Stefanie Moshammer first visited Las Vegas in 2013. After just a short stay, she knew she wanted to come back to photograph it. “I was wondering what is behind that surreal dream of sophistication that people are searching for,” explains the Austrian photographer who spent two months working in Las Vegas the following year. “It’s a place that almost completely relies on illusion, fantasy, and desire.”
She started thinking about what she could photograph. “What I was impressed by from the start was the machinery of adult entertainment and how women play a big role in this world,” she says. “They are the one who keep it moving, the inside that keeps alive the outside.”
Yet women also often face the most hardships. They work without rights or security, and many are mistreated by their managers and clients. That wasn’t the case for Hunter, though, the first woman that Moshammer photographed for her project “Vegas and She.”
Now 36, Hunter started stripping when she was 19. She explained that she liked the independence that her job allows, revealing the complexities of an industry that is often stigmatized. “My approach wasn’t to bring up a discussion about the working conditions,” says Moshammer. “Rather, I tried to communicate a mood of a world. ‘Vegas and She’ contains a kind of melancholy that these women feel and experience.”
Thanks to Hunter, the photographer was introduced to the six other women she shot for the project: Toni, Sybill, Helo, Cory, Heather and Lela. These are the pseudonyms they use in the clubs they work in. “They are creating an artificial identity, an idealized version of men’s desire,” says Moshammer.
This concept of illusion is palpable in the photos. Foggy landscapes clash with flashy, artificially fit interiors, filled with fake plants. Female bodies are both glamorized and imperfect. “I was using the body and its surroundings to invite a narrative, showing how people, interior, and landscape blend together in a place like Las Vegas.”