"As long as there is someone willing to press 'send,' there is someone willing to look," photographer Evan Baden writes in the statement for his photo series "Technically Intimate." In the project, Baden imagined behind-the-scenes tableaus of "teens" (actually adult volunteers) mid-sext — messy bedrooms, celebrity posters, multicolored bedspreads, and all. Baden conceived of the series in 2008, after reading a news story about a website on which couples were selling their amateur sex tapes. He became fascinated by technology's growing role in both stimulating and simulating intimacy. "The whole self-filming and putting it on the Internet, that was all new, and what was interesting was that the couples specifically acted to the camera, as opposed to each other," Baden tells us. "I thought it was the perfect example of a piece of technology coming between the most intimate of acts."
As Baden researched the nascent phenomenon of sharing homemade sexual imagery online, he noticed that many women's graphic photos popped up on several sites. It dawned on him that these women, many of whom looked underage, likely hadn't posted the images themselves or even consented to their presence online. Baden decided to imagine and capture the scenes behind a handful of these widely shared photos, asking models to recreate the poses in them in real bedrooms to convey both the humanity and youth of the original photos' subjects. "My images are not a duplication, but rather, a reinterpretation of the moment of the found image’s creation," Baden explains on his site.
He took to Craigslist to connect with volunteers, all of whom were 18 and older and none of whom were paid. (The names associated with his photos are the models'.) "Most, if not all, of the people that modeled for me had experience with [sexting] in their personal lives — and bad personal experiences," he notes, explaining the situation in which trusted recipients shared intimate imagery without consent. "There was only like a four- or five-year age difference between me and the models at the time, but for some reason that was enough of a gap where those things weren't current to me."
The models were well aware that their portraits would be shown publicly and even sold. Their enthusiasm for participating after past violations of their sexting privacy communicates that the violence inherent in a nude selfie "leak" is not exposure of skin — it is theft of agency and ownership of one's body. More intimate than overtly sexual, "Technically Intimate" expresses that the subject of sexual photos and videos are not disembodied parts, but human beings.