At 39, Liz Earls was an overweight single mother whose favorite thing about her job was the affair she was having with her boss. So she decided to change everything before hitting 40: She lost 75 pounds, got plastic surgery, and started having lots of sex. Soon she began taking salacious pictures of her encounters, which are collected in her book, Days of the Cougar (Taschen, $40). She spoke with Details about her lifestyle.
How exactly did you get started in all this?
I was doing human resources and I fell in love with my boss, the HR director. I was in his condo playing with him, and he got out the camera and wanted to shoot an act where I tied up his cock and balls. I got really excited by the whole thing, and he said, "This is what you should be doing." And I started off on Craigslist, and it just immediately took off.
So is this how you make your living, taking nude photographs?
Yeah, absolutely. I get e-mails about people's fantasies and how they want to have them photographed. I get married couples, or women who want to do it for their boyfriend or husband. It varies. I get all kinds of different people for different reasons. They want a woman photographer because it's less invasive, and some of the couples want the "I'll join in" sort of thing. But the chemistry has to be right too. I don't just automatically join in. It has to be mutual, because we all want to.
Have you ever had a problem where a client had expectations that there was going to be sex and then, you know… ?
It's all agreed to beforehand. No, I'm really direct. Like, I would never say, "This is what's gonna happen," and then not do it when they get there. That's just not how I operate or how I am. Everything goes very well, usually.
Have you always had exhibitionist urges?
As a kid I sort of did, like stripping down and running around my back yard when I was a teenager, hoping that the neighbors would see something. I did have some stuff going on. Somehow it was just very natural to do this. I'm not sure why or where that comes from. When I started shooting pictures of people without me in them, it just changed very quickly, where I started putting myself in the scene. Almost immediately, actually.
Isn't that tantamount to prostitution? People are paying you for sex.
My feeling is prostitution shouldn't be illegal anyway. But I really do take the photography very, very seriously. This is a real art form. Like, I'll put a guy in Glad wrap and leave him there while I'm having a glass of wine and taking photographs. You're paying for the photographer and the photograph, not the sex. I mean, it's silly in a way, I think, but they are paying for the photograph, so… what can I say?
Are you in a relationship with anyone?
I actually still see my ex-boss, but it's a long-distance relationship and obviously not monogamous. I don't see myself having any kind of normal—or traditional, I should say—relationship with anyone. If this was the other way around, I think I'd be totally freaked out. [Laughs] But I think he's handling it really very well, so I have to hand it to him. He's a very private person—his pictures aren't in the book—so I think it came as a bit of a shock, and I know he's going to be shocked when he sees the actual book. He should be, like, blown away. [Laughs] So I have to deal with that.
Are these photographs used for anything besides the clients' gratification?
I don't even know how much they look at the photos. I think they're serious about doing the fantasy and having a woman shoot them. I think the whole experience is what they're really looking for.
Days of the Cougar is available at www.taschen.com.
—By Timothy Holder