In 2004, Marc McAndrews began a quest to document life in every one of Nevada's legal brothels. The project took him five years, which he spent between New York and Nevada, living out of his van. His book, Nevada Rose, was published in 2011. He talks with us about the project and the people he met along the way.
Marc McAndrews, Photographer, Nevada Rose: Inside the American Brothel
I had just gotten access to the brothels and I’d met Carli, who was the big sister there, and she’d given me permission, she’d just shown me the room I’d be staying at for the next couple of days. While I was loading all the stuff into my new room, I passed these shoes in the stairwell and thought I’d just take the time to start right there. I mean it just seemed like kind of a gimme, an obvious first photograph.
And then Carli was the second photograph - the first portrait I did for the project.
I photographed Pricilla at the Wild West Saloon, and that was – I work with all of the women with the photographs, it’s very much a collaboration of sorts, so I come to them and I show them an idea of what I want to photograph, the surroundings and environment I want to photograph them in ... we talk about composition and what made them feel comfortable as well as how they felt – what honestly represented them.
If they were customers that came in I generally wasn’t allowed to approach them – I mean, photograph them. I could obviously talk to them and hang out at the bar and say whatever, but I wasn’t allowed to actually say ‘hey, would you like your photograph taken?’ They wanted to have the privacy of their customers respected ... and even with those restrictions, I was able to photograph four or five customers.
I’d been trying for years to get a meeting with Dennis ... two days before I left I was able to talk to him. And I finally finally got a meeting with Dennis. I was actually writing something at the time about this being like Moby Dick and me chasing the Bunny Ranch to the end of my financial ruin, basically. The last elusive brothel.