Sophie Ebrard exhibits series of photographs shot on porn sets as part of Unseen Amsterdam

It’s Just Love is an exhibition of photographs by Sophie Ebrard taken over several years on the porn sets of director Gazzman. Shot with wit and tenderness, the images are set to challenge the preconceived ideas many have of the world’s most profitable industry… [Needless to say, given the subject matter, a few of these images may be deemed NSFW]

Ebrard began shooting the series after meeting Gazzman by chance at a swingers’ party. “I went with my ex-agent because I wanted to find subjects for a project that involved people being naked,” she says. “It was the first time I’d ever seen someone having sex in front of me and that was quite an eye opener! It was pretty amazing to see how beautiful the human body was and how beautiful it was when people were having sex – it was fascinating, I really wanted to have my camera.”

The first set she visited was in the unlikely location of Stoke-on-Trent. “I arrived at a 17th century castle and the scene that I witnessed was a girl and a guy – so super normal sex – next to a fireplace, it was beautiful actually,” she says. “And the scene stops and I go and introduce myself to the actor and he gives me his elbow instead of his hand, because he was kind of dirty, which was quite funny. It never happened again to me but I thought it was quite sweet.”

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Sophie Ebrard: It’s Just Love
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Sophie Ebrard: It’s Just Love
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Sophie Ebrard: It’s Just Love

Ebrard’s tales from the sets include many such amusing moments – including another time, while she was still learning the franca lingua of porn, when she muddled up DP (double penetration) for DOP (director of photography) – but she also expresses great admiration for the actors and the director, which may belie some perceptions of the porn industry.

Above all, she experienced an atmosphere of respect and consideration. “Every time I come back from a porn set, people say ‘oh my god, how was it, was it difficult?’ No, I had fun and I have friends there and I enjoyed it,” she says. “It’s like another set but people are having sex … they’re normal people, it shocked me how normal they were in a way.

“Of course they do what they do,” she continues, “so there’s a certain amount of craziness but what I witnessed was not so bad … it’s an industry like any other.”

It’s Just Love is showing as part of the Unseen photo fair in Amsterdam from September 16 to 20. The exhibition will be taking place at Ebrard’s house, in a large room which she has converted into a kind of ‘boudoir’ with the help of art director Damien Bellon and set designer Gina Geoghegan. Twenty-three photographs are being exhibited, alongside a short film, and each will be accompanied by a piece of music curated by Massive Music as well as words from the actors about their experiences on set.

By situating the exhibition in her home, Ebrard feels she is in some ways reversing the sense of voyeurism she felt in making the project. “It just made sense because I wanted something that felt really intimate and also it was kind of turning around the voyeuristic aspect that I had on the porn set – the people who come to the exhibition can actually come and see the work in my own space,” she says. “Porn never leaves the house so it felt like the perfect setting to do it.”

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Sophie Ebrard: It’s Just Love

She acknowledges that she is not trying to make a comment on the whole industry with her photographs, but instead on the experiences she has personally had. “I’ve never really watched porn in my life,” she says. “I was really lucky because Gazzman is one of the best directors, he’s really high-end. There’s probably three to five directors of that quality in the world…. It’s still porn the way you know it, but it’s quite beautiful…. They really pay attention to the work they do.

“What I’m saying is I managed to find beauty,” she continues. “Porn can be beautiful actually. I’m going somewhere where people don’t really go – usually every time there’s something on porn, it tends to be quite bad. The director was quite scared throughout the whole process because you can take pictures that look like the girls are really not enjoying themselves quite easily.

“It’s not about making a statement about how the industry is. It’s more saying that when it’s done properly, it’s very human, and that it can be beautiful.”

It’s Just Love is on show as part of Unseen Amsterdam. More info is at unseenamsterdam.com.

Sophie Ebrard won Best in Book at the Creative Review Photography Annual in 2014 for her series, Finca La Prospera. Entries are currently open for this year’s Photography Annual, details here

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