“Night Chicas” is an anthropological tour through a damaged landscape of various Guatemalan prostitutes. Photographer Hans Neleman travels over the bodies of these women conscious that their stories are best unearthed through the vessels of their trade. Neleman captures the sober awareness that resonates warily, and sometimes proudly, that the women are marked, but not defined by their bodies. Complex in its aesthetic sociological intention, the photographs inhabit a doubleness on virtually every page. An environment of poverty is visually enhanced by the camera’s facility for representing the unalloyed beauty of the women, while using the settings as painterly backdrops that accentuate their somber existence. Neleman restores the human worth, and even allure of the different women, who vary in age, physical type, and degrees of attractiveness, by centering his vision on his specific response to each prostitute. He offers disclosures of their motherhood, physical decline, pervasive sadness, withered expectations, class entrapment, and dignity. The women also exhibit a creative receptivity to being photographed, permitting Neleman to focus on their physical attributes, and zones of intimacy, as if they were figures in a low budget pageant, filmed by a sophisticated artist passionate in his endeavor to document and flatter their bodies, regardless of whether they are beautiful or not. Zaftig, corpulent women dolled up in transparent teddies, their bellies stretching out their panties, assume the ageless poses enacted by pinups, actresses, dancers, and whores since the inception of art. A legacy of depiction courses through the poses that the women inhabit; whether cavorting among friends, sitting in grave isolation, or lying about salon-style to reference both painting and early photography, Neleman occupies the gap between documentary conception and rigorously staged portraiture. Neleman withholds pity to pursue a rare kind of compassionate eroticism. He reveres these women, and in lieu of their lives, constructs a charged but safe occasion for collaboration, confession, and exposure.
-George Pitts, Vibe Magazine
NIGHT CHICAS QUOTES
“…Mr. Neleman’s best pictures are powerfully theatrical and visually lush. The almost surrealistic image of a beautiful naked teenager with her feral looking pet raccoon, is stunning.
-Ken Johnson, New York Times Review
“Neleman joins a group of social documentary photographers including Mary Ellen Mark and Philip Lorca-DiCorcia. The strong, knowing gazes in his painterly shots bring this world into harsh reality.”
“One of the most special books of the year, behind each portrait a painful story that touches beauty and sadness, pleasure and melancholy.”
“Disturbing yet dignified, taken with respect and reverence for the women involved. So much that, for once we see them not as victims but as people; mothers and daughters with a voice and a story.”
“Neleman’s work is harsh yet sensitive to its subjects. The alchemy of his eye, and the medium of photography, offers us a picture of both the sacred and the profane.” -Communication Arts
“Night Chicas recognizes the duality of life, particularly seen in life on the edge…full of passion and compassion.”
-Photo District News
“The eye of an artist has seen sex workers with human curiosity and with love.”
-Rodrigo Rey-Rosa, author
“Neleman has produced a harrowing document…the images sear themselves into your memory and simply won’t go away.
“At a time when the sex industry, sexual slavery, and trafficking are exploding in a stream of cold statistics around the world…his humanizing approach is to be applauded.”
“Important work. Pictures that tell stories with moral lessons for an amoral age.”
“The photograph’s beauty is not at odds with their subjects. Instead, it reveals a dignity even in the grotesque, and a true sensuality behind the one for sale.”
“Should be required reading for all those who think they already know what prostitution is.”
-U.S. News and World Report
“Neleman has approached the issue of prostitution slowly, both literally and metaphorically. His 8 x 10 view camera assures a methodical technical process and the several years devoted to the work indicates a serious concern for the women he photographs.”
“Images of great complexity, hope, despair, eroticism, pride, peace, and devastation.”
“Neleman’s project represents a noteworthy addition to the work of Susan Meiselas, Noboyushi Araki and others who have produced substantial bodies of work on sex workers.”
-A.D. Coleman, author