French Photographer Views America Through Strip Club Exteriors

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French Photographer Views America Through Strip Club Exteriors

French photographer François Prost, as his countryman Alexis de Tocqueville did 188 years before him, took a journey across the strange land known as America to get a clearer view of the American mind and soul. But unlike de Tocqueville, who started out examining the United States prison system, Prost’s vehicle for his journey to the heart of America was the country’s many strip clubs.

“It is a way to study and to try to understand this country,” Prost told the site City Lab. But what he was able to conclude by photographing the exteriors of 193 roadside strip joints, each from a medium distance so as to capture the club’s signage and logos, is not altogether clear.

What is clear is that the photos, which may be viewed online at this link, reveal that strip clubs favor garishly colored exteriors, with the colors pink, red, and purple often preferred. Prost also noted the quasi-religious subtext of many strip club names, finding terms such as “paradise” and “temptation” repeated with some degree of frequency.

Prost’s photos demystify the strip clubs, photographing the exteriors in often harsh daylight—making his new photo series, appropriately titled Gentlemen’s Club, a follow-up to his best known previous photo project, After Party, in which he cooly documented dozens of French and Belgian nightclubs as seen in the cold light of day. In fact, he set out across America with the same project in mind.

“I basically planned to just shoot nightclubs,” he told the site ItsNiceThat.com. “But I didn’t find many interesting ones, so I decided to extend it to strip clubs, too.”

But why photograph the clubs in daytime, rather than after dark when the typical strip club comes alive? “Daylight also lets us talk about the sexual issue, how we hide it and somehow repress it,” he told ItsNiceThat.

The bright, stark and always customer-free shots of the strip clubs also highlight the contrasts between what the French photographer calls the “conservative and puritan reputation” that America holds among Europeans—perhaps for good reason—and the country’s seeming obsession with these parking lot pleasure palaces.

Prost photographed strip clubs all across the country, from Miami to Los Angeles, but found no significant regional variations in their architecture and self-presentation—which is due, in part, to local ordinances limiting what the clubs can show on their exteriors. Sex and nudity do indeed appear to be universal languages, based on Prost’s photo series.

“These places are trying make clients want to come in,” he said of the “placeless” quality of his photos. “To do so they evoke a universe of ‘pleasure.’” 

Photo By François Prost via FrancoisProst.com

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