Featured post

The European History of Photography British Photography 1970-2000

I was commissioned to write this a few years ago for the Central European House of Photography in Bratislava (and thank you to all the photo...

Monday, 26 April 2010

Scot Sothern

These pictures are of prostitutes Scot Sothern visited on the streets of Southern California in the 1980s. As Sothern puts it:

These images, shot mostly in Southern California between 1986 and 1990, record the existence of the many disenfranchised Americans, hawking their souls for the price of a Big Mac and a fix. With these portraits, paragraphs, and full disclosure, I hope to reveal the struggle and never changing plight of the street prostitute, victims of a culture that deems them criminal and expendable.

Possibly. I should be saying something about ethics here, but don't really know how they apply or if they apply or how secondary photography is in the circumstances Sothern was shooting in. His pictures are grubby, unglamorous, exploitative and not at all sexy or even attractive most of the time and perhaps that's the way it should be, the way Philip-Lorca diCorcia's Hustlers never got to be. I should say something about Boris Mikhailov's Case History here as well but I won't because I don't have anything to say. Sothern's work is humanising and dehumanising, but it's much better than the reality it might represent. Photography is not the most important thing in the world and I think Sothern might be saying that with his pictures. I hope so anyway.

More pictures on on Sothern's blogsite as well as his piercing but lurid words. He also has a longer text on  American Suburb X.  

Seeing Scot Sothern's pictures reminds me of this story, detailing how when assets are seized from UK brothels, the police get 25%, the Crown Prosecution Service get 25% and the Inland Revenue get 50%. None of which seems right.

On the same theme, the BBC is currently showing Five Daughters, a drama recounting the murder in Ipswich of five women by Mondeo-Man Steve Wright. It is conventional TV drama in many ways, but also gentle and touching. See it here if you can.

And the right song for this post? When the Sun Goes Down by the Arctic Monkeys.  Scummy Man!


Stan B. said...

The first thing about this remarkable series (from what seems quite the remarkable photographer I've never heard of) that struck me was how important photography can be- what record would we have of these people if it wasn't for these images in glorious B&W? One can only hope that at least some of them somehow, someway managed to turn their lives around between then and now. If not, at least someone bothered to turn a lens their way and acknowledge their very temporary presence in a world that chose to either ignore or debase them.

colin pantall said...

Thank you Stan - I'm glad someone else finds them extraordinary. I'm ambivalent about them, but they are extraordinary, they really are.