Redlands, CA 2012
Dallas, TX 2013
Hidden away in darkened private booths and dank 24 hr theaters you will find photographer Michael Max McLeod with a camera, capturing the enticing world of adult entertainment. Frequently exploring the underbelly of male desire, McLeod has visited 200 porn pitstops and has another several thousand to get to. From Alabama to Oregon, the images are startlingly bleak and fascinating all at once. No matter how stripped bare the interior or grimy the floors – each place has a surreal promise of fantasy and excitement. We spoke with McLeod a bit more about his continuing series Adult Cinema and where he’s going next.
Las Vegas, NV 2013
Atlanta, GA 2013
You already have an extensive catalog of adult entertainment locations. How many do you plan to photograph?
“It might be totally unrealistic, but I’d like to visit every porn theater and adult video arcade in America. I’m limited by my resources. Portland and Seattle are probably next up, maybe later this summer. Florida this winter. I’m also haunted by specific locations that I’d like to return to. A theater in San Diego comes to mind.”
What do you find most surprising about documenting these places?
“I’m surprised they still exist. The internet has been mainstream since, what, 1993 maybe? That’s over 20 years. Porn and anonymous hookups are a click away now – anywhere, any time. Most of the locations I go to are completely empty or have only 1 or 2 patrons. Thats great, because it gives me a lot of freedom to photograph. But I imagine they can’t stay in business much longer.
“As for the locations that actually get traffic, I’m surprised to discover how they each have a specific culture. Truck stop locations are busy and have a very fast turnover. A location off the highway is going to be busiest at 3pm on a Friday. The neighborhood porn shop might serve as a friendly, social hangout for retired men. Certain locations might attract black and latino men and their admirers. Other locations attract prostitutes, straight couples or a lunchtime businessman crowd. I could go on. Each location has its own unique rituals.”
Springfield, MO 2013
Raleigh, NC 2013
Are people suspicious of you wanting to come in and take photographs?
“No because I don’t ask. If I’m caught making photographs – I’m thrown out, no questions asked. But on the occasion I become friendly with a specific person, then yes, I’ll ask permission. I especially remember a young man dressed as a woman exchanging money for sex. We became friends and I asked if I could photograph her. She was thrilled to whip out her iPad and show me her glamour shots. She used those photographs in her advertisements for escort services. We had a little photo shoot of our own. In that brief time there was a touching exchange through photography.”
Who owns these establishments? Met any particularly interesting characters?
“I have no idea. I’m pretty sure most people manning the counter are low-paid hourly employees. I imagine at some point I might be interested to meet the entrepreneurs behind the scenes, but not yet.”
Austin, TX 2013
What do you feel adult entertainment says about America’s relationship with sex in general?
“It would be fun to be an authority on such things and be able to answer that question. Adult entertainment is so varied with so many niches from the benign to the extreme. The same could be said for America. When I consider that question in very broad terms, I’m brought back to how conflicted I am about these spaces. I don’t believe they would exist if it weren’t for the shame and secrecy surrounding sexuality in our culture. That’s what’s repulsive to me. But I also love these spaces. They provided an important social function – an escape route out of a narrow view of sexuality.”
Amarillo, TX 2013
New Orleans, LA 2013
Amarillo, TX, 2013
New York City, 2012
Phoenix, AZ 2013
Phoenix, AZ 2013