A Queer Utopia: CrashPad 2019 Photo Book Review

 This is a review of Pink & White Productions’ first annual photo book, “CrashPad 2019: a year in photos,” written by Lips’ Community Manager Val Elefante.

To purchase your own hard or digital copy of “CrashPad 2019,” click here!

Can you close your eyes and imagine what it would look, sound, and feel like to walk into a room and instantly feel completely, unconditionally, and whole-heartedly welcomed and accepted there for exactly the person that you are? A challenge, I know. But this feeling—at least the closest I can conceive of it—is one that emanates out from the queer adult studio Pink & White Productions’ first annual photography book titled, CrashPad 2019.

In case you are reading this but have never heard of Pink & White Productions, let me have the honor of introducing you. Founded in 2005 by Shine Louise Houston, Pink & White Productions has become one of the most well-respected and widely recognized studios committed to documenting the vast spectrum of queer sexuality through video. Their hard work and success over the years has been crucial to progressing international dialogues about sexuality, ethical production, and so many more topics that contribute to improving our society’s understanding and perspective on sex.

Shine’s work began with a project known as, The Crash Pad. The 2005 film, starring the legendary performer (and Pink & White’s current Marketing Director) Jiz Lee, tells the story of a secret apartment in San Francisco where queer-identifying folk can go to explore their wildest desires and fantasies. A groundbreaking success, the film spurred the development of an entire Crash Pad Series with over 308 episodes created to date; about 60 of them, shot in 2019, were compiled into a photography book that was released just last month—a perfect gift for that sex-positive person you’ve been crushing on.

The book itself is a compilation of photographs taken by Pink & White’s Set Photographer Tristan Crane. The images themselves are vibrant in both color and in the energy they possess. Each one captures the subject’s actions and expressions so precisely that the individuals practically come alive and the viewer is absorbed into the room and placed directly in the middle of the scene itself (but only if they consent, of course). The photos are sprinkled with quotes attributed to the various performers that further elevate the book’s already evident political messages by incorporating performers’ internal thoughts, feelings, and experiences into the discussion. The result is a beautifully constructed, urgent declaration and affirmation of the basic human rights of all people especially those who are non-straight, non-binary, trans, disabled, fat, sex workers, and more.

My favorite aspect of CrashPad 2019 is how well it encapsulates human diversity as it truly exists in the world—and how much better it does this than almost any media form I have ever come across from film, to museum exhibitions, to magazines, etc. Some of the categories that stand out to me include body shape and size, skin color and perceived race/ethnicity, tattoos, hairstyles, accessories and lingerie, body parts and toys, and, finally, expression and power dynamics. The humans alone are beautiful works of art who should be celebrated—which they are in gridded, yearbook-style photos on pages at the beginning and end of the book. Furthermore, the diversity doesn’t seem forced at all—like those commercials that scream, “Look! Couples can be interracial too!” Instead, it feels like the natural result of a welcoming and inclusive casting process and a judgment-free environment conducive to authentic self-expression—whatever that means for that particular performer—created and cultivated by the filmmakers throughout the film’s production process.

Another cool aspect of CrashPad 2019 is noticing how only about three photos are selected to represent one series episode in its entirety. Each photo captures a very different moment of pleasure, desire, temptation, power possession, and many more perceptible interpersonal dynamics. There is also a beautiful emphasis on body positioning—a clear testament to the expertise of those behind the camera—demonstrating the variety of ways bodies can intertwine to create pleasure for both individuals.

The strongest feeling I get from flipping through the pages of this book is a very deep sense of gratitude. Studying feminist and queer theory in college, I’ve been exposed to a lot of different kinds of media in relation to sex and sexuality; not all of it makes me feel good. However, the belief I hold that this book affirms is the importance of continuing to create—tell stories, make films, take photos, make art—in ways that shed light on all the beautiful ways people live and connect. Every time I see a new scene—or flip the page of CrashPad 2019—I learn something new about what is possible. My assumptions are disproved, my subconscious stereotyping is challenged, and I am confronted by my expectations not being met. There is no plastered on filter, no unwanted male gaze, no confirmation of my biases nor my prejudices.

CrashPad 2019 is yet another masterpiece by the Pink & White Productions team—a team that has always, and will clearly continue to, set the standard for what we should all strive for when it comes to inclusion and diversity in film, photography, and art everywhere. They model accepting people for exactly who they are and never pressuring anyone to be something they aren’t. CrashPad 2019 is what I imagine a queer utopia would be like.

To purchase your own hard or digital copy of “CrashPad 2019,” click here and enjoy 🙂 !

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