America's strip clubs are nothing if not photogenic (and not always in a good way). So a French photographer traveled the whole country in 2019 to document the good and bad. The catch: He didn't include any dancers.
A new book, Gentlemen's Club by François Prost, instead focuses on the buildings themselves, featuring clubs with names like Pleasures and Temptations, some of which are huge and impressive and integrated into their cityscapes, others that are run down and "hidden and dodgy," as the photographer tells CNN.
In the 6,000 miles Prost travels, he says that he found he could tell some of the culture of a location by how its strip clubs are integrated into the city or town. In areas within the Bible Belt, he says, lots of them are hidden in plain sight in strip malls, maybe to avoid pushing back against Puritanical locals. Prost said he was also trying to understand "the intersection of sex, gender and commerce" and the culture of America itself by studying the exteriors of these businesses.
The photographer says he was surprised by how normalized strip clubs are in America and how the ones that don't try to blend into the background are so blaring with their neon exteriors, joke-filled signs ("My sex life is like the Sahara, 2 palms, no dates") and pun names ("Booby Trap," "Bottoms Up"). How in your face these storefronts are, even in a country that's so mired in culture wars, led the photographer to conclude, "as long as you're successful in terms of business, (it doesn't matter) if your activity deals with sex."
The photos from the book will also be featured in a Tokyo exhibit at the Agnes b. Galerie Boutique from March 17 to April 15, if you happen to be out that way this spring. Prost says his next project is documenting love hotels in that country. He previously did a series on French nightclubs called After Party.
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