Scot Sothern is a Los Angeles–based photographer and a big prostitute fan. He has been interacting with and photographing hookers since the 1960s, and his images have been widely exhibited in galleries in the US, Canada, and Europe. Scot's pictures evoke such a visceral reaction in the viewer and raise so many questions, 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.
Going west on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood I drive by the old empty Sears building, past a block of defunct and funky businesses, all boarded up. Used to be a massage parlor here, one of my favorites back when my wiener still dictated my destinations. When I spot the strumpet I think she’s a he-she but then I see she has the kind of large overripe breasts shemales would die for. She’s older than most Hollywood whores and she walks like she’s wearing Versace on the red carpet. I pull to a stop and unlock the door with a double thunk. She opens the door and leans down to check me out.
“How’s it going?” I ask. “You wanna go for a ride?”
She holds her chin high and over-enunciates like a parody of rich intellectuals. “A ride to where, might I ask?”
“Wherever you want to go. You look amazing, and I want to take your picture. I’ll give you 40 bucks.”
She smiles rather wickedly, and she really does look amazing. “OK, I’ll take that ride. Where do you suppose we do this picture-taking?”
“If you have a room somewhere that’d be worth another ten bucks.”
She puts on her seatbelt and tells me I need to go back the other direction so I make a screechy U-turn, which gives her a start. “It doesn’t do,” she tells me. “To attract attention.”
“I always do.”
Two blocks later she tells me to turn right and park. I don’t find an opening until I get to the corner at Sierra Vista, make another U-turn and pull into a tight spot. She tells me now we need to walk a couple of blocks so I tell her I’m a slow walker and don’t leave me behind.
She makes kind of a tut tut noise and then smiles without showing her teeth. “I’m not going to run, if that’s what you mean.”
“Huh? No, uh, that’s not what I mean. I haven’t even given you any money yet so why would you run?”
“I’m sorry you think so little of me,” she says. “I’m a professional sex worker and not some whore. I’d like 40 dollars and you can take five pictures. You should pay me now.”
“Uh, yeah, all right.”
It’s quiet, dark, and gray and daylight is only an hour or so away. The sidewalk looks like somebody dropped a wrecking ball then reeled it in and dropped it again. I’m wearing my camera and flash and hobbling forward on my bamboo cane. My model is walking too fast. It’s difficult to maneuver but rather than ask her to slow down, I strive to keep up, pretending I’m a tough guy.
“I’m not supposed to even be here tonight,” she says. “But some people make plans and then don’t follow through. I’m not like that, I’m not rude but some people are very rude.”
“Yeah, well, not me. My mother raised me to be a gentleman.”
“Yes, I see,” she says. “You think everything is about you. You must think you’re very cultured.”
“Yeah, no, sorta, I guess. I don’t know. What are we talking about?”
“Tut tut. You know as well as anyone.”
She’s taller than me and bigger all around. I follow her up to the boulevard where other souls are drifting about. No one is out doing good deeds but then neither am I. When we get to her building she takes us inside and then to a locked gate into a lobby that looks more like a crossroads. There is a guy on a tall stool inside a grated one-man cage in a corner. He pushes a button that buzzes us in and watches us go by without moving his head.
We navigate a carpeted maze and then go into her little bachelor unit, which she has made homey with the small treasures of her life. She says, “I don’t know what anybody else means when they say they are going to do something and then they don’t do it.” I tell her don’t ask me and can she sit on the bed and pose. She poses like we’re making the royal portrait, and when I suggest something more suggestive, she presents her tits to the camera with pride and panache. I get two or three nice shots.
“One must do what one must,” she tells me. “I don’t think it’s right for people to take advantage of nice people just because they’re not all hoi polloi and cheap. If you’re finished with your pictures and if there is nothing more you wish, I can do nothing else for you.” She stuffs her tits back into her bra and says, “Tut tut, no more titty for you.” She laughs and it sounds like an exclamation mark at the end of an evil spell. She goes to the door and shows me the way out.
I tell her hey, thanks, power to the people, and when she closes the door I find myself in a maze of hallways. I take two wrong turns and then another that puts me back in front of the whore’s door. Eventually I find my way to the guy in the cage and on my way out we don’t look at each other.
Previously - Batman with a Wistful Boner
Scot’s first book, Lowlife, was released last year and his memoir, Curb Service, will be published in July. You can find more information on his website.