‘Nothing is for Free?’
The first line in Philip-Lorca diCorcia‘s postscript to his Hustler monograph.
diCorcia then goes on to explain how in the late 80’s when the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment – the Freedom of Speech was being repressed, he was given funding from the National Endowment for the Arts with the condition that he not ‘transgress’ American values. He therefore decided to give them their money’s worth.
diCorcia used the money to photograph ‘hustlers’ or male prostitutes that he picked up from the Santa Monica Boulevard.
He paid them the same amount of money they would have been paid for sex, and he used this time to photograph them in motels, in parking lots, on the street.
diCorcia titled each and every one of these sixty nine images or so with the name, age, hometown and the price he paid each hustler.
A record of money well spent?
His modus operandi was to first pick a location for the shot. He would then set up his tripod and the rest of his equipment, leaving everything ready for when he brought a hustler back.
They often asked him if he was a cop? Why didn’t he want the sex?
But once back on set, they posed patiently.
Often giving him the exact image he had planned for.
Sometimes something unpredictable.
Made in a time when the U.S. Government had condemned homosexuality, AIDS was rampant, and diCorica lost his own brother to the disease, this project is filled with pathos and make-believe.
As diCorica says, ‘You’re supposed to have all the freedom that our Constitution allows, except the freedom to choose your freedom. None of those guys (the hustlers) were free – they charged for their services, for a faked’ sense of what passes for intimacy in the realm they left behind. They barely found a place to sleep or get high afterwards, but they accomplished the most sublime trade, their artistry: Nothing for Nothing.
That’s what was so perfect for me. It summed it all up.’