In the Summer of 2003, Sydney based artist Samuel Hodge undertook his first ever paid gig as a photographer. The brief was to take stills on a porn set for a film that would later be titled Red Centre. This is the story of that shoot.
SAMUEL HODGE: I was in my very early twenties. I had just started taking photos because I had decided that I wanted to be a photographer at the time. I didn’t know what type of photographer. I really liked certain fashion magazines like Dutch and wasn’t involved in art at all. A friend of mine who worked at a film place messaged me and said a guy he met was making a porno in Sydney, and it had all this funding and they needed a photographer and I was like, ‘Sure I can do that’, even though I knew I couldn’t… Well, I wasn’t confident yet. I met with the guy and threw out a price, and he gave me a ton of money and that was it. They were shooting a gay porno first, then using the same script and then shooting a straight porno at random houses in the Eastern Suburbs.
SEBASTIAN GOLDSPINK: And can you remember what the rough idea of the story was?
SH: It was about two Jackaroos from the outback that had moved to Sydney, and they were looking for an apartment to rent. It was just a series of scenes of them meeting real estate agents and every time they looked at a house they’d have sex…
SG: …With the real estate agents?
SH: Every time.
SG: So, talk me through the shoot day. Were you nervous?
SH: It was the first time I’d ever taken photos. I didn’t shoot digital then either, and I shot everything on slide film, and I showed up on the set and my first scene was of a guy getting fucked by a guy. And… Do you want to hear all of this?
SH: The first thing that happened was the guy shat all over the other guy, and there was a cut, and I was just smiling and nodding and pretending I was ok. I’d only have to do a couple of hours a day for a week, and the following week was the straight porno.
SG: Was there any difference shooting the straight porno?
SH: No, it was all pretty unsexy. The straight porno was nicer, because the female actors were nicer and I got along with them. A little too well in that they would talk to me mid-sex scene.
SG: What’s interesting to me is that the images that came out of the shoot reflect in some ways what went on to become a core of your arts practice…
SH: It was the first time I had funding to go nuts. Endless supplies of film. So I just did tons of photos. What’s left is a severe edit. The people I have in the images were the people that were OK with being photographed. There were other actors who you could tell didn’t want to be doing what they were doing. There was this whole other dark aspect. I was terrified but it was a good lesson, the element of challenging myself, expanding my horizons and concepts.
SG: If we fast-forward a decade and look at your contemporary work for exhibition, and in particular a work No Guts No Glory Hole. That work was inspired by a 70s porn image. Has the spectre of porn lingered as an influence in your work?
SH: I think from doing that shoot it opened… It made it possible for certain publications, say Butt Magazine, to contact me and say to me, ‘Can you take a portrait of someone?’, and its implicit that some type of skin will be shown. But I’ve… I’ve always been uncomfortable… I’ve never been that type of photographer that would want someone naked for the sake of it. If anything has ever been sexualised, it’s been set in place by someone else.
SG: So, what became of the images from the porno? Were they ever used in the marketing of the film?
SH: The straight one never got released. I destroyed the slides of some of the images of some people, because I was like, ‘These people don’t need these out there’. I’ve kept a small amount. They used the images from the gay shoot, the film is called the Red Centre and you can see my images on the cover in a terrible, amazing Photoshop job.
SG: You mentioned Butt Magazine before and I wanted to talk about the work you’ve done in masculine portraiture in a kinda sexualised way, but in a way that’s not overly ‘porny’. They have the artifice of porn through things like the Butt Magazine calendar that references pin-up calendars, but a lot of the time the images are innocuous…
SH: I had noticed when I was attempting to get into photography it was actually a kind of casting couch situation. It was a bit exploitative. Photographers trying to get laid. It was something I didn’t want to be a part of. You have a duty of care to the person you’re shooting. If I shot something with someone, I’d always talk to the model about what they were comfortable with.
SG: So as someone who makes images and has a certain aesthetic, does that affect your own personal porn viewing habits?
SH: I think with any type of porn the one thing I look for is an authentic connection between people… Working on this porno was so unsexy that I couldn’t look at porn for a long time.
SG: Like working at McDonalds and not being able to eat the food?
SH: Yeah, or an abattoir worker who’s a vegetarian ‘cause they can’t handle the sight of meat. I was so desensitised to sex that I couldn’t have sex for, like, a month afterwards.
Samuel Hodge (b. Glen Innes, Australia) is an artist whose projects have taken the form of exhibitions, publications, online platforms, fashion shoots, and text-based work....
Sebastian Goldspink is a Sydney based curator and writer and runs the gallery ALASKA Projects which represents Samuel Hodge....