Architecture, Interviews, Projects

The private spaces in the most explicit of workplaces

All images © Elizabeth Moran

All is not what it seems in a Californian photographer’s series on an enigmatic workplace

At first glance, the spaces in Elizabeth Moran’s The Armoury resemble theatre stages. They are in fact empty sets once used by porn production company Kink.com. Interested in the conflict between private emotion and public persona in places of work (previous series have included a genetics lab and the architecture of corporate culture), Moran contacted the company asking if she could photograph their backdrops and props.

“I moved to San Francisco in 2011 and wanted to continue the series I had been working on about work spaces,” she says. “I began researching companies and the type of industries that reflected San Francisco’s personality. I approached several companies and Kink.com was very interested in the idea. I found myself drawn to an industry where private and public collide, but one that also mirrors its customers’ lives.

“What is produced on these sets is a reflection of what is watched privately.”

And although people may be absent from the images, there is a sense that something is about to happen, or has recently taken place. In one image, an ordinary-looking kitchen has a table but no chairs; in another, heavy velvet curtains create a backdrop over a makeshift stage. “Over time, I became more and more intrigued with the history of the building [a 2000-square foot moorish castle replica that once served as an armoury for the National Guard] and how this history is now an active backdrop for adult films with their ever-changing sets and stages,” says Moran.

“A space would transform overnight, but the ghosts of the past always remain. I’m drawn to spaces I can feel,” she adds.

“Places that seem to hold something below the surface, just out of reach and beyond vision. I like to think of spaces as the build- up of layers of time that contain disparate moments, both distant and ever-present.”

The company was “nothing but supportive and generous”, says Moran, who worked on the project from 2011 to 2013. She entered her work in interactive design studio Photo Boite’s 30 Under 30 Women in Photography competition, for which she was chosen. “I’ll be 30 in June [2014], so I figured, why not enter this year? I have been following the Photo Boite competition for some time now, and I was very happy to join the talented names on this year’s list.”