The first time I met Carlos Batts was on the set of one of my movies. He arrived with April, who I was shooting that day in a scene with Claire Adams. My first thought was, “Oh my God that’s Carlos Fucking Batts.” He completely disarmed me by introducing himself (as if I didn’t know who he was!) and giving me copies of some of his movies. Our first meeting represents a lot about Carlos: he was humble, generous, and real.
Carlos refused to play by anyone’s rules, blending art and porn with his own unique style. His vision was his, it impressed me, left me in awe of what he could do with a camera. You’d think that someone who considered their porn ‘art’ would be annoying as hell, but it was the opposite. Carlos didn’t have an ounce of pretension, he was one of the most honest and straightforward people I’ve ever known. He was just so fucking real. His imagination was beyond comprehension, but he never fell into that trap of considering himself an artiste, someone above everyone else. On the contrary, he was often quiet and let the art speak for itself.
I distinctly remember this conversation we had where he said he didn’t know where he fit into the feminist porn movement. He always thought of art as activism, but he wanted to be respectful and was especially wary of taking up space as a guy in this growing revolution. His self-awareness was really refreshing especially given some of the examples of misogynist masculinity I’ve met in the porn industry. His idea of what it meant to be a man gave me pause and hope. We had this amazing discussion where he talked about what he believed, what he valued, and how he could claim the label ‘feminist.’ He didn’t want to say it until he was clear about what it meant to him and what he could bring to the party. He was beginning to shape and articulate how the art he was creating could be specifically feminist, and it was pretty cool to be in on that process. He thanked me later for helping him talk it through, but what he didn’t realize is that our talk was just as enlightening for me. It made me more aware of my own place in the movement as a white woman who identifies as a feminist. That was Carlos: he pushed me to look at my privilege simply by his openness and willingness to talk about his struggles and beliefs. He gave me gifts like that a lot. He wasn’t always the loudest voice in the room, but when he opened his mouth, it was clear how fierce and brave he was about challenging the status quo.
Before the release of the book Fat Girl, we had a really long phone conversation. We talked about what the book meant to him. He wanted to get my advice about promotion, and I drafted a version of the press release for him. I wrote this line that he ended up using: “Fat Girl provides a glimpse into a world where sex, love, and art collide.” When I saw Fat Girl, what struck me was how it was clearly a book about love, the love he and April shared. You need only spend ten minutes with the two of them to see what a remarkable partnership they had: their mutual love and support was unconditional, their passion for creating art together was inspiring. They glowed in each other’s presence, their energy bouncing off one another like lightening. They were one of those couples that’s just so clearly two people meant to be together. Their love, and the deep respect they had for one another, was clear in every interaction I ever had with them. It’s a kind of love people write songs about. It was pretty fucking epic.
Colten and I just saw Carlos and April at CatalystCon West in LA a few weeks ago. After a panel that April and I were on, we went to dinner with a small group of people. April told a funny story about flipping her hair during sex when Carlos had the camera out; it was a glimpse into a moment in their relationship. On the walk back to the hotel, Carlos gave me a copy of Fat Girl. I remember that I wanted both of them to sign it, but there wasn’t time. I knew I’d see them again soon. It breaks my heart that I will never see him again.
Ultimately, the greatest gift that Carlos gave me is that whenever I was with him, I felt like he really saw and understood me. That speaks directly to why he was such a gifted photographer and filmmaker: how he saw, what he saw, and what he reflected back to you was magical. Carlos made me believe in art and revolution and love. He helped me see the connections between them, how they feed each other. I feel so lucky to have known him and so glad that we have his art to treasure as we grieve the loss of him. He gave us all so many gifts, leaving an indelible mark on independent, alt, queer, underground, and feminist porn and art, as well as the artists who work and create in these countercultural worlds. We can honor his spirit by loving people fiercely and making art that matters.
There are some wonderful remembrances of Carlos online, including an updated article with quotes from lots of different people on AVN, a post from Courtney Trouble, a blog s at Good Vibrations, and thoughts from his wife, muse, and now widow April Flores. I encourage everyone to donate whatever they can to his memorial fund. Here is information about funeral services and the fund:
Beloved artist Carlos Batts passed away at the age of 40 on Tuesday October 22, 2013. His work and spirit touched many of us, leaving us stunned and saddened by the sudden departure. He is survived by his loving wife and muse, April—now grieving while confronting tremendous medical and funeral expenses.
Please consider donating to the Carlos Batts Memorial Fund to aid his widow and family in their time of need: You can donate via PayPal to email: CarlosBattsMemorialFund@gmail.com.