ELIZABETH WATERMAN, SHORTLISTED 3RD BIENNIAL’S GRANT
It’s 2 AM in The Bronx, but the evening’s work is just beginning for the young dancer
stepping up to the stage; it’s her first night on the pole. The girl’s fake eyelashes
wobble, and her skin is pale, bleached by the strobes. She can feel the weight of all
those eyes - and all the thoughts that smolder behind them. She is nineteen.
Popular perception and media images have long characterized strip clubs as gritty
dens of depravity, and the reality certainly has some hard edges. Some fall into the job
out of necessity - and never stop falling. Occasionally they succumb to the clamor of the
crowd and reveal more than they had intended; indeed, sometimes more is lost on
stage than can be easily recovered.
In spite of these hazards, many women resolve to enter the profession as part of a
strategy, as a means of paying off student loans, or working up a stake for a business
venture. They find the courage to preserve and maintain their dignity. And in rarified
moments on the stage, on the pole, they seem to transcend it all . . . in an dazzling
For the last two years, I have spent most of my Saturday nights in strip clubs,
photographing these dancers. To complete the project, I am now focusing more on their
personal lives: their stories, their observations on the work they do, their families and
We live in an unsettling, electrifying time of social introspection. History appears to have
stumbled its way to a turning point. A widespread dialogue about tolerance and
exclusion is gathering momentum. “Dark Angels” will be a powerful medium through
which viewers can consider not just an under-documented American subculture but also
the range of connotations attached to it and the complexity of their own responses.