Photographer Jane Hilton's latest book moves from cowboys to girls with portraits from Nevada's desert
brothels. They are very striking indeed, but not just as pictures, they might represent an entire turnaround in our attitude to prostitution and ask some big questions of our culture in general.
It's the texts from the women at the back of the book which give this impression (along with Hilton's homage to Manet's 'Olympia' in the photos themselves) because it becomes very quickly clear that for the vast majority of these workers the ranch is the best thing that's ever happened to them; that the world outside is pretty definitively awful, and the world inside the brothel isn't. They almost sound like activists; they are good at sex, they like it, it's not particularly hard, the environment is fun, once inside the blokes tend to be kind (only 30% even engage in sex- they seem to prefer a nice bubble bath, a massage and so on) it's safe, you can earn good money, or even as Sunset Thomas says 'I'm sorry I just love it, it's in my blood!' I'm lucky enough to have met Sunset Thomas, she's not mad or anything, just perfectly lovely.
So as to 'falling' in to prostitution is concerned, the world we associate with nineteenth century European classics as well as conventional twentieth century prejudice, this is actually more of a 'rise'. All conventional wisdom might be upended! The petty morals of the french bourgeoisie are supplanted by the very real pressures and dangers of raging late capitalism. It's not peoples opinion that matters as much as survival itself. Personally I'm not sure about a definition of freedom, less of happiness, but the American constitution has at least practically benefited these women, for if there is one concept actually useful to them to hold on to it is their personal freedom. The rest they can dismiss as largely garbage.
So whilst the term 'politics of the brothel' is widely used to condemn contemporary western society, it turns out that the actual politics of the brothel are a haven from it's harshest realities!
Precious by Jane Hilton is published by Schilt Publishing. Above 'Ruby'. '.