Barbara Nitke is a New York City artist dedicated to opening the eyes of the world to the beauty of all forms of love, sex and passion through her photography.
Hailed by The Village Voice for her quest “to find humanity in marginal sex,” Nitke has gained worldwide attention for her affecting and powerful photographs chronicling relationships between consenting adults engaged in sadomasochistic activities.
Her documentation of sexuality began in 1982 on the sets of pornographic movies, where she worked for twelve years as a set photographer. Her haunting photographs from this period reveal the combination of boredom, surrealism, vulnerability and dissociation inherent in the X-rated world. During that time she also became active as a photographer on mainstream television and movie sets, which she continues today.
In 1991, after the hardcore porn business moved to Los Angeles, she began shooting on the New York sets of fetish and SM movies, which had become the fastest growing segment of the adult film industry.
Three years later she attended her first meeting of The Eulenspiegel Society – the oldest SM support and educational group in the country – to see a presentation by Charles Gatewood, a master photographer of the underground sex world.
The couples she met in the SM scene fascinated her, and she began photographing them in 1994. They became the focus of her book, Kiss of Fire: A Romantic View of Sadomasochism (Kehrer 2003).
“My goal was to capture not just the deep intimacy and trust between lovers, but also the intense energy and passion of SM practices,” says Nitke. “Everyone I’ve photographed has taught me something new about the nature of sexual desire, humanity, and the fact that no matter how we’re wired to express love, freedom is having the courage to be who we are.”
In addition to her work in photography, Nitke is a frequent lecturer on the topic of SM to both practitioners and the general public. She is a member of The Eulenspiegel Society and also of the Lesbian Sex Mafia, a women-only group based in New York.
She has been the featured artist and official photographer at many SM conventions across the country. She was the keynote speaker at the 11th annual national Leather Leadership Conference in Minneapolis in April, 2007. In 2004 she received the Brother Leo Educator’s Award from the Eulenspiegel Society, and in 2001 the President’s Choice Award for community service from the Pantheon of Leather.