Scot Sothern is a Los Angeles-based photographer and a big prostitute fan. Over the past two decades Scot has slept with and/or photographed a plethora of LA's sex workers. His photos have been widely exhibited in galleries in the US, Canada, and Europe. Scot's images evoke such a visceral reaction in the viewer and raise so many questions, that we decided to give Scot a regular column aimed at getting the story behind the photo. The idea is simple: We feature an image from Scot’s archive along with his explanation of just exactly what the fuck was going on when he took it. Welcome to Nocturnal Submissions.
1986, I’m somewhere off the 110 freeway close to the Goodyear Blimp in Gardena. I’m dodging potholes, spinning yarns in my head, thinking about all the things I’m gonna be someday. I drive slowly looking for models in the shadows, but what I see is a clump of mean- and bitter-looking men drinking and stumbling, watching each other die because there is nothing better to do. I pass by and they tell me with attitude to go fuck myself.
Past a little three-car mechanic’s garage I see something animated in the shadows. She’s hiding and she’s working. Like a salesman who is afraid to knock on the front door, she needs the money but is anxious about who might be inside. I know she sees me and I think from the movements she is not alone. I take a right, go around the block, and creep up slowly to the spot where I expect her to be. She’s there but still on the sidewalk, away from the streetlights. She’s wearing shorts and a tank top. She’s barefoot. Behind her stands a little guy about my size and much uglier. He gives her a boot in the poot and propels her to the passenger side of my crappy ten-year-old Toyota Wagon. I lean across and roll down the window.
“You all right?” I ask her. “You wanna take a ride?”
She brings her face in close and as soon as she opens her mouth, I smell regurgitated wine. “You wanna party?” The whites of her eyes are red and gelatinous. “Fifty dollars to party, top and bottom, whatever you want.”
“That’s a bit steep. How about I give you 15 dollars and all you gotta do is let me take a couple of pictures.”
She closes her eyes for a moment that becomes a long moment and when she opens them again she looks at me like I’m not there. “Twenty dollars.”
“Yeah, all right. Get in.”
She doesn’t get in but turns and tells the guy on the sidewalk 20 dollars. He tells her 30 and then she tells me 30.
“Tell your friend for 30 dollars he has to come along and suck my butthole.”
She tells him 20 again, and he calls her a stupid cunt.
She gets in the car, and we drive a block where I pull into an alleyway and park in a black hole. It’s dark and she’s moving about but snoring like she’s passed out. “You all right?” I flip on the dome light and she’s tugging down her shorts and panties. I don’t think her nose works, her mouth hangs open, and her lungs sound wet and scabby. “You wanna fuck?” she says. “You gotta climb on top 'a me.”
“No, we don’t need to do that. We’re gonna take a couple of pictures, remember? You just gotta climb to the back and then I’m gonna take a couple of pictures.” I’ve got the backseat flopped down forward and a station wagon stage where she can pose. I pay her with a 20.
“You can’t show my face,” she tells me as she crawls between the front seats to the back. “I don’ want Patsy to see me. I don’ want none of them over there at Patsy’s to see me.”
“I don’t think that’s going to be a problem. Scoot back all the way to the back and face me.” I’ve got my Nikon with the 28mm lens out. The light on the 283 Vivatar flash is green. “What’s your name?”
“You don’ need my name for nothing. You tell me when you gonna take the picture, and I’ll show you my pussy.”
“Yeah, sure. You’re OK, just stay like you are.” She’s sitting against the hatch, still wearing her tank top but her shorts and panties are on the floor. I twist and lean in between the seats and focus. She opens her legs, and I‘m hit by a thick musk that knocks me back and makes me gag. She’s been fucked and then fucked again and again, without benefit of a springtime-fresh disposable douche. I keep my camera close but hold back my head trying to hide the impolite heaves. “If you don’t mind put your other hand over your snatch, it’ll make a better picture.” She complies and I take two identical photographs and tell her to go ahead and put her pants back on.
She opens the back door and climbs out, leans on the car and pulls on her shorts. She staggers back down the road to her pimp. I’d be happy to give her a lift but I guess she needs some time alone.
Previously - Big Motherfuckin' Boobies
Scot’s first book, Lowlife, was released last year. You can find more information on his website.