A little while back, I went behind the scenes on X-Art – a pioneer of the "art porn" industry.

I did a story for British GQ, which you can read here: www.gq-magazine.co.uk/girls/articles/2013-03/13/brigham-colette-field-x-art-sex-scene

Here's a collection of photos I took: http://imgur.com/a/cNYxn

It was a truly bizarro, fascinating week.

The rise-and-rise of immaculately shot, hyper-tasteful porn was what pulled me into this story. I wanted to know what was behind it. The talent and production crew ended up being such an affable, interesting and open-minded bunch of people.

Happy to try to answer any questions you guys might have on the realities behind the videos. Can't answer everything – but fire away and I'll do my best.

Proof: https://twitter.com/ads_b/status/473830559030853632

EDIT: This has been awesome. Totally didn't expect so much discussion. So fun. I'll try to poke through and keep answering new questions. But, y'know, Australian timezones.

For those keen to follow more of my work, I'm on Twitter and I blog every now and then.

Comments: 1630 • Responses: 33  • Date: 

inhalingsounds958 karma

So... Have you met Caprice?

ads_b880 karma

She wasn't on that set. Don't feel weird for asking – all of my male friends did, too.

IronMew579 karma

I've seen a few "behind the scenes" videos from X-Art. It seemed to me like everyone was having the time of their lives, but I'm not sure it wasn't all edited or filmed for the purpose of giving that exact impression.

What would you say? Specifically, do the girls enjoy the sex, or is it like in "pro" porn where they look all horny, smiling and eager, and the moment someone yells "CUT!" they instantly switch back to their usual bored faces?

Edit: the BTS videos showed a few instances of performers getting it on just for the hell of it, out of shot of the big cameras and just the random hand camera filming the BTS. How much truth is there in that?

ads_b967 karma

One little piece of colour that I threw into my story happened on the first day of shooting. There was this epic, poolside threeway (the first photo in the gallery above) — all passion and moaning. But it really was a matter of "cut!" and the magic vanishing. No fluffers, either.

But I have to admit, all of the performers seemed to really enjoy their work. As you'd expect, some of the duos had better chemistry than others. So while one couple might politely separate in between takes, others would banter and flirt and mess around off camera all the time. Reality sits somewhere in the middle.

jedavis1444465 karma

Out of all the bizarre things you saw what made you take the biggest double take, and reconsider how you thought about the porn industry?

ads_b1155 karma

Talking to one of the male performers–a serial monogamist–about how he couldn't find a girlfriend. Super nice guy. Really funny, sociable, you get it.

He didn't want to date American girls that did porn (apparently they're typically quite erratic), and all the civilian girls he'd try to date couldn't take him seriously as a romantic prospect, for obvious reasons.

FunkyTreasureHunter368 karma

Besides the awesome view, how did it compare/contrast to a normal porn set?

ads_b569 karma

As far as my knowledge of "normal porn sets" was concerned, I could only go off what I'd read and watch in preparation for my story: docos, magazine articles and so on. (That Louis Theroux documentary was etched into my retinas.)

One thing that really struck me was the focus on performer safety, comfort and well-being. They were treated like family. The female performers were young, foreign, and, in the wrong work environment, probably super vulnerable. But I was happily surprised at how female-friendly it was.

millerzoo326 karma

Did you get "excited" at any point during the shoots?

ads_b666 karma

Not even kinda. Not for a lack of aesthetic perfection, believe me. I was too worried about gathering all the colour for the article, and capturing all the photos just right.

dizzguzztn232 karma

Is that a young Matthew McConaughey chomping on a boob in that last pic?

ads_b296 karma

Man, he was actually the spitting image.

-staccato-215 karma

How do you create a shot like http://imgur.com/a/cNYxn#9 ?

I love everything about it. The mood, the colors, the mystery. What's important if you want to take a picture like that?

ads_b199 karma

A lot of it is the subject, obviously.

The rest comes down to making the most of the natural light coming from the window in front of her (i.e. letting a lot of light in while shooting, shooting in RAW and upping the highlights in post-processing).

Have a play around, you could certainly recreate it in a pinch. It's nothing crazy difficult.

AvPrime196 karma

How/why did they use conditioner as fake cum? The context made it sound like they were filming a video. (To save anyone else the trouble of answering, I'm aware that fake cum is used in porn. My question relates to X-art specifically and why they chose to use it in that instance instead of the real thing.)

ads_b259 karma

Yep, that was for a video. I can't remember exactly, but I believe it was in order to get multiple angles. I also learned that some female performers don't allow vaginal ejaculation.

CmonSeaLegs178 karma

How much of the action was scripted, and how much was improv? Were the girls often told exactly what to do?

ads_b265 karma

It actually varied from director to director, how much instruction was barked out. But there was plenty of room for improvisation.

For large parts of filming, performers were left to make it natural and go with the chemistry. They really encouraged that. And the crew thought about it in pre-production, too: who's personalities and tendencies would suit each other best?

Murcielagen167 karma


ads_b327 karma

Complete quiet. No non-essential people. Let the performers perform and make it feel organic.

They take it seriously: it's a professional vibe. No creeps or porn industry stereotypes that I saw.

buddythebear151 karma

Do you get the impression that "art porn" producers tend to treat their performers better, and that it is more "ethical" porn?

ads_b266 karma

There's a lot more women in the production process. To me, that lessens the possibility of creeps and misogynists infiltrating these sorts of companies. Which gives them more emotional intelligence. Which makes the videos more ethical – and "intimate/arty". That's my theory, at least.

Steven_Yeuns_Nipple147 karma

Where was this filmed?

ads_b223 karma


miss_baerly103 karma

In a time where it seems like the game is putting extremely inexpensive material out there, and depending on ad revenue or hoping for some users to sign up for a subscription, sites like x-art seem to be bucking that trend and spending quite a bit more . . .

My question is this: do they seem to be out-performing other content producers financially? If so, kudos to them. Just curious if you had any conversations on the business side with any of them.

ads_b145 karma

Couldn't really comment on the business side of things. But X-Art started as a husband-wife mom-and-pop company. They filmed, edited and produced everything themselves. Now they've grown to have international crews on exotic locations, and occasionally make those more filmic, high-budget videos.

Blauwdrop60 karma

It was a truly bizarro, fascinating week.

Anything bizar in particular?

ads_b161 karma

On a personal level, the humanising of pornography performers was really interesting. Getting to know everyone was so fascinating. There were so many common threads: young, hopeless romantics, who'd kind of fallen into a career that didn't really allow for much monogamy.

One lasting effect on me: I sure as hell can't "use" X-Art anymore. I think it's gorgeous, but it's been spoiled for me. Not in a bad way at all – just spoiled.

charlie133760 karma

Why? How so?

ads_b233 karma

Mainly knowing a bunch of the performers – it'd be like watching a friend have sex. Hah, maybe some people wouldn't miss a beat, but not for me.

garenzy52 karma

What do you shoot with? I really like the post-processing you did on your photos (almost film-like). Any tips on how I could get a similar look?

ads_b101 karma

Thanks! I shot these on a Canon 5D Mk II. I use Lightroom and create presets by messing around with curves, levels and brushes. There's roughly one billion sites that can guide a beginner through it, and /r/postprocessing is awesome too.

FunkyTreasureHunter51 karma

What were the hours like? Isn't the best light 'morning light?'

ads_b117 karma

As with any production, you gotta get bang for your buck. (Sorry.) They'd squeeze in multiple videos per performer, per day. Take a peek through the gallery and you can see they made use of all sorts of natural light, and also lit some indoor scenes artificially.

TehTrollord50 karma

Was the crew more serious than most others or were they about normal, do you think?

ads_b79 karma

There were some serious perfectionists on the more senior levels of the crew. The general attitude and professionalism on the set made me understand how they produce such popular videos.

mrevank2148 karma

Was it super uncomfortable? I mean, being in a group of people watching other people go at like 5 feet away?

ads_b78 karma

Depends on your sensibilities I suppose. I'm not a prude, not a deviant—I wasn't bothered by it at all. But I was really focussed on getting the story right, so that probably helped alleviating any anxieties.

LOUDNOIS3S43 karma

From the professional standpoint of things, the actors themselves... Were they very educated and well spoken or did they seem to be really rude, almost like an actor would be towards many people?

ads_b95 karma

The dudes were mostly American. All really well-spoken, polite, humble, chilled and respectful of everyone they worked with. They do get some crazy-ass stalkers online and stuff though, so I wouldn't blame them if they were standoffish in public.

The girls that week were all European. Mostly Czech I believe. There was a little language barrier, but all of the above applies to them too.

littlezav41 karma

Does your username have anything to do with the aviation use of adsb?

ads_b39 karma

Hah, no, just my name shortened.

CouragetheCowardly41 karma

What location is this? The view is breathtaking!

ads_b61 karma

Ibiza, late summer 2012. I've never seen views like that, so spectacular.

crazycharlieh30 karma

Are you going to be doing this again? That is, if you want to do this again, or get the opportunity?

May sound like a dumb question (hurr durr, who wouldn't want to work on a porn set) but does your true passion in photography lie elsewhere?

ads_b34 karma

I'm working hard on developing my photography and have been taking on a heap more visual work, which is sweet.

The photojournalism stuff is really great, but I'm working on branching out into fashion editorials. So, no xxx on the horizon.

myk3724219 karma

Was there any drug use on set?

ads_b37 karma

Nothing I saw. Not much drinking either. Pretty much in keeping with the "this is a job" vibe.

usemyimagination14 karma

those photos looks nice.

I'm assuming that you used a lot of filters on your lens or processed the photos in PS.

can you explain the process involved from shot to upload ?

ads_b39 karma

Thanks very much! Nice of you to say.

First step is getting a really great, well-lit, in-focus shot. Nothing else matters if you don't get that. So: super sharp, fast lens on a good DSLR.

Then it's a matter of going photo-to-photo and seeing what it needs mood-wise. Check out the community at /r/postprocessing. It's playing with curves and levels mostly.

corsair33017 karma

Don't forget to shoot RAW as well!

ads_b15 karma

YES. Always this.

OffbeatCardiff6 karma

Could you give us a hint as to who the European auteur director was?

ads_b16 karma

Absolutely not, unfortunately.