Wednesday, February 28, 2024
HomeWorldFrench Photographer Reveals Surprising Perspective of the United States via Diverse Strip...

French Photographer Reveals Surprising Perspective of the United States via Diverse Strip Clubs

CNN — Some people travel the world in search of adventure, while others seek out natural wonders, cultural landmarks, or culinary experiences. However, French photographer François Prost had a different objective during his recent road trip across America: strip clubs. Prost’s latest book, “Gentlemen’s Club,” documents his journey through nearly 150 strip clubs across the US, focusing exclusively on the buildings themselves rather than the scantily clad women inside. Over the course of five weeks in 2019, he traveled over 6,000 miles, capturing the often-colorful facades of these establishments. Prost divided the venues into two types: those integrated into the public landscape and those that are more hidden. The former could be found in “very American” settings like amusement parks, fast-food restaurants, and malls. The latter, on the other hand, blended in with the storefronts of regular strip malls. Prost discovered many such venues in the socially conservative Bible Belt region in the southern part of the country, which intrigued him due to the contrast between the prevalence of strip clubs and the region’s conservatism. However, Prost’s goal wasn’t to explore the interiors or services of these strip clubs. Instead, he sought to gain a better understanding of American culture by creating documentary-style photographs that examine the intersection of sex, gender, and commerce. He viewed the project primarily as a landscape photography endeavor, documenting changing attitudes toward sex through architectural photography. Prost’s project was inspired by his previous series, “After Party,” which focused on the flamboyant facades of French nightclubs. He noticed that these exteriors often resembled those of American cities, which led him to extend his project to the US. He was struck by the sheer number of strip clubs in America and how they demanded attention through their eye-catching exteriors. Hot pink walls, nude silhouettes, and candy-cane-striped storefronts made it clear what kind of entertainment awaited inside. When the establishments were open during the day, Prost would enter and ask for permission to take photos, ensuring that he explained his intentions and appeared non-threatening. While the interiors rarely lived up to the allure projected by the signs outside, Prost had the opportunity to meet various individuals during his journey, from indifferent bouncers to enthusiastic managers who embraced his project. Prost’s biggest surprise was how normalized strip clubs appeared to be in everyday American life. He noted that going to a strip club is seen as a more normalized social activity in the US compared to Europe. Many Las Vegas strip clubs doubled as restaurants, offering happy hour deals, buffets, and special discounts to certain professions. Some even advertised themselves as steakhouse and strip club combos, catering to both carnivorous appetites and entertainment desires. The facades of these establishments are filled with jokes and pun-based names, reflecting a surreal comedy. Prost’s neutral and documentary approach allows viewers to form their own opinions about the objectification of women. By focusing on faceless female silhouettes and the repeated phrase “girls girls girls,” the book explores the commodification of women who are absent from Prost’s works. Prost plans to continue his documentation of establishments in Japan, with a particular interest in love hotels, which serve a similar role as strip clubs in some areas of the US. However, he believes that the American strip clubs he photographed reveal something unique about the country—an aspect that goes beyond sexuality and delves into the American dream. Prost’s project has shown him that as long as a business is successful, it doesn’t matter if it deals with sex. “Gentlemen’s Club” will be exhibited in Tokyo, Japan, at Agnes b. Galerie Boutique from March 17 to April 15, 2023. The book, published by Fisheye Editions, is currently available.

RELATED ARTICLES

Most Popular