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. Every other Tuesday we’ll 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.
On the corner of 6th and Gladys in Downtown Los Angeles, there is a little park surrounded by a heavy green fence, which is locked tight at this time of night. I've seen it in the daytime and it looks nice. It’s clean and quiet, with umbrellas over picnic tables and a little sand-filled playground. I can see the shadows of the street tramps who have climbed over the fence to collapse for a few hours until the sun comes up and ruins everything. I'm at the four-way stop deciding which way to go. A drug dealer is at one corner and a whore at the other. I ignore the dealer and wave my eyebrows at the whore. They both start toward me. The whore gets to me first and I tell her 15 dollars for some pictures, somewhere close by.
"Boobies," she says. "You want to take pictures my motherfuckin’ boobies?"
I tell her yeah, that's a good idea, hop in, and then I unlock the passenger door. She runs around the front of the car to climb aboard and passes by the drug dealer as he walks over to my side.
He asks me what I want, and carries himself like he doesn't need an excuse to pull me out through the window and stomp on my head.
I tell him I've already got what I want, have a nice night and keep the faith. I screw up my face and sneer, pretending I’m capable of grabbing him by the ears, pulling him in through the window, and knocking out his last three teeth.
He’s not intimidated. "What you want?" he asks me again. "Don't be acting shit with me," his volume is increasing.
The whore has made her way to the passenger seat. "He wants me you stupid motherfucker," she tells him. He gets it now, but I don't think he understands how anyone would pay for her rather than a pipeful of rocket fuel. He shrugs and goes back to his corner. I buzz up the window and turn right.
I ask my companion if she knows a private space where we can make art. She tells me go this way and then go that way.
"I got big motherfuckin' boobies," she says. "That way, that way over there, stop here stop here."
It's not a good space; no more private than the corner we started from and less scenic.
"It's just a white wall," I say. "I'd like a better background. Let's look around a little more. I know a spot close by."
It's too late; she's already got her door open and her feet on the asphalt. "Give me the money," she says. "Come on, give me the money."
"Relax, give me a minute." I kill the headlights and the ignition, set the hand brake and get out of the car, putting the keys in my pants pocket. There is a broken guy trying to die three light poles away making a point of not watching. I have 60 dollars in tens and fives rolled up in my right pocket. I attempt, as is my method, to peel the three fives from my pocket without revealing I have more where that came from. She sees the wad and says I should give her another five to make it an even 20 ‘cause just look how big her motherfuckin’ boobies. I agree and give her the cash.
She pulls up her shirt and shows me her breasts. "Go on take my motherfuckin’ picture. Hurry up, I don't want to be here."
I'm wearing my camera and flash and I'm using my clear acrylic hook cane, which doubles as a weapon I hope to never use. I go to move her a few yards to a more colorful background.
"No, no way," she says. "You take your motherfuckin' pictures here."
I try to give her a nudge but I get too close and she takes a swipe at me. "Alright, alright," I say. "Just stand here." I manage to get her next to a light pole. I back up and focus and tell her to look at me and I make an exposure. She tells me she's all done and I say one more, realizing I should have held back that last five bucks for incentive. She bends over, looks both ways up and down the street, and I make another exposure. I figure the money is hot in her pocket and she wants to get high as soon as possible, but I'm still surprised when she pulls down her shirt and takes off running. I watch her go and then I push a button on the back of the Nikon and look at the images.
Scot’s first book, Lowlife, was released last year. You can find more information on his website.