Saturday, April 30, 2011

Photo for Saturday in April 2011

"Two Yemenite Brothers", Rockaways, NYC, April 2011.

I love meeting new people out in the Rockaways. Sometimes, it feels like a second home or a vacation getaway if I'm in the right mood. On a day's visit, I typically run into at least four or five people who have let me photograph them over the years. Last Sunday afternoon, I was introduced to the two brothers in the above photograph. They live across the street from Lulu, the woman who runs the boarding house behind the chain link fence. On a warm day, she spends enough time sitting outside in a sun chair with her husband and the friendly visitor drinking and idling on the cement steps to her front door. I suspect she knows most of what is going on or going down in the neighborhood.

"Come here, "she motions at two boys as they were walking up the street towards the boardwalk.

"They are brothers", she informs me. "Their country is at war. Yemen, right? Isn't that right?" she questions them. 

They nod.

"Take their photograph."

I do.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

I Love the Night Life. I Want to Boogie. aka My Polaroid Love Affair.

"Jesse(aka Juliana) and Suzi Sazuki", Honolu, Hawaii, 1994. Juliana Beasley

This Polaroid was taken in between my half hour dance sets while I was working as a stripper in Hawaii. The club where I worked had once been a theatre complete with faded and worn red velvet chairs bolted to the floor in a half circled amphitheater. In it's present state, the dark and grungy space had barely been renovated or converted to suit the needs or demands of a clientele with more than a couple of hundred dollars to blow on a night of anonymous laughter, smiles and fake intimacy with some woman possibly half their age. Management, at the request of the cheap and wealthy owner, projected vivid, and graphic low end (meaning low budget) porn on the wall and highlighted various "feature dancers" and porn stars who would come to the club and perform for a week at a time. In memory, this club certainly scores in the top three most gruesome shit holes where I had ever worked in the seven or eight odd years as a professional stripper. This, however, has no relation to the amount of  money that I made in this place or any other dive. Actually, it defies it.  

Elated fans would come to see showcased performers and if they had the extra money, they could spend it on a instant photo, personalized with her signature and/or a scribbled flirtatious and salacious comment. They could leave the club with a lasting momento of posing next to or possibly holding their favorite sex starlet in their arms.

Here I posed with Suzi Sazuki, a mid-career porn star from Japan. 

I stood on line like the others waiting for my turn. I didn't pay though. She wouldn't let me. She was nice and her English was close to terrible.

I had dyed my hair blonde with hopes of making more money in the clubs. It's true. Blondes are more in demand in the stripper subculture. That evening, I wore my heavily padded push up bra filled only with the deception and lies of a more fruitful bounty. I also wore wearing a pair of bandana patterned hot hot shorts that I fondly called "my money-makers" since I always made high earnings when I put them on.

I remember that my golden hair glowed like a lightning bug under the black lights. I believed it attracted more attention from the customers--and therefore, made me more earnings--than did my natural dark brown hair. I  learned later in my career when I had reestablished myself as a true brunette that this Barbie logic was indeed not true at all. 

"Anonymous Dancer in Dressing Room", NYC, New York, 1992? Juliana Beasley

I do not remember this anonymous dancer that I photographed with my Polaroid camera. I do remember one thing though. She only worked a week or so in this particular club because she was on the road traveling from one club to the next. One evening, a doorman helped her carry in a large black suitcase into the dressing room. The rest of us stood to the side so she would have enough room to pass through the small space. Finally, she found a small empty corner to stake out as her own and set it down. 

When she opened it I could see that it was filled with expensive looking costumes each one rolled up and wrinkled in careless bundles. I remember that she changed her costumes after each dance set unlike the rest of "house girls" who were to lazy to change our cigarette infused stinky outfits more than twice in an evening. This is one of my first Polaroids taken in a strip club at the beginning of my career as a stripper in 1992. 

"Wanna Dance?", Las Vegas, Nevada, 2002. Juliana Beasley

I took this Polaroid with my Joy Cam in Las Vegas while shooting for my book, "Lapdancer". At the end of 2002, I flew out there, after a quick stop to visit, not only a dear friend, but also to photograph in some of Colorado's "finest" clubs. By this time, my dancing career had already been over for several years. I was on a photo work trip without the benefits of a due salary. I traveled through several states.  I was determined to make some last strong images before my book would be published. I was still fresh and naive and believed that I could make a living as an photographer telling stories through my photographs. 

I planned the classic weekend 24/7 trip to Vegas. I banked on the fact that many clubs--like the casinos--remained open around the clock.  The doors remained perpetually open to eager customers, except for the obligatory occasional few hours when the janitorial service would come in to disinfect mirrors, carpets and chairs with industrial strength cleaning products. 

Soon after I arrived at McCarran Airport, I settled into my room at the Lexor Hotel on the strip. I quickly washed my face and then called around town for the permission to shoot in as many clubs as I could find listed in the Adult Entertainment Trade Guide. Several owners or managers agreed, but most did not.

At this particular club where I took the above Polaroid, they allowed me to come in and photograph both the customers and the dancers in the club, depending on whether each individual agreed to it or not. The club was beautiful; most dancers wore full gowns, inferring that the establishment was "upscale" or otherwise referred to in the business, as a "gentlemen's club". I can still remember two flawless shining black dance stages that reflected a warm glow upon the stripper's bodies from light beams up above.

I also remember seeing a lot of very stocky men wearing enormous cowboy hats and smoking cigars that early spring weekend. 

The two dancers in the Polaroid above were "tag-teaming" or rather, they doubled up in order to hustle a customer into buying a sexy private dance with not only with one girl, but two, and with that the added treat of watching two girls caress one another. 

"Someone Wants Me One Day", Ft. Myers, Florida, 2002. Juliana Beasley

I took this photograph while I was in Fort Myers, Florida. My friend, Lisa introduced me to a strip club that she often frequented as a female customer in her home town. She had also become friends with some of the dancers. The women danced topless only, but were obliged by law to wear a see through tape over their nipples. In the city of Ft. Myers, it was illegal to expose this obviously, obscene part of a woman's body. Dancers were expected to mask their nipples with a flesh-toned tape. Customarily, they would put make-up over the barrier to conceal it, so that it recreated the illusion that conversely, their nipples were indeed exposed.

This dancer allowed me to photograph her. She stood out because she worked with her glasses on. As unusual as this was to typical stripper accessorizing, she wore them. Perhaps, contact lenses irritated her eyes or she just simply fancied them. Maybe she wanted to monopolize the naughty secretary market. I don't know, but I could see that in her case,  it didn't seem to be working for her. The day my friend escorted me to the club, she was idling and standing alone leaning against a table. She wasn't hustling. She wasn't sitting on some customer's lap. She appeared to be in despair. I assumed she couldn't get a private dance or rather, no customer would give her twenty dollars for something more up close and personal. She confided in me that this happened often. Despite this, she was cheerful and very chatty, speaking to me in a thick southern accent.

When I asked her if I could take her portrait, she was surprised.
"Really, " she said. "I'm not that pretty."

Afterwards, I gave her a Sharpie and asked her to write in her own words what she was feeling at that very moment. She wrote possibly with hope and longing, "Some one wants me one day."

"Jolie", Unknown City in Colorado, 2000. Juilana Beasley.

I took this photo out in Colorado. I was staying with a friend who was close to ending her career as a dancer. She had recently moved out there from NYC, but had decided to continue working as a stripper until she was making more money in her chosen professional career in the sciences (She was also intent on buying a home out there before quitting for good). 

I came out to visit with her with two motives: I wanted to reconnect with her and secondly, I wanted to begin finishing Lapdancer.  She drove me out to some anonymous town to a club hidden amongst the evergreens, where she worked part-time. I wanted to ask the management whether or not, I could photograph in the club. I got the thumbs down on photographing the customers, but was allowed to shoot the dancers with their permission only.

This is Jolie. I still don't know why this beat up couch was parked in the club where it had no place. This strange ambiguity made it the perfect place to take a Polaroid of her dressed up in her Lolita-esque majorette skirt.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Station Break! System Breakdown.

Peter Finch won the Academy Award for Best Actor posthumously for his portrayal as Howard Beale, the irate anchorman in the film "Network".

I woke up this morning a little cranky. No, big deal. Actually, simply for one reason. I feel like I'm getting a full on cold, something that I've been able to keep at bay several times this winter season with mega doses of Vitamin C, combined with Vitamin E and more rest time.

I am listless and manifesting the beginnings of a common cold. No, fever. Just a dry cold, not a wet cold. I am completely dehydrated, tired, a little weak and yes, cranky. Sick gets in the way of productivity. Sick can make me feel useless even if I know this viewpoint is completely exaggerated and distorted

Clearly, this is an insensitive standpoint that I take against my poor immune system which is failing, as well as a delusional way to treat of myself. Fact is without any prior notice, my stressed out body decided to take a well-needed vacation. For reasons that still allude me I refuse to listen to my body and mind's pleas for attention. Possibly, the reasons I am still sitting in my PJ's can be blamed simply on my relentless and cruel and emotional stressful expectations I put upon myself. I have worn down my natural antibodies. There is little recourse except to sit my ass down and take my medicine. Sleep, pop more Vitamin C and E, put on my kundalini gong music and relax.

Possibly someone reading can relate to these "issues"?

Here are the facts:

I am not a Type A person.
I am acting as if I am a Type A person.

Left unchecked, the the pretense of being a Type A personality can lead to anxiety, low grade depression (a.k.a. dyshymia....look into the your DSM, whether it be V, V, or VII or maybe DSMVI for the latest precursors for a self-diagnostic check-up), and physical ailments.

So, bottom line. I was intent last night to wake-up this morning and go to the gym and have a productive work day. I am sure for many of you readers who are in the arts or in photography or the combined version realize that our work week is often seven days and not five.

I am sick.

I am angry.

Not so angry but, more disappointed angry.

But, if "you feel me?" anger means ugly. Some say, it will not set you free from mortal pain.

On a personal journey towards forgiveness, I have attempted to find salvation through countless books on good karma and enlightenment (**look into authors such as Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat-Zinn and Sharon Salzberg) by those practicing Buddhism. Not to mention, I have also doused the "tiger within" by partaking in local dharma groups both in Jersey City, New York City and several costly retreats. I have learned that these strong and unsettling human emotions will not set you on a path of lovingkindness towards yourself, your friends, your enemies, and those unknown to you around the world. Anger has always been pinned as "dirty" word. It always has been.

Anger. Freud said something like "depression is anger turned inward" as opposed to homicide which is anger turned outwards. Many western psychologists will tell you that anger is a natural and very human response to the unbearable, the annoying, the painful, etc. I believe this to be true. This is what I have faced and embraced in countless sessions with my therapist, Natasha. In fact, anger can be transformed into great works of art, running countless marathons and creating necessary political revolutions, as we witness in todays newspaper headlines.

I am left and here is the kicker, still lost and confused and still on the search towards freedom and good mental health. Buddhism would respond to this indecision by telling you that you or I am on the right path. We are left duly with unanswered questions. I want to throw my hands up in the air.

So, with that said, I felt inspired when I got up this morning by the following famous and outstanding quote from the movie, "Network".  Peter Finch's superlative performance as the sweaty, furious, insane anchor, Howard Beale who rants at full volume first, with his head stuck out of the window and then on live national television.


Surely, I'm not as angry as Howard Beale. I am just cranky. I don't plan to go on national television and scream any feelings of malcontent. I will not hang my head out the window and scream either, as I am a considerate and quiet neighbor. And I just don't think it is a helpful mantra. Although, at the right times, it might be spot on. Just a necessity.

A dear friend's therapist suggested ranting loudly into a plastic bottle. My personal penchant is a Diet Pepsi bottle.

Howard Beale's full commentary. Just change a couple of words here and there and you will notice that the sentiments and worldy dilemmas that have passed between 1976 and 2011 are a mere discrepancy.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Why Did They Take My Polaroid Camera Away?

"Pee Wee", Tampa, Florida, 2001. Juliana Beasley

Yes, I know many of you feel the same way.

Just today, I was in a fit of Polaroid inspiration when I looked at Doug Rikard's, (the genius blogger and photographer behind the blog, American Suburb X )  "These Americans".  I was deeply engaged in the Polaroid images of a blonde woman in lingerie, posing for the camera in classic pin-up fashion. The photographs are under the subtitle, "Amateur 1990's".

What I find fascinating about these and other Polaroid images of this genre is simply more than my own natural voyeurism to take a peek at a half-dressed woman, but more specifically, the curious story between subject and photographer. I am left with a feeling of wanting to know about the nature of their relationship. Was the photographer her lover, were these photographs taken to obtain work in the sex industry? These amateur photographs make me consider more the intentions of the person behind the camera than the person in front. And yes, the relationship between the two. I want to know story behind the photo shoot.

"Gypsy Rose", Honolulu, Hawaii, 1997. Juliana Beasley

I am intrigued with the "no pretense reality" of the Polaroids because the lighting is so poor (in particular, flash under florescent lighting) that very few flaws can be hidden, not to mention the poor color correction intrinsic to the film. The scene all looks so cheap, despite the young blonde woman smiling for the camera and the character of her young  innocence it projects. There is a raw sleeziness to the images which also, makes me consider whether or not she was coerced into the photo session. These photos leave me with many questions. Possibly banal and mundane but somehow, I am intrigued and question why these images feel so personal and real, more so than most intimate photographs taken by professionals.

And lastly, Polaroids give me a creepy sensation of death. The subject's mortality is somehow reinforced with the click of the shutter. And yet, I am still drawn to the perverse quality it evokes.

"If you don't know...", Las Vegas, Nevada, 2002. Juliana Beasley

Here are some images from my Polaroid collection from my project "Juliana's Secret Stash". I took these images during the time I was working on my first book, "Lapdancer".  Now and in a previous post on this blog, I have begun to show them. I took these images with the lovely JoyCam. Others were taken by club management with the standard SX-70.

"Someone Wants Me One Day", Ft. Myers, Florida, 2002. Juliana Beasley

The concept was simple. As part of the fanfare, strip clubs sometimes offer the customer a Polaroid of themselves with the dancer or "feature dancer" (an erotic performer who has a fan club and following) of their liking. After the Polaroid is taken, the dancer or "feature dancer" signs something titillating at the bottom with a Sharpie. The customer then can return home with with this souvenir, a piece of memorabilia of the night in the club with their favorite performed. I decided to photograph the dancers alone on their free time with my JoyCam and simply asked them to write down what they were thinking at that very moment. I wanted to see expose the reality of what they were really thinking, beyond the cliched commentary reflecting the mundane "sexy" things they normally wrote at the bottom of the Polaroid on the white border.

"Fucked Up", Ft. Myers, Florida, 2002. Juliana Beasley

I wanted my own box of memorabilia from my stripper days. Whenever, there was an opportunity to be photographed with a sex industry celebrity, I stood on-line with the other customers and waited my turn.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

I Am So Feng Shui

A real miracle happened here today.

Any Given Day at the Beasley Residence, Still from "Valley of the Dolls"

I'm pushing paper here. Ripping up paper. I'm talking with customer service representatives on the phone and am perfectly calm and not saying crazy lady things and asking for a supervisor. I am friendly and ask them where they are based. Texas, one customer rep says. I made an appointment for a mammogram, a bone density test, and blood work, all perfectly situated on the Upper East Side. I reordered Moishe's pain medication for his arthritis since the on-line pharmacy did not fax the prescription to my vet like they said they would when I ordered it two weeks ago. I am talking to my accountant's secretary and using financial jargon like a real young hip entrepreneur. I am confronting, opening and reading seven months of bank statements that I have avoided. And I am remembering to breathe and breathe very deeply.

I feel calm. I feel calm.

Although, the day is still not over and there are still tasks to cross of the list, I will give myself five out of five gold stars for good behavior today! Eight minutes to five... and so amped up, I'm ready to write out that expense list, this year's goal's list, wash the dogs, wash the dishes, prepare a fecal sample that I will put in an envelope and send to some anonymous technician at InSure Fit Laboratories in Teterboro, New Jersey.

I can do it all in one day. I can cross everything off my list that always fell to the waist side because it brought up feelings of inadequacy, maternal power struggles, latent rage, and helplessness and most of all fear of abandonment. By the time, my therapist gets back to town, she'll have very little material to analyze and systemize and organize. I will be so Feng Shui. I will be so Minimalist. I will be so Zen. There will be no need for waste paper baskets because I will not have any paper. I will have nothing left to fix, say, or do.