By Brian Blanco
“No Honey, really, it’s a POLITICAL assignment related to the upcoming RNC.” I could see a familiar smirk slide into place on my wife’s face as I explained exactly where, and what, I’d be shooting later that evening.
As a photojournalist based in Tampa, Florida, one of the most important political battleground areas of, arguably, the most important political battleground state in national politics, my wife has become accustomed to being an “election-season widow” for long stretches at a time as I cover the myriad of predictable bus tours, stump speeches, rallies, and debates that crop up in my coverage area. Strip clubs however… well that was a first for both of us.
With the Republican National Convention coming to Tampa, a city somewhat notorious for, or at least noted for, it’s strip clubs, there was a story to tell about the clubs’ anticipated surge in attendance during the week of the convention. This was a legitimate politics story and I was just the man to shoot it. Exactly how I would shoot it, well, that was another story all together.
The first step was securing permission to shoot inside the most famous all-nude club in Tampa, the Mons Venus. I anticipated this would take weeks of negotiating access, involving legal departments, notarized waivers, and hovering minders. But in reality all it took was a quick two-minute phone call to the club’s owner, Tampa legend Joe Redner, whose advice to me, upon learning that I was shooting for Reuters, was simple: “Sure, shoot whatever you want; I don’t care if you show full nudity. Just try to avoid showing the faces of my customers.”
That evening, after securing permission directly from the club’s owner to photograph inside, I couldn’t help but feel a little apprehensive, maybe even “creepy”, as I approached the club’s front door with cameras hanging off my shoulders. Would getting access really be as easy as Redner had said? Was it just as easy as walking up to the front door and telling them “Joe said it was ok.”? Well, yeah, actually it was that easy. I walked to the front door and the manager essentially told me that she was expecting me and that I had full access to shoot whatever I wanted.