ELIZABETH WATERMAN, SHORTLISTED 3RD BIENNIAL’S GRANT

Dark Angels

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

grace.

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

children.

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.

elizabethwatermanart@gmail.com