Susan Meiselas is a New York based Magnum Photographer best known for her work covering the political upheavals in Central America in the 1970s and 1980s. Throughout her thirty-year career as a documentary media artist, the photographer has represented difficult issues with innovative approaches.
Pandora’s Box is the highly acclaimed 2001 book in which the photographer documented the highly formalized rules and rituals of Pandora’s Box, a 4000-square-foot, high-class Manhattan sex club run by a dominatrix called Mistress Raven.
The club, which bills itself as the “Disneyland of Domination,” is one of New York’s most exclusive sex clubs, and the monograph takes us on a journey into these “vacations from reality,” skilfully portraying the sadomasochistic experience as beautiful, unnerving, and ultimately, self-reflective.
The Pandora’s Box series was originally commissioned to accompany the Nick Broomfield documentary “Fetishes”, but today this highly provocative series stands out as a darkly captivating journey into this high-class sex club. In these vivid photographs, Meiselas not only documents the role-playing that the club offers, she candidly reveals both the customers who frequent the club and the women who work there.
The richness of Meiselas’s imagery immediately infuses the Pandora’s Box series with an almost surreal cinematic quality that ultimately lures the viewer into this hidden world of fantasy. Windowless and draped in velvety blues and lustful reds, white surgical tiles and, of course, leather, Meiselas’s camera captures a secret self-enclosed world of probing visual seduction.
The contrast between images depicting individuals engaged in the activities for which Pandora’s Box is famous juxtaposed with the more relaxed imagery of dominatrixes smoking and preparing for their next encounter, directs the viewer to perceive Meiselas’s subjects as multifaceted personalities. Spending time with these images, one becomes acutely aware of the dichotomy in the relationship between the looker—the viewer—and the looked at—those depicted in the photographs.