(can someone post it please, as I cannot do it) I fancy 3rd from right or 2nd from left.
Jane Hilton's best shot: the line-up at Madam Kitty's Cathouse, Nevada
'They ring a bell and all the girls at the brothel have to come out of their rooms and line up, and the clients get to choose'
Interview by Ben Beaumont-Thomas
The Guardian, Thursday 17 April 2014
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Line-Up, Madam Kitty's Cathouse, 1998 View larger picture
'It's not menacing' … Jane Hilton's best shot, Line-Up, Madam Kitty's Cathouse, 1998 (detail). Photograph: Jane Hilton
I love Vegas. It's the epitome of all the contradictions of US culture and society. Everything Americans don't want to discuss ends up in Nevada, from nuclear testing to prostitutes. I was there in 1998 taking photos of its McDonald's-style wedding culture when I decided to take a road trip. I drove into the desert and saw these strange signs: Shady Lady: 10 miles, Madame Kitty's: 20 miles. I was curious. I pulled into Madame Kitty's and, as luck would have it, the madam of that house was from Manchester: she was so relieved to see an English face. She'd been looking for a job as a vet and saw an ad for a position at Madame Kitty's Cathouse. When she realised it was actually a brothel she decided to go for it anyway. She was really charismatic: very dry, very Mancunian.
This lineup is quite formidable. They ring a bell and all the girls have to come out of their rooms and stand in a line, and the male or female clients get to choose. There are certain house rules: they're not allowed to be really scantily clad, or one will get picked more than another. But it's totally subjective, it's whatever he finds more attractive.
It's not menacing. This was during the afternoon when they're quite chirpy and looking for business – the day is less busy than the night. Most women come from out of state, and spend three weeks trying to earn enough money to go back and live at home for another two or three months. There are a lot of students doing it to pay their way through college.
Some men were not attractive, and they have quite a few clients who are disabled: regulars who would rather pay for it than go to a bar. Some of the girls were like their therapists. Most say that 30% of their job is intercourse and the rest is chatting, or a massage.
Having seen my exhibition of the photographs, the BBC got overexcited and commissioned 10 short films. So I spent another two and a half years in the brothels, filming in Madame Kitty's and also the Moonlight Bunny Ranch. We lived in there for a while and then e realised we should step away a bit. It was such an addictive atmosphere, and I really got on with the girls. There was no one story the same as the next.
I always felt the prostitutes were unfinished business. I knew there were amazing women inside those houses and I wanted to iconise them, more like paintings. In 2013, I did a new book of portraits, Precious, that made you look at the woman for who she was and not what she does. Many women found it therapeutic, and cathartic.
One woman, Chelsea, was extraordinary – she was so bright she put me to shame. She was going to be a forensic scientist, but had some sort of Asperger's; she dropped out and got into drugs. But she'd been clean for several years when I met her in the brothel – her boyfriend had put her there to control her sex addiction because he couldn't deal with it. She was delighted and the boyfriend was delighted, it stopped all the arguments between them. But quite often with other girls, there'd be a bloke in the background taking the money.
Born: Fulmer, Buckinghamshire.
Studied: BA hons, music and art, Lancaster University.
Influences: Las Vegas, driving my '66 mustang in the desert, Johnny Cash, classical music, the people I photograph.
High point: The making of Love for Sale, a 10-part documentary series for the BBC and my first published book, Dead Eagle Trail.
Low point: Just earning money is always difficult.
Top tip: Always do your homework, you can never be organised enough.
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