The Little Chapel of Esoteric Cosmetology became a part of the downtown community of East Fremont Street in Las Vegas, Nevada, between 2004 and 2008.
A variety of social projects emerged from it, including 'May Day for Crack Houses,' where we rollerskated to crack houses with baskets of candy, rang the bell and skated away, 'The Ice Cream Social,' where we had a small town ice cream social in the community complete with a cake walk, and a few other events. These weren't part of a larger "project" or even thought of as part of a larger performance piece until years later. Satellite participants, bemused by it, called it the "Nebraskafication of Downtown." I felt that was as accurate an analysis as any.
People can and will, in this decade, call us out as hipsters perhaps. But in 2004 we were already annoyed by the skinny jeans crew, and had already started 'outhipstering' them by bringing together unlikely groups of people in the area before big shoe companies gentrified it for blocks around. Something was HAPPENING there; we weren't just swilling PBR in dive bars-- but that was certainly a part of it.
Photographing prostitutes had largely been a male pursuit, from Bellocq's New Orleans Red Light District glass plates to Philip Lorca Di Corcia's male prostitutes. The Little Chapel had an almost all female cast, with the exception of Gary Rodriguez, a regular from the Bunkhouse where 3 of us worked, who facilitated contact with the women and alleviated the notion that we were somehow undercover officers. Rodriguez had been a local character, a motel manager and store clerk for enough years to have the trust required. Within weeks the word had spread that the Bunkhouse bartenders were paying cash to give make overs and giving free photographs to anyone interested in participating. Women appeared at the bar frequently enough to begin to jeopardize their jobs.
In the "About" section you can see images of the main characters involved in making the project happen.
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