Even though Sexual Revolution is already 35 years behind us, erotic liberation is still a widely inculpated issue. Despite the easier-than-ever porn access and the rise of sex technology that simulates all kinds of naughty antics, none of these have managed to open people up to this subject. Chris Phillips is a photographer and the founder of Pornceptual, a project that invites everyone to explore the concept of sex through his contemporary eyes. In an attempt to get an in-depth understanding of his vision of saving porn, we had quite an eye-opening chat with him.
You label Pornceptual as “a visual study of unusual pornography.” We have seen pretty much everything turned into porn, so what should we consider unusual these days?
We have seen the popularization of a pornographic culture and this might create the illusion that everything has turned into porn. But there is nothing as blend and uniform as the porn industry. It has created an industrial model with a very specific symbolic system that was able to contaminate even amateur porn. For me, what is unusual is exactly what goes beyond this industrial gaze. There is a lack of humanity in pornography and, as Pornceptual, we are trying to open up a space for new forms of representation.
In this visual study what do you expect the viewer to examine? What should one focus on?
I believe that this visual study can be seen as a chance for the viewer to examine his own sexuality. Not as a model, but as a question mark. Pornceptual is not a product to be consumed, it’s an invitation- we want to confuse people about sex in order to get them to become more open-minded and creative.
What we usually recognize in porn films, is the lack of aesthetics. On the other hand, Pornceptual has a great deal of it. What are your criteria for the works featured and how do you like to approach each subject, as a photographer?
Yes, the problem is that porn has become more about genitals than human beings. So there is no focus on the aesthetic, only on the sexual act itself. Because of that, porn has lost all its artistic value and has instead turned into something plastic. That is why I believe that only art can save porn. But I would not say that there are any specific aesthetic criteria for Pornceptual because we are very open towards different approaches.
In your opinion what is the beginner’s guide to porn and sexual exploration?
If someone wants to explore porn, the first step should be to leave all guides and just focus on their own bedroom. Instead of trying to copy someone or re-create an erotic fantasy created by someone else, we should understand and appreciate our own body as a sexual subject.
In Pornceptual you invite the viewer to visually try different tastes for his sexual palate. Why in your opinion are we so closeted in broadening our sexual experiences that we need a special push to even do that behind our screen (let alone the bedroom)?
Because of what I mentioned before- gonzo porn has been presented as the ideal sex behaviour. People are trying to experience sex while copying two dehumanized bodies that move like dolls, instead of exploring their own desires.
Berlin is best recognised for its alternative fashion scene and underground sex culture. While the latter has obviously shaped your works, what about fashion? Where do you stand in it and how relevant do you consider it to be in your works?
It is very important for me. I started as a fashion photographer but now, I see fashion as another unescapable system- we can never truly be naked because fashion has shaped our bodies. It is very similar (and of course there is a very close relation) to porn.
That porn is degrading. I want people to understand that there is nothing wrong or negative about doing porn, it should be a normal career choice. So I would like to change this misconception and invite people to produce porn with me.
How do you see Pornceptual evolving in the near future?
I see it as a community of creative people or a cultural movement. This is also why we host events in different cities around the world- we want people to come and participate, to join us and become part of Pornceptual.
As featured in Chasseur issue #10 – LOVE ALONE (SS15)