiful and authentic.

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Pussy Galore, Scotland (2012)

Is porn still arousing when you see it live?

It is when actors are enjoying it. I have seen scenes where there wasn't necessarily a chemistry between the actors, and then it can all feel pretty dry and mechanic. You can sort of see they were doing it because it was their job. But I have also witnessed a scene in Barcelona that was crazy and you could tell that the three of them were really into it. When all the takes and photos were done we really had to be like: "Okay guys, you can stop now, we got it."

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Riding School, Wales (2011)

Why did you chose to exhibit the photos in your own house?

Porn is usually consumed at home, so it felt right to show the photos in such a setting. I want people to be at ease when they see this series, and that's a lot harder in an all-white exhibition room. Another reason is because that I always felt like a voyeur doing this project, so it only seemed fair to turn that around for once.

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Riding School, Wales (2011)

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Highland Fling, Scotland (2012)

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The Cult, Barcelona (2012)

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The Cult, Barcelona (2012)

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Sophie Ebard. Photo by Hansel and Gretel - donotsaycheese

Learn more about Sophie Ebrard and It's Just Love on her website.