Void, 2021. Edition of 750 copies. Hardcover, 144 pp., b/w and color illustrated throughout, 165 x 240 mm. Photographs Cammie Toloui.
“The truth is, I found being a stripper liberating. Who would have thought it?! It allowed me to shed sexual inhibitions; it gave me a huge pool of strong female friends who were intelligent, radical, open and great fun; it empowered me with a decent income that allowed me to be independent, supported me through my university degree and offered a tremendous creative opportunity that has resulted in a lifetime of positive artistic recognition and eventually this very book.” Cammie Toloui
The project was photographed in the early 90s when Cammie Toloui was working as a stripper at the Lusty Lady Theater in San Francisco to fund her photojournalism degree at San Francisco State University.
Customers who paid to view her naked body and watch her perform sex acts on herself were offered a discounted price if they consented to being photographed. The resulting series of black and white photographs, baroque-like in their dramatic lighting, are free of any prejudice. Instead, they are compellingly imbued with a deep sense of curiosity and understanding, with each photograph revealing a broad spectrum of sexuality, fetishes, and often-private aspects of masculinity.
Today, the series retains a deeply powerful urgency and importance because of how Cammie Toloui took control of and inverted the male gaze, turning it back on itself, at a time where the male gaze was an overarching dominant force within daily life, both culturally and socially.
Void is proud to publish this extraordinary body of work for the first time. Photographs from the series have been included in exhibitions at the Tate Modern in London, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, and Camerawork Gallery in San Francisco, among others.
Cammie Toloui was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She holds a degree in photojournalism from San Francisco State University, where she also taught photography. Her work as a documentary photographer has taken her to Russia, inside ambulances, strip clubs, and other public/private worlds. She was awarded the New York Times Award for Excellence in Photojournalism, The Greg Robinson Memorial Photojournalism Scholarship, and was honored to attend the Eddie Adams Workshop. She continues to document her life and uncover taboos through her photography and creative activism.