Jeffrey Opp (United States) investigates the dynamics of landscape and economics, including the manipulation of its effects on our senses and the limits of vernacular aesthetics. His photographs are characterized by the exploration of everyday places in an atmosphere of middle-class yearning in which recognition plays an important role. Jeffrey Opp currently lives and works in the Portland, Oregon area. He holds an MFA from San José State University and serves on the Clark County Arts Commission in Clark County Washington.
My current series of photos is based around the fact that Portland, Oregon, has the highest number of strip clubs of all US cities; There are 48 clubs that feature exotic dancing. To put that into perspective, there are more places to get a lap dance than there are places to get a Big Mac, more strip clubs than there are high schools, and more places to watch a showgirl or get a striptease than there are theaters in which one could watch a film like Showgirls or Striptease.
I am interested in the interchange in desire that exists between consumer and business. The clubs want to be patronized and boldly advertise their offerings through their outward appearance because in order to be recognized as strip clubs. There also exists a desire in the public to patronize strip clubs and customers decode the signs that signify the encounter they desire. I am interested in how this mutual desire manifests itself in the landscape and affects the fabric of a city.
Just like many photographers before me, such as Eugene Atget, Walker Evans, and Robert Adams, I am creating these images in a time of rapid change. I see clear signs of the rapidly changing city in the decreasing number and locations of adult-themed businesses. While researching this project, I found the names of over 60 strip clubs that had existed at various times in the past decade. While tracking down each location on the ground, I discovered clubs that had closed or become another business, such as karaoke bars, marijuana dispensaries, and even a church. Some closed due to crimes perpetrated by the owners or patrons. Another group of clubs was recently bought and closed out by a band of citizens trying to reduce the crime rate in their neighborhood.
This citizen-led effort epitomizes one of many forces changing nature of the city. Portland prides itself on being weird and off-beat. Around the city, you will find numerous bumper stickers, t-shirts, and murals with the slogan, ‘Keep Portland Weird.’ The propensity of clubs that feature exotic dancers is a part of the character that Portland embraces.
To view more of Jeffrey’s work please visit his website.