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Inside the brothels: 19 striking photos of owners, sex workers and their clients

Photographer Marc McAndrews visited every legal brothel in the US.

PROSTITUTION IS ILLEGAL across the United States – except for in some pockets of Nevada.

There are currently 24 legal brothels operating in areas of the State. (Prostitution is illegal outside these licensed premises.)

Before travelling to Nevada, photographer Marc McAndrews had never been to a strip club, let alone a brothel. Now, he’s been to every single one in the state.

Over the course of five years, McAndrews made regular trips to Nevada’s legal brothels, staying anywhere from a week to a month each time. He stayed in bedrooms in the houses, shared a bathroom with the working girls, and saw the world that no one — except those who work at the brothels — see.

“It’s a different experience when you wake up in the morning and have to pass the cereal and the milk to your subject. It changes the relationship,” explains McAndrews. “People’s guards go down and they become more at ease. They start to let you see their world.”

McAndrews shared some photos from his trips inside the brothels with us (you can see more photos and amazing stories in his book, “Nevada Rose“).

When McAndrews began shooting Nevada’s brothels, he expected to find a seedy place, filled with drugs. What he found, at places like the Wild Horse Ranch (shown here from afar), was something completely different.

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He started by going to Moonlite Bunny Ranch, which was made famous by HBO’s Cathouse series. When he first asked about photographing, the women didn’t believe him, thinking that he was just a nervous customer. He was eventually turned down.

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After being turned down by several other brothels in the Carson City area, one of the prostitutes recommended that he try a smaller town like Elko or Ely, where proprietors might be more friendly.

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In Elko, he had his first luck at a ‘parlor brothel’. According to McAndrews, there are ‘parlor brothels’, (like the Old Bridge Ranch shown here) where it’s more like entering a bar, and ‘lineup brothels’, where as soon as you walk in, women line up for the customer to pick a woman.

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According to McAndrews, there are also ‘city houses’, which cater to those wanting a slicker, party-going atmosphere, and ‘country houses’, which are quieter and more friendly.

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Once inside, customers go to the pay room to withdraw cash for the night’s partying.

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This photograph of Carli at Mona’s Ranch in Elko was one of the first shots he took during the project. He stayed at Mona’s for five nights and shared a bathroom with the working girls.

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McAndrews was given free rein to take pictures as long as he had a woman’s permission.

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McAndrews mostly photographed in the morning and afternoons when the brothels were quiet. Because he was shooting with a large-format camera on a tripod, he would have to pack up his gear when guests arrived, so as not to spook them.

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Most of Nevada’s brothels are in places far outside of the cities and zoned into specific areas. Often many will occupy the same parking lot.

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McAndrews says that many of the women have kids, boyfriends, and husbands.

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The easy stereotypes that McAndrews expected (drug users, women without families) existed, but were not as prevalent as he expected.

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One woman who McAndrews met is a math teacher in Minnesota during the school year. On her summer breaks, she works at the Nevada brothels because it is a turn-on for her. (He wouldn’t say which girl was the teacher.)

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The business is often a family affair. At Sharon's Bar and Brothel in Carlin, 'Whorehouse Charlie' and his mom, 'Miss Pat' run the business together.

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This is Ben, the former owner of the Wild West Saloon brothel in Winnemucca with his father, Art.

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Some customers were OK with being photographed. Here, Brett sits with his lady-for-the-night, Dimon, at the Stardust Ranch in Ely.

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McAndrews was able to photograph in every single brothel in Nevada. It took a lot of convincing.

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The final brothel he had to get access to was the Moonlite Bunny Ranch. He had to convince owner Dennis Hof (center), who owns three other brothels, that it was a good idea.

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McAndrews told Hof that the project was an artistic documentation of the community, not a generic travel guide to the brothels. Hof was eventually convinced by his good friend, publisher and radio host, Judith Reagan, who thought McAndrews' project was important.

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-Harrison Jacob

More: Here’s what life looks like when you abandon civilisation

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Published with permission from:

Business Insider
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