A photographer offers an unexpected view of the US — through its many strip clubs | CNN

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A photographer provides a unique perspective of the US by documenting its numerous strip clubs | CNN

Some individuals explore the globe in pursuit of adventure, natural marvels, cultural heritage, or culinary delights. However, French photographer François Prost had a different quest in mind during his recent journey across America: strip clubs.

Prost’s latest book, “Gentlemen’s Club,” chronicles his travels through nearly 150 strip clubs across the US, from Miami to Los Angeles, with names like Pleasures, Temptations, and Cookies N’ Cream. Interestingly, Prost’s focus in the photographs was solely on the buildings themselves, particularly their vibrant facades, without any depiction of nude individuals.

During five weeks in 2019, spanning over 6,000 miles, Prost captured a variety of scenes ranging from the pastel shades of Florida’s Club Pink Pussycat to establishments blending discreetly into the surroundings in more conservative regions of the country.

Speaking to CNN through a video call and email, Prost categorized these venues into two types: those seamlessly integrated into public spaces like amusement parks, fast-food chains, and malls, and others tucked away in strip malls, nearly camouflaged. He discovered many such hidden spots along the Bible Belt, known for its socially conservative values.

Prost emphasized his disinterest in the interiors or services of the strip clubs, as he visited them during daylight hours. His objective was to gain insights into American culture by creating impartial, documentary-style images of these establishments, exploring the intersection of sexuality, gender, and commerce through architecture. He described the project as primarily a landscape photography endeavor, documenting the evolving societal attitudes towards sexual expression.

The series of photographs from “Gentlemen’s Club” will be exhibited in Tokyo in March, representing a unique exploration of American culture through the lens of strip club facades.

Prost’s project was inspired by his previous series in 2018, “After Party,” which focused on the flamboyant exteriors of French nightclubs. Observing similarities between the French and American club facades led him to embark on this expansive US journey.

During his trip planning, Prost was struck by the sheer prevalence of strip clubs in America, distinct from Europe, where they are more discreet. In the US, these clubs often flaunt vibrant aesthetics such as hot pink walls, larger-than-life nude silhouettes, and candy-cane-striped storefronts, leaving no ambiguity about the entertainment offered within.

Strip clubs in cities like Las Vegas prominently display their presence with flashy signs that rival those of fast-food joints and casinos. Miami’s clubs, on the other hand, feature vivid and eye-catching paintings.Francois Prost, a photographer, captured the vibrant and captivating facades of gentlemen’s clubs in the style reminiscent of Wes Anderson. During his five-week trip, he encountered various reactions from people at these establishments, ranging from indifference to excitement about his project.

Prost was surprised by how normalized strip clubs are in American culture. He noted that many strip clubs in Las Vegas also functioned as restaurants, offering happy hour deals and even special discounts for certain professions. Some establishments advertised themselves as both a strip club and a steakhouse, showcasing a unique aspect of American culture.

The humorous and pun-based names of these clubs, along with the portrayal of women as commodities, were highlighted in Prost’s photographs. Despite the absence of actual women in his works, the signs and advertisements in the clubs depicted women as objects for consumption.

In his upcoming project, Prost plans to explore Japan’s love hotels, which serve a similar societal role as strip clubs in the US. He believes that the American gentlemen’s clubs he visited reflect a story beyond just sexuality, tapping into the essence of the American dream.

Prost’s project sheds light on the intersection of business success and the nature of the activities being conducted, suggesting that profitability can often overshadow the nature of the industry. His collection, titled “Gentlemen’s Club,” will be showcased at Agnes b. Galerie Boutique in Tokyo, Japan, from March 17 to April 15, 2023. The book, published by Fisheye Editions, is currently available for viewing.

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