Carnival Strippers Revisited | Susan Meiselas’ Photo Essay From 1976

Carnival Strippers, originally a photo essay following the women who performed in travelling ‘girl shows’ in the United States from 1972 to 1975, is often held as a pioneering example of a photographic project that shares authorship with the subjects of its images.

Interrogating gender politics and self-representation, the project is defined as much by the testimonies of the women involved as the photographs Meiselas took of them. The project sought to make a feminist argument which resounds particularly today as the project celebrates 50 years since its making.

A third edition publication of the project, published as ‘Carnival Strippers Revisited’ now unfolds the central themes of the work through the additional of new material. Published on Steidl, it includes unseen color photographs, contact sheets, handwritten field notes, and interview transcriptions. Carnival Strippers Revisited explores how representation of ourselves and others is a process that refracts through many layers. In these layers, the creation of our stories is a collective activity mediated by multiple and far-reaching points of view.

In this new video, we share audio material from Meiselas’ interviews with the strippers and other carnival workers. Through testimonies not traditionally represented within the women’s liberation movement, the showgirls’ answers lucidly deconstruct the workings of patriarchy. At the same time, their managers’ disparaging comments provide a poignant and ironic counterpoint.

Meiselas, who sought to document a phenomenon already in decline, was interested in the ways we capture history from early on during her career. With this new expansion on Carnival Strippers, we see the project as a forerunner to her later explorations of archives in her works in Nicaragua and Kurdistan. Read curator Abigail Soloman-Godeau’s essay contextualising the photographer’s practice here.

Susan Meiselas is an American photographer who was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1948. Her first major project, which we’ll look at here focused on the lives of women doing striptease at New England country fairs. Meiselas photographed at the fairs for three consecutive summers while also teaching photography in New York public schools. Carnival Strippers was published in 1976.

Speaking of the project, Meiselas said, “From 1972 to 1975, I spent my summers photographing and interviewing women who performed striptease for small town carnivals in New England, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina. As I followed the girl shows from town to town, I photographed the dancers’ public performances as well as their private lives. I also taped interviews with the dancers, their boyfriends, the show managers, and paying customers.”

“The women I met ranged in age from seventeen to thirty-five. Most had left small towns, seeking mobility, money and something different from what was prescribed or proscribed by their lives that the carnival allowed them to leave. They were runaways, girlfriends of carnies, club dancers, both transient and professional. They worked out of a traveling box, a truck that unfolded to form two stages, one opening to the public carnival grounds, another concealed under a tent for a private audience. A dressing room stands between them. Again and again, throughout the day and night, the woman performers moved from the front stage, with its bally call—the talker’s spiel that entices the crowd—to the stage, where they each perform for the duration of a 45 pop record.”

“The all-male audience typically included farmers, bankers, fathers, and sons, but “no ladies and no babies.” The degree of suggestion on the front stage and participation on the back stage under the tent varied greatly from town to town, depending on legislation and local leniency. The show stayed at each spot for three to five days each year; then the carnival was torn down, the truck packed up, and the women followed.”

In her introduction to Carnival Strippers, Meiselas said, “The girl show is a business and carnival stripping is competitive and seasonal. Those women who make it a career find winter employment on a series of related circuits—go-go bars, strip clubs, stag parties, and occasional prostitution. For most women the carnival is an interlude on the way to jobs as waitresses, secretaries and housewives.”

Amsterdam’s Sex Workers Face Financial Stress As The Pandemic Continues

At first glance, a Saturday night in October may have looked like a pre-pandemic evening in Amsterdam’s famous red-light district.

Couples, tourists, and bachelor and bachelorette parties from all over the world browsed the bright posters of near-naked sex workers. Tall colonial-style brothel windows, laced with red-and-pink neon lights, illuminated the neighborhood. The rainy and windy weather had little impact on the massive crowd.

Behind each window, sex workers in lingerie used different techniques to grab potential clients’ attention. Some tapped the glass, others winked and blew kisses, and a few sat on barstools and scrolled through their phones.

“In Amsterdam, prostitution is number one,” Amanda, a sex worker who declined to use her real name, told ABC News at the time.

In early fall, the Netherlands had some of the country’s least strict COVID-19 restrictions since the pandemic began. Life resembled what it was like before the coronavirus, but, for Amanda and other sex workers, it was clear that even with relaxed pandemic measures, business was slow. In fact, workers in the sex industry said they have been overlooked financially since the start of the pandemic.

Inside Amanda’s place of work, the ceiling was covered with red neon lights. A speaker blasted electronic music, making the space feel like a nightclub. At the right of the entrance was a small staircase leading upstairs, where Amanda met with clients. The second floor was furnished with only a twin-sized bed, a pillow and a dark sheet. Despite the vibrant ambience, she had only seen one client by 11 p.m.

“Yes, now COVID is a big problem in the work. Now it’s very down,” she said. Amanda shared that prior to 2020, she could make up to $1,400 per shift. She now made a fraction of that.

Although business was slow in October compared to years past, some sex workers at the time seemed optimistic about the end of the pandemic. That was before a spike in COVID cases in November and the Omicron variant caused the Netherlands to enter a new lockdown right before the holidays.

In response to the resulting economic stress, the Dutch government offered financial support to businesses and the self-employed until the end of March. While COVID restrictions were lifted last week for restaurants, bars and cafes, full relief for sex workers remains to be seen.

A late-2020 study conducted by the Prostitute Information Center, a nonprofit organization in the red-light district, and SekswerkExpertise, a resource network, found that many self-employed sex workers who applied for financial aid were rejected because they did not qualify under the government’s requirements for self-employers. Additionally, people in the business have been disproportionately impacted during the pandemic because curfews essentially criminalize sex work, making it difficult to earn income in a nightlife industry.

Zina Berlin, a Dutch sex-worker-rights advocate who works with the Prostitute Information Center, told ABC News that advocates have been calling on government leaders to provide curfew exemptions and additional financial support for sex workers. What they’re fighting for is beyond money – they’re fighting for their livelihood, she said.

“When we write letters to the government, we try to really stress this,” Berlin said “It’s not just numbers; it’s not just money. If you lose your income, you lose your home; you can’t support your loved ones anymore. It breaks lives. It’s really individuals [who] suffer so much.”

A spokesperson for Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema told ABC News that the “city-funded care partner has put in a lot of effort in helping sex workers with COVID financial relief applications.” The city has “processed those applications as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson said.

However, Iris, coordinator of the PIC, who identifies under a professional pseudonym, said they are currently continuing their 2020 research and are already finding similar numbers for 2021.

“Yes, there is aid for people registered at the [Netherlands] Chamber of Commerce. But only under strict conditions, that sex workers can’t adhere to,” Iris said. “Research has shown most sex workers don’t apply, as they don’t qualify and of those who try, many get rejected. Not only in Amsterdam, but in the entirety of the Netherlands. Sex workers who are forced by the government to work under the Opting-in system, don’t get any type of financial aid.”

Under the opt-in system, people can work for brothels or escort agencies without being considered an employee, allowing sex workers complete autonomy. Still, in this scheme, they are not considered self-employed, which prevents them from claiming self-employed benefits like coronavirus aid, forcing them to find help through other avenues.

In addition, Berlin said many workers are dealing with mental health challenges. She told ABC News three people she knew in the industry have died by suicide due to pandemic challenges, but she also emphasized that this is a resilient community.

“We also have an emergency fund that was created by sex workers themselves, so we can give some money and food to other sex workers, so we really try to be there,” she said. “There was an emergency helpline that was set up, so if people struggled, they could call and we would refer them to other organizations that could provide help. So, we really do our best as a community, and I think we have shown over these years how resilient we are.”

Still, other challenges are on the horizon. Sex workers are speaking out to keep the red-light district in the city after government officials proposed moving it due to tourists’ rowdy behavior.

Moreover, the Prostitute Information Center recognizes that sex work is often stigmatized, and they are combating stigmas by providing educational tours of the red-light district and lectures on sex worker experiences. The nonprofit hopes that sharing knowledge will create an easier path for better rights and protections.

While the start to the new year isn’t what many anticipated, the hope is that summer will bring better financial opportunities for people in the red-light district.

“Sex work is work. Even if you don’t agree with it, we still deserve the same rights and respect as other professions, and you don’t have to be a sex worker,” Berlin said. “You can let us be the sex workers.”

Source: ABC News

The One Food You Should Never Order On A Flight, According To Experts

Feeling peckish on a flight? Go ahead, order a snack. Just make sure it’s not pasta.

Airline food catches a lot of flack for being a bit bland. However, it’s important to note that it’s more about the human body’s reaction to being 30,000 feet in the air than the actual food itself. A study conducted by Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics found the combination of dryness and low pressure on planes reduces the sensitivity of human taste buds for both sweet and salty by 30%.

Furthermore, as Fritz Gross, director of culinary excellence at LSG Sky Chefs Asia Pacific, told CNN in 2012, airlines aren’t as interested in taste as they are focused on food safety.

“Our top concern is actually food safety,” Gross said. “Because we do such a large volume, we cannot afford to have things in there that are not right. You can imagine how easily an airline can get sued.”

Why then is pasta off the menu? Because beyond food safety, Gross noted, some foods simply cannot handle the cooking process at altitude. Pasta, like all dishes in the air, is typically reheated before serving, meaning it’ll likely be well overcooked by the time it gets to you. If you’re expecting it al dente, you won’t be happy. Furthermore, if the ratio of sauce to pasta is off, it will likely lead to a sloppy mess that will be far from tasty.

Additionally, as Travel + Leisure previously explained, Dr. Charles Platkin, executive director of the Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center, reviewed and rated the foods available on 11 U.S. and Canadian airlines and noted that pasta or other carb-heavy meals may not be the best bet on flights for those either looking to find something healthy, or those hoping to arrive at their destination feeling alert.

“Eating lots of heavy carbs such as pasta with thick, dense sauces, breads, muffins or cakes will leave you feeling lethargic, cranky, and not full or satisfied,” he said. “Your blood sugar levels will spike and then fall, which will negatively impact how you feel.”

What then can a flier eat instead? The best bet may be to forgo airline food altogether and pack your own. Packing snacks like popcorn, protein bars, and whole fruits is easy, and even foods that are considered “liquid” like peanut butter and hummus come in TSA-friendly sizes, making it easier than ever to pack a few things, eat healthy, and avoid airline prices along the way.

Source: Travel + Leisure

Swedish Company Creates Under-The-Skin Microchip To Carry COVID-19 Passports In User’s Arms

Dystopian nightmare or a simple convenience? A Swedish company implanting microchips under the skin has is promoting its devices for use as a COVID-19 health pass in a country with thousands of early adopters.

“I think it’s very much part of my own integrity to have myself chipped and keep my personal data there with me, I actually feel that it’s even more controlled on my end,” Amanda Back, a Stockholm resident who has implanted the subcutaneous chip developed by DSruptive Subdermals, told AFP.

Though still rare, several thousand Swedes have opted to have an electronic implant inserted under the skin in recent years, eliminating the need to remember key fobs, business cards, public transport cards, and recently: vaccine passes.

The country that created the show “Real Humans” and its English language adaptation “Humans,” is also a stronghold of so-called biohackers who are convinced that humans will become evermore entangled with technology in the future.

“I have a chip implant in my arm and I have programmed the chip so that I have my COVID-19 passport on the chip and the reason is that I always want to have it accessible and when I read my chip, I just swipe my phone on the chip and then I unlock and it opens up,” said Hannes Sjoblad, managing director of DSruptive Subdermals, as a PDF with his vaccine certificate appeared on his phone.

“A chip implant costs a hundred euros if you want to buy the more advanced versions, and you can compare this with for example a health wearable that will cost perhaps twice that but at the same time a chip implant you can use for twenty, thirty, forty years. Whereas a wearable you can only use for three, four years,” he added.

For Sjoblad, the Covid pass is just one example of a possible application, which will be a “thing for the winter of 2021-2022”.

The Swedish entrepreneur added he has a “strong interest in privacy.”

While he acknowledged that many “people see chip implants as a scary technology, as a surveillance technology”, Sjoblad said that instead they should be viewed as a simple ID tag.

“They don’t have a battery, they cannot transmit the signal by themselves, so they’re basically asleep, they can never tell your location, they are only activated when you touch them with your smartphone,” he said.

All implants are voluntary, and if someone were to make them compulsory for prisoners or elderly people in retirement homes, “you will find me on the barricades,” Sjoblad said.

“Nobody can force anyone to get a chip implant.”

Source: Firstpost

France Secretly Changed Its Flag’s Blue A Year Ago And Practically No One Noticed

It’s literally been waving at people but they didn’t pay heed. The blue in the French flag is now navy, reverting to the shade used before 1976 to remember the Revolution.

The exterior of the Elysée Palace, along with other presidential buildings, has been sporting the look for a year unannounced. The refresh was only made public with the publication of the book Elysée Confidentiel by journalists Eliot Blondet and Paul Larrouturou in mid-September, which recounts how the color had been so abruptly swapped, euronews reports.

Arnaud Jolens, the Elysée’s director of operations, had walked into President Emmanuel Macron’s office on the eve of the country’s National Day in 2020 bringing two variations of the flag—the post-1976 version and this one—and then declared: “By the way, I’m changing the flags on all the buildings of the presidency tomorrow.” Macron smiled.

Navy blue honors “the imagination of the Volunteers of Year II, the Poilus of 1914 and the Compagnons de la Libération of Free France,” the French Presidency details. The Volunteers of Year II were France’s first citizen army who, in 1791, volunteered to protect French territory from a threatened Prussian/Austrian invasion post-Revolution (hence the term “Year II.”)

This was the shade of the tri-colored flag up to 45 years before, and the same one flown under the Arc de Triomphe every year on Armistice Day on November 11.

The blue was later brightened to match the one in the European Union flag, a decision made by former president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing.

Decades after, the French presidency has readopted the classic navy. The switch of flags across presidential landmarks cost €5,000.

Macron was evidently pleased by the decision. “The flag that all the presidents have been dragging around since [1976] was not the real French flag,” the book explains, describing the details of the conversation between Macron and Jolens.

Source: DesignTAXI

Mexico’s Secret Chinese Underworld 🇲🇽 Mexicali, Mexico

Mexicali, Mexico – This is the capital of Baja California, Mexicali, and it has such a unique history to the fabric of Mexico, Gareth Leonard had to add this place as the last stop on his first Northern Baja road trip. Between the mid-1800s and the 1940s, Mexicali, became Mexico’s largest Chinatown.

By 1920, Mexicali’s Chinese population outnumbered the Mexican population 10,000 to 700, and yet, many people still didn’t even realize how many were here.

We meet up with our local guide Diego, to get the full story.

Now here’s the most interesting part for Gareth about La Chinesca.

Just beneath the surface of central old town, in the neighborhood of La Chinesca, there’s a labyrinth of basements and tunnels that once were home to an entire population of Chinese immigrants. During Prohibition in the United States, La Chinesca in Mexicali housed just about all of the city’s casinos and bars, and established a tunnel system to connect bordellos and opium dens to neighboring Calexico on the U.S. side.

Along with being a passageway for bootleggers into the United States, this underground world was also where Chinese people would live here in Mexicali.

The Railroad Journey And The Industrial Revolution

In which John Green teaches you about railroads, and some of the ways they changed the world, and how they were a sort of microcosm for the Industrial Revolution as a whole. Prior to the invention of steam powered railroads, pretty much all locomotion had been muscle-powered. You either walked where you wanted to go, or rode on an animal to get where you were going. The railroad changed human perception of time and space, making long distance travel much faster and easier. Railroads also changed habits, including increasing reading. People needed some sort of distraction to ensure they didn’t have to talk to other people on the train. Like any new technology, railroads also scared people. All kinds of fears surrounded rail travel, but over time, people got over them. And the quality of boiler manufacturing improved, so the trains exploded less often, which also made people feel safer.

The Real Story Of The Green Book – The Guidebook That Helped Black Americans Travel During Segregation

Until the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, the Green Book was critical for black Americans wanting to travel across the country.

Road tripping in the 20th century became an iconic American obsession, and the rising middle class was eager to travel the country on the new interstate highway system. The Green Book was a unique travel guide during this time, when segregation was practiced all over the country.

The book, which grew to cover locations in all 50 states, listed hotels, restaurants, gas stations, beauty salons, and other services that would reliably serve African Americans. The listings grew from user correspondence and a network of African American postal workers under the guidance of Victor Hugo Green, the book’s publisher.

The American road trip would go on to be an anchor in the civil rights discussion, as it highlighted the injustices and prejudice that African Americans suffered under Jim Crow. Before the Civil Rights Act outlawed racial discrimination in public accommodations, Victor Green’s booklet helped black Americans navigate their country.

Racism Decimated Chinatown In New York, San Francisco And Seattle – Anti-Asian Sentiment Grew Over Fears Of COVID-19 Pandemic, After First Reported Outbreak In China

In New York, Seattle and San Francisco, where businesses and restaurants have suffered for months as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Chinatown is marking a year since it first started feeling the effects of the global outbreak.

In the early days on the pandemic, as fear grew that the virus first reported in China would spread to the United States, growing anti-Chinese sentiment caused people to avoid the district, causing harm to the communities’ economies even before the first American case of COVID-19 was confirmed.

The impact worsened as President Trump continuously branded COVID-19 the ‘China plague’.

Asian American small businesses have been among the hardest hit by the economic downturn during the pandemic. 

While there was a 22 percent decline in all small business-owner activity nationwide from February to April, Asian American business-owner activity dropped by 26 percent, according to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research. 

A year on, as the Chinese New Year on February 12 approaches, the normal 16-day celebrations are being abandoned for online events and the oldest Chinatown districts in San Francisco, New York and Seattle remain ghost towns.

Despite the younger generations coming to the communities’ aid, the promise of a faster vaccine rollout, and the aid of donations and loans, Chinatown businesses are still daunted by the uphill battling facing them in surviving 2021.

Source: Daily Mail

The Martian Diet – What Will Humans Eat On Mars? Planetary Scientist Kevin Cannon Talks About The Logistics Of Feeding A Population Of One Million On The Red Planet

What inspired you to consider feeding one million people on Mars?

I’ve been working on a lot of projects related to space resources, so using local materials on the moon or Mars to support exploration and development of space. If you think about the consumables you would need for humans, you’re looking at oxygen, water, construction material and food. And what we realized is that the food is one of the most challenging things to produce on the surface of Mars and that it’s going to take a lot of processing. In our opinion, people really weren’t thinking big enough.

How did you come up with numbers—like number of people and caloric intake—for the study?

The million people, that’s kind of an arbitrary figure based on some stuff that Elon Musk has talked about for his aspirational goals, so we just chose that as a baseline. For the specific numbers in the study, we took a lot from data on Earth. For example, we looked at how many calories the average person eats per day and then scaled that based on a person’s age and activity level. In this computer model, we actually represent a population of people, so we had a 50/50 mix of males and females and we had an age structure. Of course, children consume a lot less calories than older people. That’s all taken into account in our modeling.

How did you determine which food sources would be well-suited for life on Mars?

We looked at this in a very general way. We thought, okay, let’s start from plants, because that’s what most people assumed in the past when they thought about what people would be eating on space missions. And let’s go a little bit beyond that to some protein sources. So, we looked at what’s being done on Earth and we honed in on insect-based foods that turned out to be very efficient for Mars, as well as what’s called cellular agriculture. That’s this idea of growing meat from cells in these large bioreactors. It’s something that’s actually coming a lot sooner than people think on Earth, and it’s very well-adapted for producing food in space.

How does cellular agriculture work?

The way it works is that you take cells from an animal—you can really use any animal, but people are starting with chickens, cows, the familiar things. You extract those cells and then you basically grow them in a nutrient solution. This could be done in a big, stainless steel tank and it almost would look more like brewing beer than a traditional farm. What people are really working on now is to try to get the texture right by building up those cells in some kind of scaffold that gives you the texture of different meats. But the whole point is it’s a much more sustainable way of producing animal protein, and it’s much more ethical because it doesn’t involve raising animals in questionable conditions.

Could you elaborate a bit more on the insect protein?

In North America and in Europe, it’s not really part of our culture or diet. But if you look more broadly, I think something like 2 billion people eat insects as part of their diet on a regular basis. It turns out to be a very good source of protein and again, it’s much more sustainable. It doesn’t require a lot of land or a lot of water compared to factory farming practices. Of course, there is a little bit of a gross factor. But people can, for example, grind up crickets into flour and then put them into cookies or chips or things like that, so you can hide them and get away from just chomping down on whole insects.

What kind of fruits or vegetables would be on the menu?

If you look at what’s being done in space right now, the astronauts have a little garden where they’re able to grow things like lettuce, tomatoes and peppers. Of course, those foods are valuable for things like vitamins and the psychological benefit of being able to grow your own vegetables. But you’re not going to be able to feed a large population on those very low-calorie vegetables, so you’re really going to have to look at things like corn, wheat and soy that are dense enough in calories to support a growing population.

What kinds of technologies did you find were best suited for food production on Mars?

One of the important things is that you would want your food production to be as automated as possible because that would free up people’s time to do more important things. A lot of companies are working on that on Earth, trying to integrate robots into farming and insect production. I think the other thing that’s going to be important is genetic modification, particularly with the plant species, to find ways to improve strains of crops and make them more resilient to grow in a harsh environment on Mars. Right now, the most promising thing would be something like CRISPR, which has kind of taken over the biology world. Already, there’s been a few studies that have used CRISPR to rapidly modify the genomes of specific plant species. So, I think that in particular has the most promise for making Mars-specific strains of crops.

What are some other challenges posed by the conditions on Mars?

One thing we looked at was whether it makes sense to grow plants in greenhouses on the surface. Whenever you see an artist sketch of a Mars base, you always see greenhouses everywhere. But what we found is that you really just don’t get enough sunlight at the surface of Mars because it’s farther away from the sun. Your incident sunlight is basically what you would get in Alaska, and there’s a reason why we don’t grow corn and wheat in Alaska. They’re growing at more southern latitudes. So, it turns out that something like a greenhouse might actually not make sense on Mars. You might be better off growing the plants and producing other foods in tunnels underground, for example.

Where would the water come from?

We have a pretty good handle on where the water is on Mars. It’s mostly locked up as ice underground and it’s also found in certain minerals. For things like clays and salts, where the water is actually embedded in the mineral structure, you could heat those up and evaporate the water off. Once you extract that water, it’s pretty easy to recycle water fairly efficiently. I think on the space station, something like 97 percent of the water is recaptured and reused. It’s obviously an engineering challenge to mine that water in the first place, but then once you have a reservoir built up, you should be able to recycle it fairly efficiently in this closed ecosystem that you construct.

Based on the results of the study, would you advocate for a human settlement on Mars?

Yes, and I think if we look at what particularly SpaceX is doing, they’re already building the ships that are going to take cargo and then people to Mars. We’re already kind of set down that path, and the question is going to be: who goes? Is this going to be space agencies? Is it going to be tourists? And how is a settlement or a city going to build up? But I think it is definitely something that’s feasible in the near term.

Source: Smithsonian