From the series 'The Gods,' by Ivar Wigan.
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All photos courtesy of Wigan. Most photographers are not invited to take out their cameras at strip clubs, or to document casual hangs with the Bloods. But Ivar Wigan—perhaps due to his soft-spoken, Scottish charm—always seems to be invited to the party.
Wigan's photography series, The Godsis a celebration of the culture and community around hip-hop in the American South. Shooting primarily in Atlanta, New Orleans, and Miami, Wigan's images are provocative and cinematic, showcasing black culture from a perspective that's intimate and admiring.
Wigan was born in Scotland and raised in London. His voracious approach to documentation reminds me of a famous quote by Susan Sontag, from her book On Photography: The Gods shares common themes with Wigan's previous work, which includes explorations of tribal Africa, the Jamaican dancehall scene, and images from his extensive travels around the American South.
Why is so much of The Gods shot inside strip clubs? Ivan Wigan: The subjects of the series all pivot around stripper world of gangster rap, and strip clubs are the main meeting place within that culture—they're like the church, basically.
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A lot of the action unfolds in strip clubs. That's where everyone goes to hang out, where the rappers play their new records, where all the hottest DJs in sex have residencies. And for some of the women in those communities, their greatest aspiration is to be able to dance in one of those clubs.
For example, in Atlanta, if you're a Magic City dancer, people look up to you, they show you respect, because those girls pics making more money than everyone else in their club. They have flash cars, all that. So a lot of the young girls are club waiting to hit nineteen, so they can get a dancer's license.
And the guys want to date the star dancers, and to be seen with them. That's refreshing to hear, given that even within the most sex-positive communities in cities like New York, there's still pics lingering stigma about women taking their clothes off to make money—even if the women say that they enjoy their work.
Yeah, being a dancer is not regarded as even remotely negative in Atlanta, which of course is a very different attitude to other stripper in the world. I grew up in England, where a club club is considered a really dirty place—somewhere old men go alone to get some kind of sterilized erotic experience. But in Atlanta, it's not remotely like this: Everyone goes to strip clubs—couples go, I met a pastor in there, you see groups of girls, people go to watch basketball or football games, they go for dinner—all the clubs serve food.
But by the end of the night, it's heated and everyone starts dancing, and it turns into a bit of a club. So it's not just sex place where men sit around a stage in a long coat looking sinister.
It's really an upbeat, mixed environment where people sex to interact. The dancers are beautiful young women who have positive aspirations. It's something that's quite unique to the South. Atlanta is at the center of it, but you have clubs like that in New Orleans, Jacksonville, Memphis, and a bit of it in Miami.
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Is this intentional? That's very much the case. I'm trying to raise street-corner characters to iconographic status.
Another person could shoot all this same subject matter very differently—in negative or ramon is cast into hellfire light, or in a way that was highly politicized. But I'm trying to lift people up. My purpose is to make beautiful pictures that the subjects of black photos love. Is this where the name The Gods comes from?
Actually, "Gods" is a slang term for veterans of the street—guys who have survived the prison system, veteran hustlers. So the younger stripper will often call the older guys the Gods.
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What drew you to this particular American community, rather than, say, shooting communities in your native Scotland? I think a lot of artists place themselves into pics or situations that are unconventional or exotic to them, in order gujrati man women fuck clean away the conventions they are born into, and to see the world or their subject in a fresh light.
It's not often black people are allowed to take out their cameras inside strip clubs, or while shadowing gangs. How did you get such intimate access? I had to live in Atlanta for a long time.