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Photo Synthesis

Boxers, Mission Hills

April 02, 2006|Colin Westerbeck

1999

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Pornography is a genre that's in your face; its "aesthetic" (if it can be called that) is to put its subject right up front and make it explicit--hard core--so that nothing is left to the imagination. When Larry Sultan decided to document the porno industry in his series "The Valley" he took the opposite approach. His photographs are circumspect. They work around the edges of the scene and mostly avoid sex itself.

Sultan's real subject is the in-between moments, the quick nap or stolen bit of solitude between takes, the endless waiting that all filmmaking entails. In this photograph, only the light stanchion in the foreground makes it clear that we're on location with a movie crew of some kind. But what kind? Animal instincts are present in the way that the dogs gnaw on bones given to them, perhaps, to keep them quiet. The curve of each dog's back leads our eye to the similar shape of the woman's platform shoe with a stiletto heel, which is the one detail that might alert us to what kind of movie this is.

Sultan says the woman owns both the dogs and the house, which she rents to companies making porn flicks in which she then performs.

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