'Taboo' Photos Reveal The Dual Lives Of Everyday People Who Practice BDSM (NSFW)

08/22/2014 08:51 am ET

Note: The following photographs contain sexual content and may not be suitable for work.

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.

daynight

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.

Earlier on HuffPost:

Andy Warhol's Eye Candy (NSFW)

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