Barbara Nitke, the on-set photographer for countless New York adult films in the 1980s, joins The Rialto Report to talk about her memories of the industry.
This episode running time is 48 minutes.
Barbara Nitke began her career as a photographer taking stills on the set of The Devil Miss Jones – Part II (1982) – which was appropriate as her husband, Herb Nitke, had been the producer of the original The Devil In Miss Jones in 1973.
Over the course of the next ten years, her behind-the-scenes images captured the chaotic, bizarre and surreal action in front of the cameras, and the quiet, vulnerable, lonely moments between takes.
Barbara Nitke worked almost exclusively on New York film sets, with directors such as Henri Pachard, Joe Sarno, and John Christopher, and with stars such as Vanessa Del Rio, Nina Hartley, Siobhan Hunter, Sharon Mitchell and Taija Rae.
What’s more Nitke took a tape recorder to the set and interviewed many of these people at length about their thoughts and feelings concerning their role in the adult film industry.
It was a fascinating but difficult time for the east coast industry as production increasingly moved west, video replaced film, and the specter of the AIDS epidemic loomed.
A selection of Barbara Nitke’s photos and interviews was published recently in a limited edition book, ‘American Ecstasy’, from which the photos below are taken.
For more information about ‘American Ecstasy’, visit her website.
From Barbara Nitke’s Wikipedia page:
Barbara Nitke (born 1950) is a New York City art photographer who specializes in the subject of human sexual relations. She has worked extensively in the porn and BDSM communities.
Nitke was born in Lynchburg, Virginia in 1950 and grew up in Virginia and Alaska. She is currently a fashion/art photographer, and is on the faculty of the School of Visual Arts in New York.
Nitke and the porn business
Hailed by The Village Voice for her quest “to find humanity in marginal sex,” Nitke has gained worldwide attention for her affecting and powerful photographs chronicling relationships between consenting adults engaged in sadomasochistic activities.
Her documentation of sexuality began in 1982 on the sets of pornographic films, towards the end of the Golden Age of Porn. She worked in the industry for twelve years as a set photographer on hundreds of adult films. Her photographs from this period reveal the combination of boredom, surrealism, vulnerability and dissociation inherent in the X-rated world. During that time she also became active as a photographer on mainstream television and movie sets, work which she continues today.
In 1991, after the hardcore porn business moved to Los Angeles, she began shooting on the New York sets of fetish and SM movies, which had become the fastest growing segment of the adult film industry.
Three years later she attended her first meeting of The Eulenspiegel Society, the oldest SM support and educational group in the country, to see a presentation by underground photographer Charles Gatewood. The couples she met in the SM scene fascinated her, and she began photographing them in 1994. They became the focus of her book, Kiss of Fire: A Romantic View of Sadomasochism (2003). It was among the first mainstream publications to examine the subject of BDSM.
Nitke ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to produce her second book, Barbara Nitke: American Ecstasy (2012), a memoir in pictures and words of her hardcore porn days.
Barbara Nitke photographs: