The Banality of 80s Porn

Barbara Nitke is an American photographer whose career began around the end of the so-called golden age of porn, before the advent of home videos made furtive jaunts to a theater obsolete. By the early 80s, these skin flicks featured relatively known stars and a semblance of plot lines, requiring at least some direction and reshoots.



As a set photographer for many of these films, Nitke was able to capture not just the hot and heavy action but also the humorously mundane moments in between — dozing off between takes, a fit of the giggles, the director giving instruction mid-copulation, and so on.

But for Nitke, these images represent more than an opportunity to marvel at Ron Jeremy’s pre-Viagra prowess or chuckle at bad 80s perms. A faculty member of the School of Visual Arts in New York, Nitke is a staunch champion of the First Amendment and freedom of speech. In 2001, she filed a lawsuit, along with the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, challenging the Communications Decency Act, a law prohibiting the publication of obscenity on the internet. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court and, although she lost, porn is clearly thriving.