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Crash Pad Blog

What I learned about sex while shooting queer porn


Guest post by Tristan Crane

I’ve been a photographer for about twenty years, first as a student and then as a freelancer. Aside from my work on CrashPad Series, I’ve worked as a wedding and portrait photographer as well as maintaining several personal projects. ‘Here’ is my ongoing portrait/personal statement series from transgender, non-binary, and anyone else who identifies as non-cisgender folk, work from this series has been exhibited in Berkeley, Merced, and San Francisco. I’ve also worked with writer Zoe Rosenblum for several years on ‘Queer Collections’ – another interview and documentary series exploring the objects queer people collect while exploring the deeper meanings behind these collections and how they relate to their various identities. I’m passionate about people’s stories and the power of reclaiming our own narratives, as well as working collaboratively with folks towards creating empowering representation.

About 12 years ago, I began shooting CrashPad. I was referred for the role by a friend who knew that I’ve shot erotic content and knew I had on-set experience. I’d shot some adult content, and also had experience shooting nudes, fetish, that kind of work. I began photographing my friends in varying stages of undress from the very beginning of my journey with photography, so this trajectory wasn’t unpredictable.

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I’ve learned so much about queer identity, sexuality, and body positivity through my work with CrashPad Series.

My first major unlearning and reframing was around body size and shape. Like so many of us, I was raised in our sizeist and racist media landscape. I was already critical of the fashion industry and narrow standards of beauty, but shooting for CrashPad really helped opened my eyes to the beauty of all kinds of bodies and the importance of representing as wide a swath of body types as possible to combat the fat-phobia, ableism, ageism, and all the issues which are still so present unless we consciously work to dismantle these messages.

One thing I love about this work is that I don’t know anything about folks when they come on set, how they identify, what their sexual preferences are, or what power dynamics they may be playing with during the scene. This allows for a very open frame of reference to challenge my own assumptions around concepts of top/bottom, dom/sub, or whatever other dynamics folks may bring to the set.

The fluidity and diversity of queer sex is so incredible and even after all these years folks come in with ideas I’ve never seen or thought of before. CrashPad has expanded my concepts of sexuality, of what sex is – or can be. I’ve also just learned a lot of little tips and tricks through the power of observation. ; )

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It’s an honor and challenge to make sure I’m doing everything I can to show our performers in the best possible way. My job is to collaborate with our performers to create profile photos in which they feel confident, comfortable, and also look their absolute best. Working on set with so many incredible queer folk has allowed me to grow not only as a photographer, but as a person. My political awareness has evolved because of, and through this work, and for me, it’s really an honor to work in allyship with queers, sex workers, activists, artists, and everyone who so generously shares their sexuality with us and the CrashPad viewers.

I wish that more of us were provided with good, accurate, and queer-affirming education — not just about sex, but around consent and communication. To learn that sex isn’t just about penetration, and that after-care can be just as important as action. Pornography can be great, and it’s also ok if you see things you absolutely aren’t interested in doing yourself, but still want to watch. I wish more people had access to the type of work we make, because I feel it’s more reflective of the diversity of sexual expression than what many people find when seeking adult films.

In regards to photography, I hope people consider that behind the lens is a person, and sometimes that means there’s an unconscious bias around body type, ideas of beauty, etc. Some of the most famous photographers still shoot the same kinds of people again and again – consider both the limitations as well as the potential of photography, and consider who is making the image, because that can hugely influence the message of the work.

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I love the experience of coming on set with our all queer, trans, nonbinary crew and performers. I’ve been so fortunate to have that experience and we all work to create the safest and most affirming space on set for all involved. I think what Shine Louise Houston has created, and what Ava LaPrima is now continuing as the new director of CrashPad, is so important and unique. I’m just a small part of this team. Everyone really brings their A game, and I hope it comes across in the final product.

Tristan Crane is a non-binary, white, queer photographer and artist living in Oakland, California surrounded by plants and semi-feral yard cats. Tristan co-authored the underground queer comic series ‘How Loathsome’, with artist Ted Naifeh, and was the creator of ‘InVisible’, illustrated by Rhea Silvan. They can be reached via their website at tristancrane.com




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