Photo Analysis .pdf

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Daisy Fellows
English 1020
Elle Mooney
11 September 2017
Dancer After Show – Photo Analysis
The photo “Dancer After Show” by Susan Meisales depicts a stripper in the 1970s having a drink
backstage after performing. The image is part of a series entitled Carnival Strippers taken by Meisales
over the course of three summers, which forces the audience into the seedy life of traveling dancers of
the seventies.
A barely clothed girl sits on an old chair amid stage equipment, her feet grip the edges of a trunk
and brush against a 45 RPM record player. She’s in a position all dancers are familiar with, her drink is
loose in her grasp and her head is tilted back. She is exhausted. The picture was taken in the early 1970s,
when war-gripped America was struggling to define its values and human sexuality was viewed under a
new light. Traveling striptease shows emerged, packed into a hybrid trailer/stage with one side devoted
to public viewing, the other a private show. Like many strip clubs today, advertisements and signage
displayed California dream girls tailored to every beauty standard of the era. The girls inside were not as
such- “They were runaways, girlfriends of carnies, club dancers, both transient and professional.” Writes
Meisales in her descriptions. They were real girls, not paintings, with tired eyes and sore feet. Meisales’
work forces us to acknowledge this with harsh angles and high-contrast printing, exposing the other side
of the curtain, the grime behind the glitter. The photo makes us question our motives to make this
exchange of money for flesh and blood, the thirst that built perhaps the most reliable and present
working industry ever; Sex. Although societal opinions of human sexuality have grown and shifted over
centuries- from the ultra-repressed Victorian era, to the seventies as a time of reawakening, to today’s
often fetishistic depiction of sexuality in media-, sex work has always been present. And where it is
present it is as varying as any other industry in quality and service, as skilled as any other in drawing the
veil between gritty production and consumers. Meisales’ photography forces us to tear the veil away
and view our world from the inside, no longer with images of glittering dream girls and piles of cash.


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