By Katherine Brooks
Forest McMullin has spent a significant portion of his photography career snapping photos of what he calls "fringe social groups." With his camera, he offers an intimate glance into the lives of everyone from incarcerated men in New York to members of religious supremacist groups in Pennsylvania, highlighting -- with a documentary lens -- some often unseen fragments of American culture.
Such is the case in his series "Day & Night." In it, the Atlanta-based photographer captures portraits of men and women who live dual lives. During the day, they are mothers and businessmen in the South who lead "normal" lives -- or, at least, publicly acceptable lives that conform to constructed social norms. At night, however, McMullin's subjects are committed advocates of BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, masochism). They are swingers, dominatrixes, and dungeon masters who break through sexual taboos with pleasure.
The project began not long after McMullin moved from New York to Georgia. A few months into living in Atlanta, he came across an article in the local newspaper that described a woman in her 30s who frequented swingers' clubs with her husband. Shocked by how "normal" she looked, and how out-of-place this progressive behavior seemed in the largely conservative South, he decided to investigate. He soon learned that not only were swingers' clubs popular in Georgia, but bondage "dungeons" were as well.
"I began thinking about trying to photograph the men and women involved in going to these clubs," McMullin explained in a statement to HuffPost. "I contacted the owner and operator of the largest dungeon in Atlanta and she invited me to meet with her at her club. I showed her some of my previous work and she agreed to have me come back when the club was open for business and promised to introduce me to some of the patrons."
From there he met with and photographed people old and young, single and married, of various economic and educational backgrounds. Not too surprisingly, McMullin found that the BDSM identity was one of many identities or faces that melded together to create one personality and one person.
"There’s? the? work ?face, ?the? family ?face,? the ?face? with ?friends, ?the? one ?with? strangers," he explains. "Perhaps ?each ?face? is? as? discreet ?as ?a? separate? identity.? With? some,? these? identities? are? nearly ?indistinguishable ?from? one ?to? the? next.? For? others,? they? may? be? radically? different.?"
"When ?it? comes ?to ?sexuality,? the ?discussion ?can ?become ?much ?more? complex," McMullin admits. "We ?may? describe? ourselves? as?male ?or ?female,? straight? or? gay,? bisexual? or ?transgender.? At? their? core,? these ?descriptors? may define, ?to ?some? degree,? sexual? practice ?and ?these? practices? often? define ?how? we? envision ?ourselves,? how? we? want ?others ?to? see ?us, ?and? how ?we ?choose ?to? navigate? the ?world.? It? is? at ?the ?center? of ?our? identity? and ?yet ?it ?is? also? the ?most ?private? expression? of? that? identity.?"
Scroll through a preview of McMullin's series below, a collection of images that challenges the viewer to contemplate our assumptions of normality. Let us know your thoughts on the work in the comments. For more on his photography, check out his profile on Lens Culture here. ...