American Ecstasy – Barbara Nitke’s New Book on the Golden Age of Porn

By on October 15, 2012

A fabulous book arrived at my house today. Not long ago, Skin Two joined the sponsors of “American Ecstasy, Barbara Nitke on the Golden Age of Porn”. This book is a memoir in pictures and words of the twelve years Nitke spent working as a stills photographer on porn movie sets in New York in the 1980s.

Now I’ve seen the book, I just can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s a real insight, from a great photographer – and an insider – into the hearts and minds of the porn people. Having published Skin Two for 28 years, there are very few books I really rate. Actually, you could count them on the fingers of one hand and have fingers to spare. This is one.

“It’s hard to imagine now,” Nitke says, “but back in the 1980s people lined up outside of real movie theatres to watch feature length sex flicks. It was the Golden Age of Porn. There was a thriving X-rated movie industry in New York City, and that was where I got my start as a photographer.”

Her American Ecstasy book is a nostalgic view of those heady days. The photographs, while undeniably sexual, reach far beyond the usual sex machine image of the industry to reveal the touching humanness of the actors. Often shot between takes, when the actor’s porn star masks were down, the images are deeply intimate. Disheveled, semi-naked starlets huddle together between takes, staring out into the distance with combat soldier stares. A paunchy director, wearing a baseball cap, comes into the frame to give Nina Hartley a few notes on her performance. The actor underneath her keeps right on going.

The book includes stories Nitke wrote of the day-to-day life on the sets, and clips from extensive interviews she conducted with the porn stars of the day. In an essay for the book, art critic Arthur C. Danto writes, “From reading these verbal ‘shots’ of life in the porn world, one realises that the scenario is as rigid as those of commedia dell’arte. Instead of Columbine and Pierrot, one has the needful housewife and the pizza boy, delivering initially the pie, and then himself…” He compares her photography with that of Robert Mapplethorpe.

Go here to discover Ms Nitke and see a preview of the book www.BarbaraNitke.com

Here’s the link to the official American Ecstasy book website, where you can buy the book – www.AmericanEcstasyBook.com

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