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PEOPLEText: Reto Caduff

Larry Sultan‘s “The Valley” photographic series explores the middle-class homes of the San Fernando Valley — and the porn industry that rents these homes for use as film sets. Born in Brooklyn and raised in the Valley (in Van Nuys), Sultan has a unique view of this many-layered place. Scalo just published a book on the work that features some 90 full-color images.

Off Sepulveda, from series The Valley, 2001 © Larry Sultan

To explore the true identity of what lies at the heart of the city that is called Los Angeles one has to head over the mountains to the San Fernando Valley. “The Valley” is part of the city but out of view from what we call L.A. (places like Hollywood, Venice, Downtown, Beverly Hills or Silverlake) it is the bastard child of a place that is too obsessed with itself to notice. The valley has sort of preserved its innocence, maybe because it is out of sight to many and still is a projection screen for “the good life”. In the 50’s and 60’s it was the proto-suburbia that offered white middle class families the chance to own a house and a backyard (maybe even a pool).

Den, Santa Clarita, from series The Valley, 2002 © Larry Sultan

It’s these suburban homes that play the leading role in Larry Sultan’s complex pictures. In the contemporary valley, these simple tract homes with wall to wall carpeting, two-car garage, popcorn ceilings and faux fireplaces play backdrop to the filming of the American porn industry that produces these films in sleeper communities like Chatsworth and generates a cash flow that is estimated to reach over $9 billion a year.

Mulholland Drive #2, from series The Valley, 2000 © Larry Sultan

Most of this behind perfectly manicured hedges and sliding glass doors. Thanks to the power of porn, men around the world have gotten a glimpse of this strange place without probably registering where the movie they were watching was actually shot. Thanks to the work of Sultan that we now have a better understanding of the architecture of the porn work environment.

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