The Lusty Lady: Cammie Toloui’s Perspective on Power and Agency from Behind the Peep Show Glass

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Blue Sky Gallery, Portland // July 03, 2024 – July 27, 2024

© Cammie Toloui© Cammie Toloui

© Cammie Toloui© Cammie Toloui

© Cammie Toloui© Cammie Toloui

© Cammie Toloui© Cammie Toloui

© Cammie Toloui© Cammie Toloui

“I’ve always been drawn to the forbidden—and to revealing what is forbidden.,” writes Cammie Toloui. “When I worked as an erotic dancer in the early 90s at San Francisco’s famed Lusty Lady Theatre, I decided to photograph the men and women who came to watch me strip.”

At the time a photojournalism student at San Francisco State University, Toloui was already devoted to documenting subculture and taboo structures. “…it was a natural step to bring my camera into the peep show booth with me,” she explains. “I wasn’t sure anyone would let me take their picture during such a private exchange, but I quickly discovered that some people will do anything for attention, especially if you offer them a discount. Working in the sex industry – where money and male power meet – offered me a fascinating look behind patriarchy’s curtain. I worked in the private peep show booth, separated by glass from my customers who paid five dollars for every three minutes to watch me undress, pretend to masturbate, and act out their fantasies. I became as fascinated by my customers as they were by me.” 

Toloui’s work as a documentary photographer has also taken her to Russia, where she photographed punks and biker gangs; England, where she documented life on the streets of London; and in America, where she shot inside ambulances, strip clubs and other public/private worlds. She delights in exploring and exposing taboos, finding humor in unexpected juxtapositions and discovering a subject’s unguarded truth.

For more information, visit Blue Sky Gallery.

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