Documentary

Strip City

© Jeffrey Opp
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Portland, Oregon USA – April 2016

Strip City
by Jeffrey Opp

Portland, Oregon, has the highest number of strip clubs of all US cities. There are 48 clubs that feature exotic dancing.

To put that into perspective: there are more places to get a lap dance than there are places to get a Big Mac, more strip clubs than there are high schools, and more places to watch a showgirl or get a striptease than there are theaters in which one could watch a film like Showgirls or Striptease.

Portland, Oregon – USA March 2016.
Portland, Oregon USA – April 2016.
Portland, Oregon USA – November 2015.
Portland, Oregon USA – March 2017.
Portland, Oregon USA – November 2016.

I am interested in the interchange in desire that exists between that of the consumer and that of the business and how it manifests itself in the landscape.

The strip clubs seek to be patronized and ceaselessly advertise their offerings through their outward appearance, such as their names, signage and graphics, because of their need to be recognized for what they are.
A desire exists among members of the public to patronize strip clubs however customers must first decode the signs that signify the type of encounter they desire. This interchange has ingrained itself into the fabric of the city because the high number of competing clubs offering varied experiences, some advertised and others not.

Portland, Oregon USA – February 2016.
Portland, Oregon USA – March 2017.
Portland, Oregon USA – March 2017.

Just like many photographers before me, such as Eugene Atget, Walker Evans, and Robert Adams, I am creating these images in a time of significant change. In this case, the city grapples with growth and gentrification.

The photos were taken early in the mornings, a time when few patrons are around, yet the building’s signage still calls out for attention even though most of the clubs are closed at that hour. The images are intended to show how a each club fits into to the city around it rather than precisely framing it. The compositions rely on the practice of sprezzatura to provide a sense of grace that avoids glamorizing the clubs they way an advertisement would.

Portland, Oregon USA – November 2016.
Portland, Oregon USA – May 2016.
Portland, Oregon USA – April 2017.

Jeffrey Opp
the authorJeffrey Opp
Jeffrey Opp (United States) constructs photographs, hand-bound art books, and perceptual text-and-image artworks. In a search for new methods to ‘read the landscape,’ Opp investigates the dynamics of landscape and economics, including its manipulation of our senses. His photographs are characterized by the exploration of everyday places in an atmosphere of middle class yearning. Opp seeks out the limits of vernacular aesthetics, architecture, and ideology. His artistic construction establishes a link between the landscape’s reality and that imagined by its conceiver. By inviting the viewer to ‘feel their way into’ the artwork, viewers confront concrete questions that determine the reality of our surroundings and, by extension, factors that control how we live our lives. Opp grew up in an extremely small, rural town void of shopping malls, fast food franchises, and other such places that are ubiquitous in ‘Anytown USA’. He recalls watching the town’s clothing store close, never to reopen, leaving a prominent downtown building permanently vacant. The North Dakota landscape where he grew up can be characterized by vast, open distances covered by grass, crops, and a sparse population of humans. He left the rural environment when he joined the Navy, where he spent most of his enlistment stationed overseas in Sicily. The effect of returning home to a country forever altered by world events created a sense of alienation that has allowed to him to to look at his society from an oblique perspective. Opp attended art school, where this change in attitude toward his home country met with a newly-honed critical eye. He further sharpened his critical wit and learned to back it with an intellectual edge while attending graduate school at San José State University in California. Jeffrey Opp currently lives and works in the Portland, Oregon, area.

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