LOS ANGELES—High-profile photographer Deborah Anderson has always wanted to shoot porn stars. This unabashed desire comes from a women who’s photographed the likes of George Clooney, Elton John, Sharon Stone, Lindsay Lohan and countless other celebs from publications ranging from Vanity Fair to Playboy.
Anderson isn’t the first fashion and celebrity photog to capture porn’s brightest stars in compelling art photos, but her upcoming project, Aroused: The Lost Sensuality of a Woman, seeks to change the prism through which many people view adult performers.
For the British lenswoman, Aroused represents the opportunity to showcase 16 porn stars in a natural setting, stripped from the usual porn trappings, to bring out their inherent sensuality. In an era heightened by our oversexualized, overexposed tabloid culture, Anderson aims to capture these women’s natural beauty.
AVN visited Anderson on set at a comfortable home nestled in the Hollywood Hills high above the Sunset Strip to see her in action.
“I have always wanted to shoot porn stars,” Anderson said. “Over time as I developed my ability to take photos and after shooting a ton of amazing people, I loved the idea of being able to take someone out of their comfort zone or out of the norm or what other people perceive them to be and create imagery where someone’s reaction would be ‘Oh my God, is that them?”
The Aroused project takes on three forms: a fine-art coffee-table book, a documentary film that shows the project as it’s being created, and a gallery art show in major culture capitals.
Helping to cast the models is the project’s executive producer, Mike Moz, former publicist and adult talent agent. Through Moz’s connections, Aroused features Jesse Jane, Belladonna, Katsuni, Allie Haze, Kayden Kross, April O'Neil, Francesca Lé, Lisa Ann, Brooklyn Lee, Alexis Texas, Asphyxia Noir, Teagan Presley, Ash Hollywood, Tanya Tate, Lexi Belle and Misty Stone.
“I think that the sexual aspect of their lives, the sexual activity, is so outsized and dominant that I want to take the mask off and have them be seen in a light that they’ve not been seen in before; something that takes them out of their element and out of context of how people know them,” she said.
Anderson is effusive in her praise of the girls she’s shot for the project, including Belladonna, who’s sitting nearby preparing for her session in front of the lens.
“Deborah’s energy is infectious,” Belladonna said. “It just feels different being around her; I feel at ease, I feel like I can open up completely. I think as a beautiful woman herself, she can coax something different out of the models. Just talking to her about this project, what motivated her to do this, I got her sensibility and was excited to be able to contribute to this important piece of art.”
For Belladonna, who’s known as one of porn’s extreme queens, in person she’s actually quite the opposite. Soft spoken and quietly intelligent, as a director herself, she always endeavors to get to the heart of pleasure for the girls that perform in her movies.
“As a woman, I want to feel good—naturally sexy,” she said. “I want to see women relaxed and in pleasure. I think it’s been a while since we’ve seen these sensual elements in porn that it’s refreshing [that more movies are being made with this in mind]. Porn isn’t just about the shut-up-and-fuck aspect, but bringing out a woman’s inner sexuality—the romance and connection between two people—that I want captured when I direct. As for today, I’ve never been shot this way—feminine, beautiful, soft.”
All of the models in Aroused appear fully nude, save for a pair of brightly colored Jimmy Choo heels, provided exclusively for the project through company co-founder Tamara Mellon, a friend of Anderson’s.
While she shoots stills, Anderson’s crew rolls tape for the project’s accompanying documentary. Anderson talks to the girls about their lives, careers and future aspirations. The interviews are organic and Anderson has managed to even “get the ones who were slow to open up to reveal something they’ve never revealed before on or off camera!”
Anderson’s bona fides are those of a highly accomplished artist in her field. "A photographer whose distinctive sensuality is located somewhere between classic French erotica and Helmut Newton," said the Los Angeles Times of her work.
Born in London, she’s the daughter of legendary rock vocalist John Anderson of the band Yes. Aroused is Anderson’s third fine-art photo book. For her last coffee-table book, Room 23, she photographed 100 celebrities in one room at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills to raise funds and awareness for the Sanela Diana Jenkins International Justice Clinic at the UCLA Law School Human Rights Center. The book sold out worldwide and received critical acclaim.
“Ultimately, the women in Aroused are all empowered in their own way,” Anderson said. “They are great women, in touch with who they are, who have climbed to the top of a very unforgiving field. It was truly an honor to shoot them all and have them be a part of this project.”
For more information on Aroused: The Lost Sensuality of a Woman, visit TheArousedProject.com. The book and documentary will be released in the spring.