LOS ANGELES — Photography is the art of capturing a story in a single frame. The discipline puts an emphasis on economy, on enhancing natural beauty and distilling a subject to its essence. This focus is what Jonni Darkko brings to porn.
He edits out scripts and storylines, concentrating on the act. He casts seasoned performers and sets them loose, allowing their talents and desires to carry a scene. Darkko does not so much direct the action, as he captures it in the most cinematic light possible.
As one of Evil Angel’s trademark directors, his films explore niches that appeal to him specifically: Asian motifs, single performer showcases and oral sex. In these genres, he has produced volumes of notorious titles, including “Angels of Debauchery,” “Suck It Dry,” “Bet Your Ass,” “Load Sharing” and “Asian Fucking Nation.”
His love of photography originated with his father, who bought Darkko his first camera.
“My father always had 8 mm cameras and film cameras,” he said. “We were always going to the photo shop and the lab and looking at slides from vacation.”
Darkko’s passion progressed from a hobby to a profession when he started shooting fashion in Chicago. This work, particularly with lingerie designers, taught him how to accent the female form and pay attention to details.
“I learned to stop and make sure their hair looked great,” he explained. “I learned to let people do their jobs, to allow the stylist to come in and make it perfect.”
In 1998, Darkko moved to L.A., where he started shooting still photos for adult studios.
“I met Jill Kelly on a Stephen Hicks shoot,” he reminisced. “She asked me to do some work for her. I think my first job with her was the poster for one of her series, ‘Perfect Pink.’”
Darkko shot stills regularly for Scott Taylor of New Sensations. One day, Taylor handed Darkko the video camera to see how he handled filming the end of a DP scene. Liking what he saw, Taylor took Darkko on as a director in 2003.
“Scott was super cool... I just told him what niches and titles I wanted to shoot and he said okay,” he explained.
His first film for New Sensations/Digital Sin was “Anal Trainer.”
“I hit my stride fast,” recalled Darkko. “We rocked out a lot of titles. My favorite was ‘ATM Machine.’ I liked it because it was the proper use of the acronym.”
In January of 2004, Darkko met with John Stagliano, who was drawn to the blossoming auteur’s photographic eye.
“I had been an Evil Angel fan for a while,” he admitted. “I watched tons of John's work in the 1980s. The allure of working with Evil Angel was in owning my own material and doing whatever I really wanted to.”
That same fateful year, Darkko Productions was born. The company’s first release for Evil was “Angels of Debauchery.” Stagliano branded his directors by encouraging them to develop their own style. He did not want an endless stream of content. He preferred his directors to just shoot one film a month, to focus on production, and to shoot something they were really into. Accordingly, Darkko gave even more attention to the little details, like wardrobe.
“I don’t like to leave a lot to chance,” he underscored. “I started doing things like shopping for wardrobes as I rarely liked the clothes the performers brought to set.”
He concentrated on making his talent look and feel amazing, while allowing them to shoot scenes according to their desires.
“I want performers to have fun,” Darkko stated. “I would never tell someone to hold back. That's just silly bullshit.”
Darkko built a reputation for creating some of the most enthralling deepthroating, face-fucking and massive facial series on the market, including “Facial Overload,” “Fuck Faces,” “Sloppy Head” and “Wet Food.” He credits his obsession with oral sex to watching Seka and Swedish Erotica’s “Little Oral Annie,” in the 1980s on VHS.
“Swedish Erotica had a real cool look with silk scarves and silk stockings,” he said. “‘Little Oral Annie’ blew my mind. She was such a master of deepthroating.”
Following the encouragement of a few starlets, Darkko began performing in true POV scenes.
“Until you hold the camera from your eyes’ perspective, it's not POV,” he delineated. “A few degrees off will kill the real aspect of what it's like to see a performer in missionary position.”
Of course, capturing these scenes was not easy.
“Holding a camera and fucking for the camera is a challenge… but cameras are so small now, which helps,” he expressed. “I used to do POV with a 12-pound camera. That was nuts.”
Controlling nearly every aspect of production, Darkko also scores his films with original music.
“I do it primarily for my personal enjoyment,” he confessed. “I think most porn music is fucking awful. Sometimes, it's fun to record someone's voice and use it in the track or play around with genre styles and tempos.”
Something Darkko feels other directors always get wrong is their focus on framing sex scenes in superfluous storylines.
“I'm really not into the story at all,” he underlined. “I've never met a person who's told me that they saw a porn movie and felt that the storyline was brilliant… the sex is way more important.”
For much of Darkko’s career, he was on a quest to shoot video that looked as sharp and gorgeous as photography. Now, it seems, the technology has finally caught up with his vision.
“I haven't done sex stills with an additional camera for probably the last three years,” Darkko revealed. “I just pull all my images from screengrabs of the video. The technology is finally there so we don’t have to go through the arduous task of making people shoot sex stills before a scene.”
While Darkko’s professional origins are rooted in still photography, he is not stuck in the past. He remains mobile, adapting to new technologies and the fluctuating marketplace while maintaining his focus on capturing picturesque performers committing smut.