Brothels of Nevada: Candid Views of America's Legal Sex Industry

Brothels of Nevada: Candid Views of America's Legal Sex Industry

by Timothy Hursley, Alexa Albert
     
 

The state of Nevada is known as a place for quick money, 24-hour marriages, and easy divorces. But it's also the only place in the United States with a legal sex industry. About 300 women today work in Nevada brothels, all regulated by the state government. Often shunned from serious condsideration, little is known about the prostitutes or the environments in which

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Overview

The state of Nevada is known as a place for quick money, 24-hour marriages, and easy divorces. But it's also the only place in the United States with a legal sex industry. About 300 women today work in Nevada brothels, all regulated by the state government. Often shunned from serious condsideration, little is known about the prostitutes or the environments in which they work.
In Brothels of Nevada, photographer Timothy Hursley offers a view of this unknown side of America. He exposes the sites in all their variety and complexity, from neon signs on double-wide trailers, to red-toned bars where workers and customers meet, to bedrooms lined with velvet and lace. Far from risque, the images are poignant reminders of how little brothels differ from many American settings. Hursley photographs twenty-five houses, roughly the entire sex industry, in views from the mid-1980s to today. Brothels of Nevada includes large well-known places like the Chicken Ranch and Mustang Ranch as well as tiny houses off the beaten track, like Angel's Ladies and Bobbie's Buckeye Bar. Alexa Albert addresses how the design of the brothels affects the work they house.

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Editorial Reviews

The New Yorker
A cheerful sign photographed on the wall of a house in Nevada in 1987 reads, “SMILE: It’s the 2nd Best Thing You Can Do with Your Lips.” The risqué wall hanging is the only hint that the room in the photograph is the otherwise genteel parlor of a brothel called the Shamrock, in the desert town of Lathrop Wells. The picture is one of more than a hundred and fifty views of largely unpopulated rooms in Brothels of Nevada, a collection of work by the architectural photographer Timothy Hursley, who documents America’s legal sex trade and also American vernacular style, from oversize trailer homes painted bubble-gum pink to shag-carpeted bedrooms where blow-up dolls peek out from closets paneled in faux wood.

A strong sense of place is absent from Lapdancer, a collection of snapshots by Juliana Beasley, who started stripping in 1992 to support her photography career. The two worlds converged, and Beasley ended up taking thousands of photographs of the “gentleman’s club” circuit. A selection of those images, along with interviews with strippers and Beasley’s own text—which manages to be both gimlet-eyed and self-absorbed—offer as much backstage access as most readers would ever want. In some cases, the lens is only inches away from a dancer’s bare breast or the muzzy face of a drunk patron. Over the course of the book, the nudity loses most of its charge. What remains is a sense of pathetic obsession that is typified by the letter reproduced on the back cover: “Dear Brandy, Such is your power of intoxication that I have spent two restless nights now remembering your performances as ‘foxy lady.’” ~ (Mark Rozzo)
Publishers Weekly
There are no people in these 166 garishly colored photos, taken over 18 years by Hursley (Rural Studio); the desolation of these spaces, both the "ranch" exteriors and boudoir interiors, is what strikes one most about them. As Albert (Brothel: Mustang Ranch and Its Women) notes, many of the latter have been decorated by the sex workers themselves. Presented here as vernacular architecture, this particular part of America's cultural heritage may inspire less aesthetic pleasure than pathos and concern. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Hard daylight parts red velvet curtains, a rustic wooden stocks does time as a trellis, and faux Roman columns encircle a tight complex of baby-blue double-wides. These are just three of the many images of Nevada's legal prostitution as captured here by Hursley (Rural Studio: Samuel Mockbee and an Architecture of Decency). Over a period of 18 years, the photographer documented 34 brothels, among them the elaborate Chicken Ranch (complete with airstrip) and the infamous Mustang Ranch, which physician Albert detailed in Brothel: Mustang Ranch and Its Women. Hursley surveys a variety of domination rooms, parlors, and bedrooms, as well as the surrounding desert landscape. There are rare partial glances at the women and men who move through these spaces, but each frame is infused with reminders of their very real lives. Hursley's intelligent eye, subtle sense of light, and sensitivity to color convey the daily drama of these places, where the "erotic" swiftly turns ordinary. With 166 photographs, this is the most complete depiction of the contemporary brothels of the American West. At this excellent price, it is highly recommended for all contemporary America, women's studies, and photography collections.-Rebecca Miller, "Library Journal" Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781568984186
Publisher:
Princeton Architectural Press
Publication date:
10/28/2003
Pages:
192
Product dimensions:
8.12(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.62(d)
Age Range:
13 - 18 Years

Meet the Author

Alexa Albert is author of Brothel: Mustang Ranch and Its Women. She lives in Seattle, WA.

Timothy Hursley is an architectural photographer whose most recent book, Rural Studio: An Architecture of Decency has received major review attention. Hursley lives in Little Rock, AR.

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