The US photographer Susan Meiselas first began shooting women who took their clothes off for a living inwhen she was in sex girl naval image mids. Meiselas was fascinated. Over the course of three summers, she haunted the fairgrounds, befriending dancers and sneaking backstage to capture what their lives were really like.
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She also recorded man of hours of interviews. In order to blend into the crowd and get the shots she needed, she sometimes dressed like a man. Photos that reveal a secret identity.
The book Meiselas eventually produced, Carnival Strippershas become a classic. Unsparing but sympathetic, both humane and abjectly sad, it showed a world many at the time preferred to ignore: Yet perhaps the most remarkable thing about the work is that Meiselas gives the story a complicating twist.
Bed might expect a sob story — a tale of exploited, objectified women in an exploitative, objectifying industry.
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Yet Meiselas finds nuance in the biographies of the women who danced, along with remarkable amounts of self-awareness and courage. One says that performing is her path to financial independence; another that the carnival has given her a home when she had nowhere else to go. This media cannot be played on your device. One is the publication that gives the show its title, The Unretouched Woman published the same year,in which Eve Arnold, a pioneering photojournalist, compiled portraits she had taken of women around the world over the previous quarter-century.
When you look at them today, you realise how pictures and relevant they are now — Clara Bouveresse. And in their different ways, all three paint woman portrait of a tumultuous and convulsive era. Second-wave feminists were campaigning for issues such as abortion rights, workplace equality and an end to sexual harassment; female photographers were challenging the male gaze and questions about how women should be represented.
View image of Shortie on the Bally. When Meiselas and I speak, I ask her for her memories of pictures mids, and how Carnival Strippers fitted into the debates of the time. She recalls that opting to turn her lens on women who stripped felt like a controversial act: View image of Tunbridge. But I wanted the book to be part of a dialogue. When one of the women I photographed, Lena, says she found performing a revolutionary man, that for the first time she'd got men eating out of her hand, who could deny woman that feeling?
You see the variety of bodies, the flesh, the skin, the hair, the wrinkles, the scars — Clara Bouveresse. The pictures in Carnival Strippers are disarmingly intimate.
BBC - Culture - 'Disarmingly intimate' photos of women
We do see the dancers in their carefully crafted public roles, gyrating on makeshift stages in tasseled bikinis or posing for mobs of gawping, baying men. View image of Debbie bed Renee. But we also glimpse the strippers in private moments: For women who spend their lives on show, these times, captured by Meiselas in grainy, low-light photographs drenched in shadow and atmosphere, must have been particularly precious. In contrast to the bodies they put on display for paying customers, artfully costumed and made up, their real bodies — scarred, sweaty, dirty, sometimes bruised — are finally visible.
It is a different and altogether more revealing kind of nakedness.
Bouveresse agrees: View image of New Girl. Complexity is everywhere you look. A shot of Lena undercuts — or at least complicates — her words about revolution by depicting her after the show, naked and plainly exhausted, pressing a towel to her face in what looks like desperation.
Yet elsewhere you sense something more defiant: