Photographing normal bodies having sex in a safe space

Prepare to feel equal parts sexualisation and liberation in issue one of Lauren Crow’s Lascivious

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Lauren Crow
photography Lauren Crow

The importance of inclusion has been one of the major themes of all of Lauren Crow’s work. Regardless of whether you know the photographer well or have any prior knowledge of her work, you only have to check her website or Instagram to see that each collection by Crow drives home this message. Instantly, we see bodies and sexualities otherwise ignored by the mainstream media not championed for being different, but represented simply as they exist. There’s no grandiose meaning to using these people, and no self serving purpose either; Lauren Crow just shows her friends and peers as they are – and in the case of her new book Lascivious, how they interact sexually.

“My body diverges from what society says is beautiful and acceptable and I know what it is like not seeing it represented.” Crow says. “I tend to be attracted to other folks whose looks and identities deviate from the ‘norm’ and I really seek to make people feel seen and for those seeing to normalise these bodies and identities.”

For those who follow Lauren Crow’s creative Portland peers online, some of these faces will be familiar to you. For the rest of us, they’re a diverse array of how the world actually is, rather than what we usually see. Crow’s casting of her first issue of Lascivious was entirely about allowing others to be themselves, rather than curating specific shots with specific people.

“There are some people I’m pals with that I said, ‘please let me photograph you!’ Others are folks who we linked up on Instagram or through acquaintances and mutually wanted to work together.” Crow explains: “I always check in on people's comfort levels with nudity and sexuality and you can see that in the book with the various levels  of smut. Some people we've got sensual implied nudity and others are down for some wild stuff. I kinda leave it up to them and what makes them feel safe and then work within those parameters. The internet is such a blessing for networking and meeting new people!”

Comfort and safety of the people who modelled for the book as well as those who see it is crucial to Crow, “My biggest hope and inspiration for this book was creating a sense of comfort and safety for those who participate that hopefully the viewer can sense as well. There are far too many predatory people who masquerade with the title of artist in order to put people in these sexualised situations for their own pleasure. I am not here for that.”

“It’s all about comfort, safety and fun as well as normalising nudity and sexual imagery/situations!” Crow’s enthusiasm for normalising bodies that were seen as othered has run as a standard throughout all of her photography, including her graphic self portraits. In this book however, Crow is now normalising the actions of our bodies – of all bodies – in sexual situations.

This feels like a natural progression for Crow’s work, and she confirms that, stating that this book has been “a long time coming.” (No double entendre intended.) “This book (is an) evolution of my work, myself as an artist and person, as well as my relationship with sexuality and intimacy. My prior series – called Intimacy – when I look back at it, was a series of fantasy, of situations I wished I was in, but they were mostly posed and I was in control of everything (the lights, the setting, the posing).”

“My body diverges from what society says is beautiful and acceptable and I know what it is like not seeing it represented” – Lauren Crow

Lascivious is me stepping back and allowing things to happen more organically. I'm back to shooting film, stepped out of the frame and do a little bit of set up, but mostly we just feel out the situations on set and then make some magic.”

It’s important to note that this is only the first issue of Lascivious and one that is already promising a sequel. While the theme of ‘60s and ‘70s aesthetic porno meets Nan Goldin is set to continue, Crow is determined to push herself and her models into more taboo situations.

Not for the sake of shocking the public, or for male gratification, as was often the aim of the Playboys and Maxims that helped inspire this series, but to represent more and more the weird and wonderful types of sexualities yet to be explored by the mainstream. This is not another brand of “popular pornographic media being made by men for men” Crow emphasises, but a series of loving photographs, where people allowed Crow in on their “most beautiful, weird, funny, sexy and messy moments.” Prepare to feel equal parts sexualisation and liberation in issue one of Lascivious, available now.

See more of Lauren Crow’s Lascivious here

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