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.
I’m on Sunset coming from downtown, Skid Row. Across Vermont Avenue through a corridor of hospitals I stop for a red light at L. Ron Hubbard Street. The blue Scientology compound sits back a half-block from the street and the world is full of morons. At Western I turn south and start paying attention, looking for lost girls, maidens under the clutches of evil empires.
She’s young and cute, black, skinny, and sexy. I pull up next to her, in a parking lot, away from the street. She has a big smile and she bends from the waist to talk to me through the open passenger-side window.
“Hi. How you doin’?”
“I’m great, how about yourself?”
“I’m good. I’m real good. What are you looking for?”
“I want to take your picture.”
“Uh-uh, baby. I don’t take no pictures.”
“Twenty bucks, all you gotta do is give me a couple of poses.”
“Twenty for pictures?”
“You’re not a cop, are you?”
“I look like a cop? I’m a Hollywood photographer.”
She leans in through the window. “Show me your dick.”
“Really?” I’m buckled-up, belted, zipped-up, and flaccid. “What if you’re a cop and I get busted for showing you my wiener? All I want to do is take pictures.”
She gives it a think. “OK, just park your car and we can take pictures here. You want me to show my titties?”
“Yeah, but not here, it’s boring.” Across the street a do-it-yourself carwash. “Over there, across the street, the carwash.”
“There are people over there.”
A couple of white guys in baseball hats washing and wiping down an old Camaro.
“They wont mind. Let’s go.”
“You gotta pay me first.”
“Of course. Hop in.”
“I don’t know if I should get in the car.”
“What, your not supposed to get into cars with strangers?”
She giggles and smiles, gets in the car and buckles her seatbelt.
I wait for a break in traffic, then cross four lanes and tell her she has a pretty smile. I go through an empty wash bay and behind the carwash, a nice lit-up space away from the street, a green dragon mural like a tattoo on a tile wall, a colorful vacuum cleaner/fragrance dispenser about the size of a gas pump on a concrete rise, like a stage: Wild Cherry, Pina Colada, Orange Blast.
I park and we climb out, me with my camera and cane.
“That’s tough,” she says. “What’s wrong with your leg?”
“I shot myself in the foot.”
“No, not really. What’s your name?”
“Celestial. What’s your name?”
“Scot,” I give her a ten and a 20. “Let’s take some pictures.”
She’s wearing short shorts and a tight blouse with a bare midriff. Her chunky heels put her a couple of inches above me. I direct her to the stage. “You got a great ass,” I tell her. “But you already know that.”
She wiggles her butt and tells me thank you. She pirouettes then gets up close. Her breath smells like hard candy. “What do you want me to do?”
“All you gotta do is look the way you wanna look. Let’s hoist you up here,” I give her a hand and she’s up on stage squatting next to the vacuum/FragraMatics machine. She pulls up her top to show me what she’s got. Childbirth has softened her breasts; a radiant fringe of stretch marks around her navel. I tell her she looks sexy and she bites her bottom lip. I make an exposure and then another.
I can hear the water wand cleansing the Camaro in the stall. I help Celestial down and get a couple of cute shots of her standing in front of our little makeshift stage. I tell her that’s great and that’s good and that’s it. All done. She tells me this is fun and let’s take some more but I’m tired and out of money and I photographed another whore 30 minutes ago. She comes over, gets close, takes my hand and asks me if I want her phone number, she lives in Long Beach and maybe we could take pictures sometime, or maybe something more.
She’s a nice girl and I assume there’s a pimp close by who’s going to take her money and spend it on himself and send her back out to suck more sweaty dicks. I give her my phone and she fingers her name and a number into the directory and we both know the call will never happen. She tells me she’s going to walk back to her spot and I’m giving her a hug goodbye when the two guys in the Camaro drive by, windows down, and the driver yells out, “Fuck her, buddy. I did.”
Celestial grabs an empty soda can from the ground and throws it at the car. It bounces off the spoiler and the Camaro breaks quickly, ass in the air. Celestial yells, “Come on back motherfucker, see what happens.”
The guy shows us his middle finger then drives away.
Previously - Fuckin' Nothing
Scot's new show, A New Low, opens August 3 at dkrm Gallery in Los Angeles. His first book, Lowlife, was released last year and his memoir, Curb Service, is out now. You can find more information on his website.