New York-based photographer Roger Kisby describes the Adult Video News Awards as “the Oscars of porn.” In addition to the ceremony itself, which offers juried prizes in categories like Best New Starlet and Best Oral Sex Scene, the Las Vegas event features a four-day expo and convention, drawing enthusiastic fans from around the country for autographs and the latest sex toy technology. With Head, Kisby presents intimate portraits of adult film actors, searching for moments of quiet authenticity within the X-rated surroundings.
In addition to the established actors, Kisby explains that many emerging porn stars will attend the event in hopes of getting their names out there, their faces recognized. Sometimes, they will network and take the opportunity to make films together, working on the side in order to fund the trip to Vegas. This year saw the convention’s first transgender booth, marking a change in the visibility of transgender actors. The photographer’s intention, he emphasizes, was to include everyone, spanning gender, race, age, and body shape.
In the chaos of the convention and awards-prep, Kisby had to act on his feet to capture these stolen moments. Most often, he only had a few minutes to meet, greet, and shoot his subject, and arrangements were made on the go, in between appearances and meetings. Within these short-term windows, the photographer sought to strip each individual of the artifice that comes with the industry, to delve beneath their assumed and well-known characters to arrive at something more delicate and human. For this reason, he asked them to remove or pull down their clothing, giving the illusion of a nudity that isn’t necessarily tied to sex so much as to emotional bareness and vulnerability. He tried, he says, to direct them away from making sexy facial expressions or adopting suggestive poses.
The personalities of the actors were as diverse as their appearances. Some initially felt awkward pulling their shirts down outside of the context of the film, while others were immediately game. While he didn’t quite have the time to get to know the people individually, or to gage their personal feelings about the industry, he explains that the general atmosphere of the convention was pervaded by an openness and mutual acceptance. He describes this aspect of the event as “heartwarming,” then stops himself, amending that it might not be exactly the right word.
Kisby has kept in touch with some of the performers and hopes to work with them further. Follow him on Instagram and Tumblr.
Little Red Bunny
Sunday, September 06, 2015
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