Wednesday, March 29, 2023

A French photographer offers an unexpected view of America through many strip clubs

(Cnn) — Some travel the world in search of adventure, others seek natural wonders, cultural frontiers or culinary experiences. But French photographer Francis Prost was looking for something entirely different on a recent trip to the United States: bootleg clubs.

From Miami to Los Angeles, Prost’s latest book, “Noble Clubs,” charts his journey across America through nearly 150 clubs with names like Pleasures, Temptations and Cookies N’ Cream. However, not a single woman is seen naked, as Prost’s camera focuses only on the buildings themselves, and specifically on their often colorful façades.

Over the course of five weeks in 2019, she traveled more than 6,000 miles, capturing everything from the pastel-colored flowers of the Pink Pussycat Club to the open-air venues in the country’s most religious state.

“I would divide these venues into two categories: one very integrated into the public landscape, the other a little more hidden and elusive,” explains Prost in an interview with Jos by phone and email.

The first type, he added, could be found in very American settings, such as “around amusement parks and fast food and malls.” But these sometimes seem to be distinguished from all the stock in the market.

Prost said he found many such issues in the Bible Belt, a socially conservative area in the southern region. He was particularly interested in exploring the region because of the apparent contrast between the prevalence of strip clubs and what he describes in his book as “extreme conservatism and puritanism.”

Prost claimed that he had little interest in robbing the interiors or offices of the clubs he always visited during the day. Instead, he hoped to learn more about American culture through objective, documentary images of events that lay at the intersection of sex, race, and commerce. Documenting changing attitudes to gender through the lens of architecture, the series was first and foremost a landscape photography project.

1 of 9 | The Emperors were seen from the parking lot in Tampa, Florida. (Credit: Francois Prost)

2 of 9 | Fantasy at the Beach, Fort Myers, Florida property. (Credit: Francois Prost)

3 of 9 | Dreams Club of Los Angeles, California. (Credit: Francois Prost)

4 of 9 | Many of the cabins carry signs and slogans, such as “Where the Party Never Ends” at Foxy’s in El Paso, Texas. (Credit: Francois Prost)

5 of 9 | My Little Light, one of more than a dozen Las Vegas establishments included in Prost’s book. (Credit: Francois Prost)

6 of 9 | The sun drenched faces of the Montana Hideaway in El Paso, Texas. (Credit: Francois Prost)

7 of 9 | Other adult institutions also appear in the Prost series, such as this adult bookstore in Laughlin, Arizona. (Credit: Francois Prost)

8 of 9 | Xcape Mens Club in El Paso, Texas. (Credit: Francois Prost)

9 of 9 | VIP Cabaret in the North Hollywood area of ​​Los Angeles, California. (Credit: Francois Prost)

“The prism of this theme of the removal of the face of the club has become a way of learning and searching for the country,” he wrote in the “Noble Club”, whose photos will be part of an exhibition in Tokyo in March.

“Noble Clubs” is an objective look at mainstream views and gender and the sexualization of the female image.

“A little bit”;

The genesis of Prost’s project can be traced back to his 2018 “Post Party” series which featured extravagant fronts of French nightclubs. He often said that people looked at the exterior of the buildings as if they were pulled out of straight American cities, excited by the idea that they would visit the United States and expand their business.

As the trip was carefully planned, it was not only a hit with clubs in the United States, but also demanded that it be seen repeatedly in Europe. The hot pink walls, the giant naked silhouettes, and even the striped shelves didn’t disguise the kind of entertainment on offer inside.

“A good example would be Las Vegas, where clubs are everywhere and flashing signs as much as a fast food (street) or casino,” explains Prost.

Miami’s clubs used to be brightly painted, à la Wes Anderson. Other images show venues covered in bright colors that contrast with the scattered desert.

If the shops were open during the day, Prost would go in and ask for permission to take pictures so he “wouldn’t look suspicious… and explain what my plans were,” he said. The interiors rarely lived up to the tantalizing promises of the outside, but the photographer encountered countless characters during the five-week journey, from indifferent doormen to enthusiastic managers.

“Most of the time, people agreed: 99% he would take a photo from the front,” he explains, adding that he doesn’t remember his presence as long as he doesn’t photograph customers or people dancing.

“Some people thought it was a bit strange, others were excited and gave me their business so I could send a photo when I did it,” he explained.

However, Prost says that his biggest surprise was how “normalized” the clubs seemed to spoil in everyday life. As he points out in his book, “the relationship that Americans seem to have with clubs is very different from what is seen in Europe. Going to a club seems to be much more normalized… You go as a couple or with friends to enjoy the night.”

It struck him, for example, that many Las Vegas clubs double-deck restaurants, with happy hour deals, buffets, and special discounts for truckers or construction workers.

“I looked at some strip clubs that advertised themselves as a club and steak, so you can eat meat soup (while) watching the robbers. That is also very American to me,” he said, adding: “Go. I found it said by some in Portland that even the clubs (offering ) spoil the vegans.

a thing of desire

Brands are littered with jokes like “My sex life is like the Sahara, 2 palms, no palms” and punned names like Booby Trap and Bottoms Up. Action documentary Fools sharpening a surreal comedy about billboards. But it also serves as a neutral lens through which viewers can form their own opinion about the objectification of women.

By placing in shapeless dances the bodies of female silhouettes and the typical signs of “girls, girls”, “Bona Club” explores the objection of women who are in fact absent from Prost’s works (an observation that is reflected in the title of the book, which is a phrase that appears several times in the posters of his photographs ). The strip clubs visited by women to promote phthisis products, from many foods with the theme of adding names that read: “1,000 beautiful girls and three ugly ones.”

In his next project, Prost plans to visit Japan to document his country’s love hotels, which fulfill a similar function to strip clubs in some parts of the United States: open secrets in a conservative society. But the tour believes that visiting American institutions has something unique to say about the country, which has less to do with sexuality and more to do with the American dream.

What showed him his purpose, he said: “As long as you are good in terms of business, (it does not matter) if your activity belongs to Venus.”

“Noble Clubs” will be presented to Agnetus b. Galerie Boutique in Tokyo, Japan between March 17 and April 15, 2023. The book is now available from Fisheye Publishing.

Nation World News Desk
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