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.
1988. I’m alone in the night, driving slowly, when a whore materializes from a thick puff of fog. I brake and flip on my wipers and park the Camaro under a streetlamp. The whore appears at my passenger-side door and fumbles with the handle. I unlock it from my side, she jumps in and I pull back out onto El Cajon Boulevard.
She is young and white and thin. Her hair is blond and curly. She looks out at the wall of fog with her back to me, then turns and looks out the back window.
"Hey," I say. "How's it goin'?"
She looks at me through narrowed eyes and presses herself to the door, holding the handle, ready to bail if I prove to be a madman. Her hands twitch. "Are you a cop?"
"Am I a cop? I'm not even a good citizen."
"If you want to party it’ll cost you $30."
“Yeah, OK.” She takes me to a dumpy little motel room that smells like disinfectant. There are two open suitcases and clothes strewn about, cosmetics, the stuff of life. She is nervous and jumpy, little invisible critters nibble her toes with pointy teeth. She doesn’t trust me, nor does she have reason to. She closes the door then runs across the room, jumps on the bed and begins tapping the knuckles of both hands on the wall.
"My pimp is right next door,” she tells me. “And he's listening to the wall, and right now I'm telling him everything is OK, except you didn’t give me any money yet." She taps some more dots, some more dashes. "If my pimp doesn't hear from me every five minutes he comes over to make sure I'm all right. He’s big and mean and he has his own key."
I take $30 from my wallet and walk it to her. "Here you go. Tell your pimp you got your money, then ask him if it's all right if I take some pictures."
"Hey, I'm serious as shit, mister. I'm not joking. You just better not try anything. You better not even think about taking any pictures. I know better than that shit." She grabs the money from my hand, crams it into a pocket of her denim miniskirt.
"Hey, relax a minute. You want a cigarette?" I offer her a butt, which she takes without a thank-you. "Why don't you climb on down from the bed and have a smoke, take a breath. Let's talk about what it is I'm here for and what it is I just paid for."
She comes down from the bed and I light her smoke and burn one for myself. She says, "I can give you a blowjob and take off my clothes and do a show, but you better not try anything else."
"You got boundaries, I’m OK with that, but I want pictures. I just want to take a couple of pictures. It’s fun and easy."
"I don't believe you. I think you're lying. I think you better go now or my pimp's going to come over here and make you sorry."
"I'm already sorry and if I'm leaving now you're gonna have to give me my money back. Tell you what, we’ll take pictures and then I’ll give you another ten for the show and a blow job. You’re hot, you’ve got a pretty face and a great ass. It’s what your pimp would want you to do."
She strips quickly and it’s not much of a show. "You get to take two pictures and you've got to do it quick because it's almost time to signal my pimp."
I already have my camera out of the bag and the flash charging. She jumps back up on the bed and I compose and expose. I get off five and she start’s tapping on the wall again. "You gotta go now. You got what you want and you gotta go now."
“What about the blowjob?”
“Oh, oh yeah. Twenty dollars.”
I give her my last $20, which puts me back on the bum. She does a pretty good job and hums the entire time, which is fun, though a little disconcerting because it sounds like the theme music to Sesame Street. Ten minutes later I'm on my way out reaching for the doorknob when she yells, "No. Wait. Don't move, stay there." She jumps back up on the bed and taps on the wall.
“While you’re talking to your pimp, tell him I said have a nice night.”
“Real funny,” she says. “Ha ha ha.” She puts her ear to the wall and listens to the phantom pimp. “OK,” she tells me. “It’s safe now. You can go.”
I open the door and step out into the fog. A truck lumbers down El Cajon Boulevard, its headlights two great snowflakes. Back in the car I turn on the noise and go cruising through the clouds.
Previously - Nasty All Over
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.