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."
Four AM, Sunday morning—Saturday night for those of us still awake. At Western and Hollywood Boulevard, where a giant hot dog used to sit on top of a funky food joint and now it doesn’t. I miss all the lowbrow landmarks of LA, the city I love. South on Western, I blow through a yellow light at Santa Monica Boulevard and then down three blocks of street walkers in fuck-me gear like fan-dancing peacocks. I see the LAPD on a corner across from McDonald’s. A couple of bullies in a squad car toying with a couple of working girls on the sidewalk and chasing off all the johns. The johns go home horny, and the girls go home broke.
I’m a matinee cowboy looking for wrongs to right. I turn left onto Romaine and then pull to the curb next to Taco Bell. The girls on the sidewalk check me out but seem a bit perplexed. The cops are idling in the other lane next to me. I ignore them, zip down the passenger-side window, and call out to a freckle-faced cutie in a white pleather jacket and gladiator pumps. “Hey, Tootsie, how’s it goin? You wanna make some money?”
She approaches slowly, looking back and forth at the cops and me.
“Are you a cop?”
“No. Are you?”
“There are cops right there.” She points in case I haven’t noticed.
“Yeah I saw them. Hop in, take a ride with me. I wanna take your picture. I’ll give you 30 bucks.”
“Yeah, OK.” She opens the door and gets in. “You know those cops are right there looking at us?”
“Yeah I know but I’m not breaking any laws, fuck 'em. Buckle up, I don’t want to get a ticket.”
I drive and the cop car backs into and out of an alleyway following me. At the first four-way stop they pull up next to me, squawk the siren, and hit me with the spot. A beefy baby-faced cop looks at me, and I look back. I lower my window, and he starts the interrogation. “Where are you going?”
“Just taking a drive, not really going anywhere.”
“Who’s that with you?”
“Friend of mine.”
“What’s her name?”
I ask the hooker what her name is, and she tells me.
“Her name’s Roxanne.”
“If she’s your friend, why did you just ask her what her name is?”
“We haven’t known each other for very long.”
He’s getting red, and I’m thinking maybe I should stop fucking around before he shoots me. “I just met Roxanne, and we’re going to go and take some pictures.”
“Yeah, see? I’m wearing my camera and flash so I hold them up for him to see. “We’re not breaking any laws. I’m a photographer, this is what I do.”
He doesn’t say anything, just looks at me so I ask him if we’re all done and can I go now?
The cop rolls up his window and I go back into drive. They follow us for a block and then turn off. “What’s your name?” Roxanne asks me.
“You really just wanna take pictures?”
“Yeah, is that OK?”
“Yeah, I guess. That was gangster, they way you talked and what you did. I hate cops.”
“Yeah, well, I’ve done smarter things. I’ve got a thing about cops; they make me flippant like I’m back in high school.”
“I hate cops,” Roxanne says again. “Nobody can make any money with them all hassling everybody.”
The street curves 90 degrees and then changes its name. There’s a nice little park with tennis courts on the left. No parking on the park side and a string of cars on the right side. I’m looking for a spot.
Roxanne says, “You know the reason why the cops try and make it so we can’t make any money is because hos don’t pay taxes, so the cops don’t make any money for themself and they don’t like us.”
We’re in a nice family neighborhood and the denizens don’t want vice and drugs on their doorsteps. That’s the primary reason the cops are herding the girls off to different climes. I double-park in front of a little hacienda with a terracotta roof and a square green yard. Everyone is asleep except us.
I find a nice spot in the park, and Roxanne shows me that she’s not wearing any panties. I take three pictures and pay her for her time. Back in the car she offers me sex, but I want it at a deep discount. I tell her I’d love to and promise I’ll think about her sometime when I jerk off but not tonight. I drive her back to where I found her and the cops are back in place as well. Roxanne gives me a hug before she gets out, and as I drive off, I hear her telling the baby-faced cop we just took pictures and there is nothing he can fucking do about it. I drive home feeling good about myself.
Previously - Close to the Goodyear Blimp
Scot’s first book, Lowlife, was released last year. You can find more information on his website.