Why artist Shelby Sells can’t stop getting censored

All that glitters

Why artist Shelby Sells can’t stop getting censored
Shelby Sells

Shelby Sells is a photographer, journalist, and artist who recently relocated to Detroit from Los Angeles. She only just started making her "glitterotica" images — vintage porn digitally superimposed with sparkles — but they've already made a big splash on social media. Since launching the project, she's been featured on Instagram's "Explore" page only to have her account later deleted. She even has imitators already. We chatted up Sells by phone to learn more about why she's "making censorship fun."

Metro Times: What is "glitterotica?" Where do you find the original vintage porno images?

Shelby Sells: I find them all over the place. I'm always like, trolling the Internet for — [laughs] — good old vintage porn. I love the way that they're shot — some of the images are very beautiful to me. I'm so used to looking up porn, it's not shocking to me anymore. It's just something that I really like, and it sucks because you can't post any pictures like that online. You can on Twitter, but not really on Facebook or Instagram.

MT: Have you been blocked before?

Sells: Normally it's just for like, a day or two, sometimes it's for a week. I don't know, there's a lot of different forms of censorship. Some people, they do their own drawings over like, dicks or vaginas or whatever on the pictures — but I really like sparkles. I'm really into glitter right now, so I just kinda started doing that, and people have been super down for that. And I already have a biter, so...

MT: So someone already started copying your style?

Sells: I was just like, "Hey, you know, like, not trying to sound rude or anything, but your Instagram was only started four days ago, and I've only been doing my sparkle images for like a couple weeks." And the person was following me. I'm not claiming that I invented putting glitter on porn — that's not what I'm saying at all — but when it's that similar, I gotta say something. She was really nice about it. I felt almost petty for calling it out, but I don't know. In this day and age you kinda have to stand up for yourself and your work.

MT: I'm shocked your stuff gets censored on social media. Sure, it's provocative, but it seems to get as close to crossing the line without crossing it.

Sells: That's what I like to do, push limits — but it's still within the boundaries. I've been having my stuff taken down off the Internet for as long as I've been doing what I do. Especially on Facebook — they did not like it on Facebook.

Me and all my friends are pretty pervy, so it's not really anything new to us. I was just in NorCal visiting my boyfriend's family for the holidays. One of his little brother's friends, she was like, "Oh, I love your website. I love following you on Instagram. My Instagram is so boring, it's just pictures of Starbucks. Then there's like, porn that you post."

MT: So how do you make the actual sparkles?

Sells: There's an app I have that I just play around with. There's different kinds of sparkles. I do it on my phone or my tablet — I'm like, "Woooo, this is fun."

MT: What other stuff do you do?

Sells: I'm a photographer and a journalist. I have my own website called Perv on the Go, where I interview people about love and sex and relationships. I've had it for two and a half years now. I just opened it up to the public for submissions. I love taking pictures — I take pictures of women mostly, and nude, boudoir photos.

I've always kind of liked taking pictures. I would carry a disposable with me. I needed a visual for the interviews — I just wanted a little something extra to have. It ended up doing a lot for me. I've actually shot for some pretty cool people — I've shot for Frank151, a couple different magazines, and for Jeffrey Campbell and some other brands. It's been great.

MT: What brought you to Detroit?

Sells: My boyfriend and I just moved out here in September, from L.A. We've been hearing a lot of cool things from people. We'd both been in L.A. for a while. I had been there for about six years, and my guy had been there for about nine years. We were both just kinda like, I don't know — we're young. I'm 24, we kinda just wanted to go on an adventure and see what's really going on.

MT: Is Perv on the Go your main thing now?

Sells: It's been my main thing for a while. My interview series is probably the most known thing for that. Out here in Michigan, I started an online store called Girlfriend Gallery. That's been going pretty great, actually. It's sort of the reason I moved out here — I wanted to open up a physical store and gallery space. Hopefully that's gonna happen within the next couple of months. I want to get it up and going by spring, so I've just been finalizing all my business plans and getting everything in order, trying to find a good space.

Follow Shelby Sells' "glitterotica" on Instagram at @pervonthego or check out more of her work on pervonthego.com.

Lee DeVito

Leyland “Lee” DeVito is the editor in chief of Detroit Metro Times since 2016. His writing has also been published in CREEM, VICE, In These Times, and New City. He once asked porn star Stormy Daniels to spank him with an issue of Metro Times. She obliged.

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