Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Documenting Gentlemen's Clubs - Path to the Paradise

The story BTS!

   I have been working on this project for more than a year. Traveling, driving, shooting and sneaking around in daytime to find what emerges only at night - 'gentlemen's clubs'.  I documented places in New York, New Jersey, Arizona and Maryland so far with the aim of exploring more and more locations around the States where each place brings another asset to the American cultural landscape and urban architecture.  

   People often ask me how and where I find these clubs. First, I do my online research and google map the locations. Then, I group them according to the areas of the town or suburbs they are at and therefore, I could estimate the distances and organize my trip in terms of time and travel.

   Once I get to a certain city to look for gentlemen’s clubs, it seems like there is always one particular area that is populated with strip clubs. For instance, in Syracuse, NY this area is 'Little Italy". In Baltimore, the strip clubs are located on the Baltimore Street block, right in the Downtown of Baltimore. Surprisingly, in both places the clubs are situated right across the police stations. In Phoenix, most of the clubs are located in the southwest part of the city in quite low-income neighborhoods and near the airport, the same in Elisabeth, NJ. Sometimes, one can encounter more than one strip club on the same block. Usually, they are placed near motels, hotels, auto shops, car dealers, industrial areas, airports, factories, hidden between warehouses or in specific working class neighborhoods.

Google Map of Phoenix, AZ gentlemen's clubs, 2010

Some Stories on The Road:
   During the day most of the bars are closed, but there are some that are open from 12pm -2pm for 'FREE LUNCH'. I start making my images around noon and while I focus on shooting positioning myself in front of a strip club that is open, sometimes from inside comes a big guy asking me? 'Why do you take these pictures?' or 'what do you take pictures of?' 'Where are you going to show these pictures?’ 'You can't take any pictures (after I have already taken 20 shots), you have to ask the owner.’ So, I ask the owner or the manager and I continue doing my work.

   Once an owner of a strip club asked me these questions and I told him that I will show the pictures in a gallery and I will let him know when. First he said, ‘In general I don't let people take pictures of my club, but you go ahead.’ And then he said to me: ' yes, send me a note in my mail' (very sarcastically).

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Titles and the Reviews

   I believe that the most interesting thing about the strip clubs is their titles. The titles capture the imaginary character of the gentlemen’s clubs. The title is the first thing that pops up into your eyes and brain as a passer-by. Then, right away you connect the title to a particular experience. For instance, ‘Haven’s Place’ associates to something extremely beautiful- a positive experience, a place where only good people with no sins have the right to be there. However, the place in itself comes out as absolutely ordinary with a decent façade you see on the outside ( read the reviews bellow). During the day the line between illusion and reality falls down and all the dreams about the world inside are destroyed.

   Another place with controversial title is ‘Crazy Russian’ and as an Eastern European woman I felt personally attached to it more when I first saw it. Wondering why someone will call a strip club with that name? Stereotypes are used for titles to help associate a place with a series of sexual fantasies and juicy titles are used for better advertising. Russian girls are very often stereotyped as very sexual and feminine women and maybe a little 'crazy’ perhaps. ‘Crazy’ meaning funny, entertaining and seductive dancer…
But here is what people wrote about 'Crazy Russian ' bar that was announced for thе best strip bar in town for 2008:

From  www.tuscl.net, unlisted
February 14, 2010
Visited on: Saturday Evening
Dancers on Shift: 6-10

Physical Club: 9
Dancer Quality: 10
$ Value: 5

Overall : 8.00

'This is not your average strip club. Don't visit with nude women in mind. It's a pasties club. This place is an experience. Gorgeous women.'

Online review by piledriver1206
'I stayed next to this place in july.....and dreadfully regret not having any extra cash to go inside and drink some beer+look at some of the most georgous women in the world!DAM!I'll be back baby!'

  'Crazy Russian',  Baltimore, MD 2010

   'The Players Club', Baltimore, MD 2010

   'Tony's Show Bar', Baltimore, MD 2010

   'Haven Place', Baltimore, MD, 2010

Online Review From 'www.tuscl.net'
November 28, 2006

Visited on: Unknown 

Dancers on Shift: Unknown
Physical Club: 6
Dancer Quality: 6
$ Value: 6
Overall : 6.00

'This place is friendly and low pressure--not like the block bars. As far as I can tell there are no private dances'

   'Baltimore's Flamingo Lounge', Baltimore, MD 2010

    'Norma Jean's', Baltimore, MD 2010

Online Review from www.rateitall.com
4 stars- GOOD
'Great location, and one of the only decent clubs left on the block. Great music, nice VIP area, attended parking available, hot girls!'

Online Review from www.tuscl.net
August 10, 2010
Visited on: Friday Evening
Dancers on Shift: 6-10
Physical Club: 8
Dancer Quality: 7
$ Value: 8
Overall : 7.67
'Lots of sistas. Alot seems to happen for laps dances. Don't sit at the bar unless you want to tip constantly...'