The Girls Next Door
18 Jul 2010
I became interested in photographing exotic dancers and peep show performers after moving to an apartment building adjacent to a strip club. As a former Women's Studies major, I thought I was firm in my white, middle-class "feminist" belief that stripping is degrading, and that guys who go to strip clubs are inherently disrespecting women. But seeing these girls and their customers on a daily basis challenged me to reconsider why a woman might choose to take off her clothes for money.
When I first moved into my apartment, I started noticing girls coming and going from the club, always with rolling suitcases full of the things they need at work. I saw a range of attitudes, from girls with swagger, loudly chatting on their phones, to girls who arrived in baggy sweats, big sunglasses, and a hoodie pulled down low to cover their faces. I began to see them less as strippers, and more as hard-working women. As my respect for them grew, so did my empathy for the customers, many of whom strike me as simply lonely and undesirable guys. I figured, if these ladies are taking their clothes off for these guys, they are certainly earning their money.
I often saw the girls in their flashy work outfits sitting out front smoking. I really wanted to photograph them, but felt sheepish about asking. Then one day I saw Bree outside by herself in her amazing high-heeled boots, and I couldn't resist. I took the opportunity to photograph her, and began to visit the club on a regular basis. I experienced lots of rejection initially, most likely due to my own fumbling nervousness. But overall, the amount of access they have given me has been humbling. Eventually I approached a neighboring retail sex shop, and photographed girls who work in the live peep show booths there.
My camera has given me the opportunity to get to know the girls next door, and what I've discovered is that you shouldn't assume anything about anybody. You never know a person's story until you ask.
Thanks for looking, I welcome any comments.