Before travelling to Nevada, the photographer Marc McAndrews had never been to a strip club, let alone a brothel. Now, five years later, he’s been to every single one in the state.
McAndrews made regular trips to Nevada’s legal brothels, staying anywhere from a week to a month each time.
He stayed in bedrooms in the houses, shared bathrooms with the sex workers, and saw a world that few else have.
In 2014, McAndrews shared some photos from his trips inside the brothels with us. You can see more photos and read amazing stories in his book, “Nevada Rose.”
When McAndrews began shooting the brothels, he expected them to be seedy and filled with drugs, he told Business Insider. What he found was something completely different.
He started by visiting Moonlite Bunny Ranch, made famous by HBO’s “Cathouse” series. When he asked about photographing, the women thought he was just a nervous customer. He was turned down.
After being turned down by brothels near Carson City, one of the prostitutes recommended he try a small town like Elko or Ely, where proprietors might be more friendly.
In Elko, he had his first luck at a “parlor brothel.” A parlor brothel, like this one, looks more like a bar. Other brothels are called “lineup brothels,” where women line up when customers enter, said McAndrews.
There are also “city houses,” which cater to those wanting a slicker, party-going atmosphere, and “country houses,” which are quieter and more friendly, McAndrews said.
Once inside, customers go to the pay room to withdraw cash for the night’s partying.
Carli at Mona’s Ranch in Elko was one of the first women he photographed. He stayed at Mona’s for five nights and shared a bathroom with the workers.
McAndrews was given free rein to photograph, as long as he had a woman’s permission. “It’s a different experience when you wake up in the morning and have to pass the cereal and the milk to your subject,” McAndrews said of why he stayed at the brothels.
McAndrews mostly photographed in mornings and afternoons when the brothels were quiet. Because he was shooting with a large-format camera, he would have to pack up when guests arrived, so as not to spook them.
Most of Nevada’s brothels are in places far outside of the cities and zoned into specific areas. Often many will occupy the same parking lot.
McAndrews says that many of the women have kids and boyfriends or husbands. “People’s guards go down and they become more at ease,” he said of staying at the brothels. “They start to let you see their world.”
The easy stereotypes that McAndrews expected (drug users, women without families) existed, but were not as prevalent as he expected.
One woman who McAndrews met is a maths teacher in Minnesota during the school year. On her summer breaks, she works at the Nevada brothels because it is a turn-on for her. (He wouldn’t reveal who was the teacher.)
The business is often a family affair. At Sharon’s Bar and Brothel in Carlin, “Whorehouse” Charlie and his mum, “Miss Pat” run the business together.
This is Ben, the former owner of the Wild West Saloon brothel in Winnemucca with his father, Art.
Some customers were OK with being photographed. Here, Brett sits with Dimon, a sex worker at the Stardust Ranch in Ely.
McAndrews was able to photograph in every single brothel in Nevada. It took a lot of convincing.
The final brothel he had to get access to was the Moonlite Bunny Ranch. He had to convince owner Dennis Hof (center), who owns six other brothels, that it was a good idea.
McAndrews told Hof that the project was an artistic documentation of the community, not a generic brothel travel guide. Hof was convinced by his good friend, publisher and radio host Judith Reagan, who said the project was important.
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