Adrienne raquel didn’t expect to end up at a strip club on her aunt’s 50th birthday, but she was. It was 2018 and she had been working freelance for about a year, after quitting a full-time job to go into photography on her own. She had already built up an impressive client list that included CB2, Nars and Kiehl’s, but it was time to branch out. On the night of her aunt’s birthday, the Mature Women’s Party ended at Onyx in Houston. Some of the women had never been to a strip club before, and their green outlook allowed Raquel herself to observe the strong and captivating performers on stage as with fresh eyes.
“I really started to pay attention to the dancers, not just the way they moved around the club, but their overall confidence, their sex appeal, how they looked,” he said. she told InsideHook. Raquel and his group were there until the club closed in the wee hours of the morning. “The next day I said to my family, ‘I want to go back every time I do and I want to document this club. “”
Three years later, it’s fair to say that Adrienne Raquel has succeeded. Her work has covered glosses like Vanity Show, It and V in the last three months only. At the end of 2020 – which, despite the pandemic, Raquel gratefully cites as his busiest year yet – Fotografiska offered him the opportunity to produce works for what would become his first museum exhibition in their New York space. York, and Onyx immediately came to mind. She returned to the club in November 2020, and for two weeks, from around 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. every night, she captured images of the dancers who will line the walls of her exhibition space in Fotografiska until August 29. . For those impossible to see the 30 images in the Onyx series at FotografiskaRaquel hopes to release a limited edition book of these never-before-seen images before the exhibition closes.
In the series, Raquel offers glimpses inside a strip club that are both more human and more intimate than anything one might experience while attending that same space. A swing from a pole, a stack of green paper clutched by vibrant red fingernails, a platform heel embracing a scene: images that were once familiar are made sacred in Raquel’s careful compositions. Its dancers are figures of glory and grace, with long eyelashes and glossy lips, their bodies bathed in neon lights that peek through the darkness. Respect and consideration are fundamental to the series, which the artist mentions was visually inspired by Hype Williams’ 1990s/2000s hip-hop clips, cinematography from films like Belly and ice cubes The players’ club, and video vixens of the time like Melyssa Ford.
In order to capture these artists and their craft, however, Raquel first had to gain their trust, which she did for many nights at the club. On the first, the DJ – always the hype man – introduced her to the dancers: “Do you know who is sitting next to me? You have to let her take your picture! But his interactions with the women at the club also developed naturally.
“Once I started talking to a lot of them, they were so excited that I was even doing the project and the fact that I was a black woman doing it. ‘A museum, what? ?! Of course we want to be part of it! ‘”
Raquel has sought to challenge stereotypes of sex work in the series. “We are brainwashed into thinking this industry is no good. People ostracize [sex workers], play down what they do and pass tons of judgment on them, ”says Raquel. “I just wanted to give these women a presence… showcase their beauty and authentically capture them in a way that doesn’t revolve strictly around being sex workers.”
On the opening night at Fotografiska, some of the dancers are present, from Houston, and they are delighted by the images. They take photos and pose alongside their portraits on the walls and accompanying quotes. There are cheerful exclamations of “It’s me! And smiles crossing their lips with pride.
Raquel has made esteem for feminine beauty – in all its forms, and black women in particular – a foundation of her work, and the Onyx series is no different. “Photographing women, especially women of color, is just important to me,” she says. “Growing up, I rarely saw images in ads and content that revolved around black beauty without it being super stereotypical.” Today, Raquel uses her art to create this representation in her own work.
Raquel’s strength as a photographer and commitment to her goals has been recognized throughout the industry in her studio portraits, and is now expanding with this series. Used to working in controlled environments, she wanted to challenge herself to work in spaces beyond her usual sphere, going through music, smoke, and crowds that she wouldn’t normally encounter – unless of course. to have created them herself.
“I wanted to put myself in a position to create something that no one had ever seen before,” she says.
While she sees the Onyx series as an extension of her dedication to uplifting women in her signature style – “vibrant, dreamy, a bit fantastic, fantasy-based” as she describes it – the series was a turning point for her. her, and she is thrilled to continue to embrace candid moments in her job in the future. “The past year has really been a testament to my ability to be creative and step out of my comfort zone,” she says. In the future, she adds, “I will feel more comfortable shooting projects like this. I’m already trying to think about what will follow.
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