For most of us, a road trip across America is a holiday and a luxurious one at that. For French photographer Francois Prost it was a necessity.
America’s vast expanse is ripe territory for European photographers, and Francois considers the relationship between the continents to be one based on a “schizophrenic” love/hate divide. “As Europeans, we have a very strong relationship with American culture whether we like it or not,” the photographer says.
The relationship is tinged with romance, and nothing screams all-American-love-affair like a roadtrip, right? Noting his interest in vehicular material shot by the likes of Ryan McGinley, Walker Evans, and William Eggleston, Francois tells us that one of the joys of the road trip-based project is that “you don’t need anything more than a car and a camera to do a whole photography documentary.”
Arguably best known for his 2014 series, After Party, which documented hundreds of French and Belgian nightclubs in broad daylight, Francois’ latest work sees him taking a typically taxonomic approach.
Gentlemen’s Club is an exhaustive photographic account of the pleasure palaces which line American highways and byways, shot in the bold, declarative style that Francois has made his own with projects like Paris Syndrome, At The Champs-Elysées, and Concrete Albania.
“I basically planned to just shoot nightclubs,” he tells It’s Nice That, “but I didn’t find many interesting ones, so I decided to extend it to strip clubs, too.”
As with After Party, the daylight dalliances with dens of dance-based iniquity are intended to invoke a “rawer and more objective” examination of clubs as architectural spaces. Still, even with that in mind Gentlemen’s Club avoids the austere total-objectivity you might get in a series shot by Bernd and Hilla Becher, say.
“Daylight also lets us talk about the sexual issue, how we hide it and somehow repress it,” Francois says. “There are a few gay strip clubs in the series and I wanted to show them alongside the more traditional heterosexual clubs, as they deal with power and domination outside the classic male/female approach to things.”
Under baking blue skies, devoid of customers, these clubs take on a shabby, slightly sad air, and it is this air of spatial solitude that gives the photos their strangely potent punch.