PORNSTAR by Ian Gittler; Simon and Schuster, 1999

Ian Gittler's photojournalistic look at the porn industry is an interesting addition to the growing body of documentation about life inside the industry. While it seems that a new book or film about the business of porn has come out once a month since the popular success of Boogie Nights, Pornstar is different in its complete absence of moral or aesthetic agenda and its focus on creating human portraits of the stars it takes as its subjects. While Gittler set out to create a coffee table book of porn stars, he produced a deeply personal account of the lives and dreams of people working in the porn industry, their loved ones, and their fans. It's one of those rare works that actually manages to humanize its subjects rather than overtly glamorizing the porn lifestyle or turning its characters into moral paper tigers. It is a powerful and at times sad book. While its goal isn't to preach the evils of pornography, it does offer a striking look at the emotional disconnect, awkward intimacy, and frequently destructive lifestyles of porn stars. The text is amazingly candid, both about its subjects and about Gittler's own prejudices and expectations, but the best thing about Pornstar is its striking black and white photos. Gittler has an amazing eye and Pornstar is full of expressive and, at times, disturbing portraits that tell infinitely more of Gittler's story than his writing. Take, for example, Gittler's playful, yet distant and chaotic photos of Savannah, taken shortly before her suicide, or the strangely austere pictures of Nina Hartley. While Gittler's text may ask more questions than it answers, it is, quite possibly, the most interesting look at the world of pornography and its subjects to date.

-Jason Cons


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