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.
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.