Barbara Nitke at the Kinsey Institute
October 18th, 2013
In the days right before I did the photos of “Rocky Horror (Puppet) Show” I went over to the Kinsey Institute in Bloomington, Indiana, to see Barbara Nitke give a talk. I often go over for programs that the Kinsey presents, but this was one I especially wanted to attend because Barbara is one of my co-plaintiffs in the 2257 lawsuit that I’ve been involved in since 2009. She testified at the trial in Philadelphia in June, as I did, but we were there at different times and did not meet at the trial. So I went to Kinsey to meet her as well as to hear her presentation.
I got to meet Barbara and chat for a bit before she took the stage to show and talk about her work. We got along well and I hope we will be friends for a long time. She’s a fine person and a great photographer who does interesting and important work.
In her talk Barbara reviewed her career as a photographer which started when she did still photography on the sets of porn films in the 1980s. While shooting the required photos to be used in publicity for the movies, she also did personal work that shows the reality behind the world of porn production. What makes her work so special and important is that it is done without judgement and without an agenda. It is simply insightful, honest documentation of the world that these people worked in. It may tear the curtain a bit, but it does not preach and it does not present these performers as stereotypes. Her work shows you interesting individuals doing a job. As in most workplaces, some of the workers enjoy their work while others are just there to collect a paycheck. And, despite the nature of the work and the sexual excitement represented in the final product, the work of producing the movies is work with all the things that that implies. It is refreshing to see such honest photography done in a subject area that is so often tainted by political agendas determined to ignore any facts that don’t support a particular position regarding pornography.
Barbara’s latest book, American Ecstasy, presents this work in a beautifully printed volume. After her talk and slideshow, Barbara signed copies of the book for the audience.
These events at the Kinsey Institute are among the few places where I see beards that make mine look short.
After the book signing I was invited by my friends at Kinsey to attend an informal gathering at the home of a photography professor from Indiana University. There Barbara chatted with a group of photography students. I met a few of the students also and was impressed by their work and their enthusiasm for the medium.
All in all, a great trip. Good photos, good people and a new friend. It doesn’t get much better than that. The programs that the Kinsey Institute puts on are always excellent, but this was a particularly enjoyable one.