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Is It Porn or Art? Meet RIP Photography, The Couple Creating Both

The lines between pornography and art are becoming increasingly invisible. But would these lines even exist at all without society’s puritanical reprimand? We spoke with the artists behind RIP Photography, an intimate photography blog exploring these boundaries between pornography, photography and digital art with copious amounts of drugs thrown in too.

Hello Rina, hi Pau could you start with telling me how you met and when you started taking photos together?

We are Rina Panyella and Pau Corbinos, two photographers working and living together in Barceolona. We both are twenty, but we have been in photography for many years. Digital photography has allowed our generation to start photographing from really young. We met a couple years ago when we started our degree in contemporary photography. We were searching for a fresh beginning, and that same feeling was what attached us together, and became an obsessive feeling of destruction and reconstruction. There began our relationship, we found really comfortable working and thinking together as our interest and desires where so close. Photography has allowed us to expand our selves and blend together. One of the photos above is from our first photo session together. The picture of us having sex on a red background. We love shooting together and recreating our own world. 

Photographing together has changed our way of seeing photography, we refuse individual authority in order to work as a team. Our main issues are related to internet and society; such as identity, gender, censorship, drugs, pornography, as well as some meta-photographic issues, like the death of photography and the post-photography situation. 

Where do you find people to take pictures of? Or are they self-portraiture? or both?

We shoot both, but in really different ways, even though the main part of our projects are self-portrait. For us all of our work contains a dualism. We try to build conceptual projects that deconstructsour own concerns and interests. But we use our own relationship and image as inspiration and guide line. So all of our work becomes also an intimate diary. For these reason it would be a non sense to shoot the same pictures to extrangers. Sometimes we used some friends as models, but we try to avoid that in order to keep our creative process intact, and get our own voice. 

Photography has the ability to promote people’s opinions about everything. 

For some specific projects, we use the internet in order to find our subjects to shoot. (“Fucking in your bed” could be an example). Specially our most meta-photographic projects that works about the new uses of photography through the internet. 

Do you consider your work to be pornographic? Would it bother you if other people described your work in this way?

Yes, we consider our work pornographic, we love showing sex and nudeness in our photography, and even if it is not our first intention, if someone gets exited with our work we would feel fulfilled. From our point of view, most of our work has all the requirements to be considered as porn. 

Like it or not, pornography now a days is our sex culture. We didn’t got any text book or subject about sex in school. Pornography uses a simple and direct language to talk about sex. Our society has learned about sex watching mainstream porn, for many people is hard to see the line between recreation and reality. We understand it as a language, and it is coherent to us to use it while talking of sexual issues. 

On that note where does art end and pornography begin?

It really depends on who is watching. We strongly believe that art and pornography can be totally blended. We try to do so in our art, using pornography as a language. Of course there’s tons of pornography without anything of art. And there’s a lot of art without pornography. But when they come together, they can make an excellent mix, as we see in many artists works, and some pornographers that have strong knowledge of art. (as Erika Lust and their videos of xconfessions). Art doesn’t have to end to let pornography begin. They can be the same, but the final decision is from the spectator, and his ability to see something behind plain pornography.

You take a lot of photos of drugs, marijuana in particular, is there a connection for you between drugs and sex? What is it about these subjects that you think makes such compelling photography?

Smoking weed is something we both love and share. We tend to relate drugs and sex to everything in life. We have a huge interest on psychedelic culture: books from Alexander Shulgin, Alber Hoffman, set and setting methodologies….  This is something that inspires us just as sex does. Drugs and photography give us another perspective of reality in a really similar way. In our personal live we love mixing drugs and sex, but when it comes to art, we blend photography and drugs, in order to speak about sex, or anything else. 

Sex and drugs are both taboo issues in many contexts. When photography speaks about them, it causes many reactions. The way we are used to read photography makes feel sex and drugs really close when we see it.  Photography has the ability to promote people’s opinions about everything. 

How do you think the internet has enabled us to express ourselves? With regards to our sexuality, are we at an advantage compared to previous generations?

Internet has changed our world. We have grown surrended by it, and we are fascinated on how photography has changed with. 

Nowadays has ended the dictatorship of the creation of the image. A hundred years ago photography was just for a few. Nowadays, with internet, smartphones, social media… Photography is created and used by everyone. Combined with internet is the fastest way of expression.

Our way of finding freedom is giving it between us. 

Talking about sexuality, internet is a whole new world. Our generation has found all the information we needed there. That gives us an advantage about sexual information. But in the internet the physical contact has been substituted by the visual contact. Thats something we love as photographers.  In internet we don’t touch things, we take and watch pictures. But when sex uses photography as an expression and interaction, we have to be conscious that what we see is a representation, a reflection of the photographer’s reality.  

Your work reminded me of a few other artists - film-maker Gaspar Noe, writers like George Bataille and photographers such as Nan Goldin - are you familiar with these artists and what other work has inspired you?

All of these have been greatest sources of inspiration for our work. As photography students our references are almost infinte. From Helmut Newton’s nude portraits, homoerotic works of Mapplethorpe, all the drugs and sex of Antoine d’Agata, and his life reflections. The universe of the personal diaries of photographers like Nan Goldin, Larry Clark or Terry Richardson. All the darkness of Lars von Trier an all the kitsch colors of David LaChapelle and Toilet Paper. And important couples of the art history, like the systematic methodology of Brend and Hilla Becher, the amazing Gilbert and George, and the sexuality of Pierre et Gilles. And many spanish artists, like Joan Fontcuberta, Ignasi Aballí, García Alix… 

But to keep our work on, is really important for us to search new references far from visual art or photography. Some example could be Alexander Shulgin, Carl Edward Sagan, Antonio Escohotado.

What would you like to see change with regards to the mainstream's tolerance of nudity, sexual expression and art?

The intentions of our work are far from changing the world. Even when we see all that is wrong in it. On the social networks and in real life, mainstream’s tolerance about nudity and sex is ridiculous from our point of view. And even more talking about drugs!  

Our way of finding freedom is giving it between us. We are lucky to be in a place that allows us to do so.  From that we try to ignore totally the mainstream’s tolerance. We strongly believe that the way we have of changing the world is living the change we want.  Digital technology and internet gives us the change of finding our own space of tolerance.