Ezekiel’s new erotic photobook captures intimate moments of women working in the adult industry

Championing female sexuality and queerness, the London-based photographer’s latest publication aims to legitimise the fact that “sex work is real work”.

Date
29 November 2021

Share

Last December, Ezekiel and their long-term collaborator and photographer Nicole Ngai released a publication titled Tender – a soft, quiet and grounding series documenting their lives and friendship. Nearly a year has passed since the launch and, a pandemic plus a host of different challenges later, Ezekiel has returned with a refreshed and refined mindset, not to mention a new book called Smut, Volume 1: Transgressions which is available to pre-order and published in January 2022.

“Since you last featured my work, we went through two lockdowns,” they tell It’s Nice that, “so there was a lot of time to reflect and go through my personal archive.” While the UK started to open its doors again after months of restrictions, Ezekiel began to review their work and processes, which resulted in the idea to release the first iteration of their erotic photobook series, Smut, Volume 1: Transgressions. In comparison to the introspective and personal work of Tender that came before it, Smut, Volume 1: Transgressions is quite the opposite as it responds to the world opening up again post-lockdown. Instead, Ezekiel turns a lens onto the role and perception of sex work, asking us all to question the ways in which female sexuality and queerness is perceived in society.

The project was first devised around two years ago during the photographer's final year of University at London College of Fashion. While working on their thesis, Ezekiel decided to examine the topic of “alternative queer pornography” and, specifically, how lesbian directors were creating a “new wave of films which undermined the problematic tropes and representation of female sexuality found in commercial adult films catered for a straight audience.” This inquest continued and, throughout their research, Ezekiel started to question their own gaze: “the queer gaze” and a means of celebrating female sexuality, rather than objectifying it – which is something we’ve long laid witness to over the years. As such, Ezekiel’s mission was born and Smut, Volume 1: Transgressions began.

Above

Ezekiel: Smut, Volume 1: Transgressions, Samantha (Copyright © Ezekiel, 2021)

Throughout the pages of Smut, Volume 1: Transgressions, you’ll notice the return of Ezekiel’s signature photographic style of warm, tonal hues and unusually cropped compositions – like a lacy leg poking out from a chair, a crop at the waist, a latex glove or a back. Other pictures are more revealing as they portray Ezekiel’s subjects in all their glory, adorned in leather outfits, fishnets and two-pieces as they pose in front of the camera. Most of Ezekiel’s subjects are close friends: “sex work is relatively normal within my circle and I’d like to think we’re all very comfortable with our own sexualities and would never shame someone for pursuing a career in the industry,” they add. Meanwhile, subjects such as Miss A. – “the dominatrix and latex enthusiast I met online” – was cast as they followed each other on Instagram. “She is one of the loveliest people I have worked with, she also happens to make a living from bringing pain (and pleasure) into men’s lives).”

When speaking of a memorable moment from the project, Ezekiel points out one of the subjects named Sasha Swan, who appears both at the beginning and end of the book. An adult film star, she’s also one of Ezekiel’s oldest and closest friends; they’ve known each other since the age of 12. You’ll see Sasha in the beginning sequence, where the camera zooms in on her mid-drift as she arches her back. This image is mirrored with a shot of a laptop, video camera attached to the top. In the closing pages, we see pictures of Sasha’s second breast augmentation surgery. “We shot this really casually in the living room of my family home in Brighton,” says Ezekiel, explaining how Sasha had just returned from travelling to the US and Australia for two years. “This was a really special and intimate moment in time because we hadn’t seen each other in so long and had a lot to catch up on. The best thing about this shoot is what you don’t see on the camera, on the other side of the room is actually an altar filled with religious ornaments (my mother is incredibly religious). To me, this contrast is quite funny, just the thought of someone walking in on us makes me chuckle. But it’s also very representative of my practice and how sexuality and religion or spirituality play a big part in my work.”

As Ezekiel continues to build on their practice, it’s clear how much they emphasise the unseen and unspoken elements of their subject matter. In Smut, Volume 1: Transgressions, for instance, this isn’t your typical display of female sexuality – Ezekiel’s photography strays far from the typical depictions of sex work, that which is often objectified and stereotyped in mainstream media. By blending erotica with fashion and art, Ezekiel wants to liberate and champion the women they photograph. “Through this imagery, I want to represent these women through an empowering light. As women who have complete agency over their careers within an industry that is often looked down upon yet is essential and secretly adored,” they say. “I hope it helps legitimise the fact that sex work is real work.”

Above

Ezekiel: Smut, Volume 1: Transgressions (Copyright © Ezekiel, 2021)

Above

Ezekiel: Smut, Volume 1: Transgressions, Sasha Swan (Copyright © Ezekiel, 2021)

Above

Ezekiel: Smut, Volume 1: Transgressions, Sasha Swan (Copyright © Ezekiel, 2021)

Above

Ezekiel: Smut, Volume 1: Transgressions, Sasha Swan (Copyright © Ezekiel, 2021)

Above

Ezekiel: Smut, Volume 1: Transgressions, A (Copyright © Ezekiel, 2021)

Above

Ezekiel: Smut, Volume 1: Transgressions, Ms A (Copyright © Ezekiel, 2021)

Above

Ezekiel: Smut, Volume 1: Transgressions, Ms A (Copyright © Ezekiel, 2021)

Above

Ezekiel: Smut, Volume 1: Transgressions, Fake ID (Copyright © Ezekiel, 2021)

Above

Ezekiel: Smut, Volume 1: Transgressions, Breast Surgery (Copyright © Ezekiel, 2021)

Above

Ezekiel: Smut, Volume 1: Transgressions, Breast Surgery (Copyright © Ezekiel, 2021)

Hero Header

Ezekiel: Smut, Volume 1: Transgressions, Sam (Copyright © Ezekiel, 2021)

Share Article

About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent nearly a decade as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.

It's Nice That Newsletters

Fancy a bit of It's Nice That in your inbox? Sign up to our newsletters and we'll keep you in the loop with everything good going on in the creative world.