O – Throughout the story there is a central theme of collections, is that where the title for the book, Belongs to Joe, comes from?
CS – Joe, the main character, is a collector. She collects everything. What I think is so powerful about her is that she’s an addict, but she’s also so much in control of her life. A lot of people think, “Okay, she’s a woman, she’s a nymphomaniac, it’s all about sex, it’s all about lust,” and so on. But for me, she could just as easily be an addict of drugs and alcohol, or a violinist who rehearses twelve hours a day—she’s just expecting so much from life and from her passion. Of course it’s especially photogenic that she’s a nymphomaniac, but she could be anything. All the walks she has with her father, all the dried leaves she collects with him, everything she experiences in her life is a set of collections. In the beginning we were thinking of using the word encyclopedia in the title, but it wasn’t right, that’s why we came up with this subtitle Book of Comfort for a Nymphomaniac, because it’s all the stuff she adores and loves about life. What is so beautiful about it is that it’s also all the bad sides of life that for all humans are a part of you. It sounds like a cliché, but you can't just have positive things all around, you have to have things going in every direction to be a full person. The script is so powerful, it's about everything. When you tell a story that is about everything, that is about sex, and religion, and fly fishing—you just have to have all these clichés, because all these clichés are often right.
O – One clever thing about the greater project is that it uses sex as a means to explore something further, instead of as the be-all and end-all focus itself, as one might assume. Was sex as a theme limiting or empowering for the book?
CS – In the aesthetic way I was very inspired by it, but I didn’t think about the sex when I took the pictures. I wanted to do this almost like pictograms, so if you see a blow job, it should be almost the way you would draw a blow job, or if you see an aborted fetus, everything should be shot from above, very dry. My intention was to take the emotions out of it, so that you just see the pictures as chapters, to understand this person. I wanted to have a very objective view on the main character, I didn’t want to do a sex scene that people should think was lustful, or awkward, or disgusting or something. It was just a registration of a blow job, of a gun, of a dried leaf. Like bricks in a puzzle, so when you see them together with the text it’s almost like an encyclopedia for this character. So the sex itself, it’s not that I was super inspired, or not inspired by it, it was just not that important.