Kenneth Probst - Por-ne-graf-ik

“When I lived in New York I specialized in shooting behind the scenes at the fashion collections held in New York, Paris and Milan. I was drawn to the combination of beauty and chaos which I found there. After moving to San Francisco, I was asked in 1993 to shoot photographs on gay life in the Bay Area. I had recently met the director of Falcon Video, the largest local gay porno company, and asked him if I could shoot on one of his sets. While he normally turned down requests by outsiders to visit the set, he agreed to let me on.

I loved the pictures that came out of that shoot. I thought they were sexy, funny, sad, voyeuristic, and elegant, sometimes all at the same time. I had grown tired of the simplistic, idealized male nudes that everyone seemed to be shooting, photos that seemed to say that having a gym-perfect body was the pinnacle of human achievement. AIDS had clearly changed all that—being “hot” was not the unmixed blessing it had once appeared.

I was hooked. All my friends wanted to come along as unpaid assistants, a request unfortunately impossible to grant. Instead, my photos were allowing them to see what I saw.”


 An American born in Switzerland, Ken Probst garnered respect as a young photographer for his regular contributions to the New York Times Magazine called ‘Backstage.’ Some of the more popular photo essays were the American Ballet Theater troupe in Miami, floating above the sands of South Beach, and the Japanese Kabuki Theater principals, never before seen out of costume, applying their porcelain white makeup prior to a performance.
The iconic ‘Tattooed Twins,’ was created in the same style and period as the portraits of “Markus Klinko with Harp” and the image in this year’s auction: “Darren’s Back.” These images with real people were the prelude to the next phase in Ken’s career which combined his love of portraits, his fondness for a behind the scenes environment, and his belief that a great portrait should stir the soul.
In a major project entitled ‘Por ne graf ik’—composed of over 100 black and white images—Ken spent three years applying his backstage approach in an extreme environment, the sets of Falcon Studios as well as other gay and straight adult film companies. What greater challenge than to document porn actors engaged in their craft and simultaneously humanize them? His subjects are neither glorified nor demonized.