By Emily Bowers
The haze of sex is almost indistinguishable in the blur of the photo. It’s there, though — a leg, a hand, a finger. And a face with an expression of lust nearly wiped away in the black and white smudge.
It’s the most intimate moment and Dan Ehrenworth saw it all with his camera. The third-year image arts student has found a passion that gleefully caters to his inner pervert. He takes pictures of people having sex.
“I’m a voyeur,” he says, eyes gleaming under thick glasses. “I’m very much a pervert.”
Ehrenworth has been taking pictures since high school, but his exploration of sex as art is his latest photographic passion. And it started with a rather simple request from two friends who study at different schools and wanted some pictures taken of them having sex.
“I was curious to see what they looked like with no clothes on,” he says mischievously. “They’re attractive people.”
Ehrenworth agreed to take pictures that would be purely pornographic — something to keep his friends company while they studied at schools in Ontario and the United States.
But he also got his friends to let him experiment with the artistic side of sex and photography, an attempt to explore the emotions that come with that orgasmic moment.
“I had my porn cam and my art cam,” he says.
The trio got together one evening last summer around 7 p.m. After a few drinks to loosen up, they got to work.
Ehrenworth used minimal equipment, just two standard household lights shining against the wall, aimed and directed to reflect the glow off the pair.
He started by reeling off a few standard shots, though the pair seemed to be putting on a show for the camera. Ehrenworth realized he was going to have to lead the couple and give some direction.
“People feel a lot more comfortable if at first you direct them,” he says. His directions were as explicit as giving them exact guidance on where to bend, move, touch and lick.
Not only did it help the couple loosen up, Ehrenworth says it helped them to realize his own desires.
“You have to present yourself as a bigger pervert than they are,” he says. By seeing this, he says, the couple will realize that no matter how kinky it is to have someone take pictures of you having sex, the photographer — the one directing you into perverse positions — is just as kinky.
But he says that the thrill of voyeurism, the fascination with watching people — especially two friends — have sex, quickly wore off.
“You get past the initial thrill of watching people fucking,” he says. “You remove yourself from any attraction.”
After an hour with the “porn cam,” Ehrenworth changed the tone with the “art cam.” He began experimenting with the movement of sex, in an attempt to capture the essence of emotion and feeling of being in sync with each other.
The result is a startling collection of black and white photos and a couple seemingly so lost in the emotion of lovemaking that they lose the sense of being two separate bodies and join together. Some of the photos are blurred and indistinguishable as two people, an effect that Ehrenworth says is how he sees sex. It’s also brutally honest.
“You can’t fake an orgasm in photography,” he says.
But Elizabeth Trott, professor of the psychology of love and sex, says bringing a photographer into the sex act falsifies the very purpose of it.
Sex, she says, is an act performed by two people who “intended not to be a part of the world,” at that moment. By bringing a photographer to not only watch but to also make a permanent record of it, that aspect is lost. And the act of sex becomes posturing for the visitor.
“There is just so little (about sex) that can be interpreted,” says Trott.
While Ehrenworth’s photos may be a matter of taste for most who see them, he says they are an attempt to capture one of the few times when the body is allowed to take over the mind.
“You shed all your masks,” he says.
But Ehrenworth isn’t sure it’s something he’d be wiling to do. He says he’d have to think long and hard if the camera was turned around.
“I’m still vulnerable to the judgements other people are placing on me,” he says.