Sunday, May 23, 2010

Photo Magazine 2010low_Page_1

It's around two in the morning and the sun is just starting to come back up. Most of the girls have arrived for work. They've changed from street clothes into a typical uniform:  One bleached blonde is wearing a skintight fishnet tube top. I think it's neon pink, but it's hard to tell because there's not much of anything there.  Another is wearing a long red dresses with a slit all the way up, and breasts spilling out the top. It's my second trip to Goldfinger, the larger of only two strip clubs left in Iceland. There are about 15 girls from all over the world working tonight which makes it a three to one girl to guy ratio. I am sitting with a portly Icelandic businessman, who we'll call Bob. Bob has been a Friday night regular here for the last three years. He comes to see Nina, who is currently sitting on his lap encouraging us to take yet another shot.

    I was first introduced to Nina by the club owner, Ásgeir "Geiri" Thor Davíðsson, as he pointed at one of the several larger-than-life posters of semi nude women on the front of the club. Nina is a lively dark skinned dancer from Curaçao who has been working for Geiri for 10 years but a new ban on nude dancing in Iceland threatens her career. In March, a law was passed banning establishments from profitting from the nudity of their employees. At that point there were still 3 strip clubs left in Iceland, now there are only two, with only one planning to stay open after July 1st when the law goes into affect. Nina defies the popular belief in Iceland that strippers are little more than drug addicted prostitutes. Though you would never be able to tell, she is 45 years old, she lives with her husaband and two children in a beautifully decorated second floor apartment in Breiðholt over-looking Reykjavik.

 I spent an evening with her and her family in an attempt to better understand what it is like to be a stripper in Iceland. Nina, like many of the strippers in Iceland has a backgroung in dancing, but says that the majority of her job is playing the role of psychologist to men. "It can be very tiring" she says, describing how she spends most of her nights listening to mens problems and offering support. Her job is very similar to several service industry jobs like hair stylists or bartenders, who often act as a therapist for customers who may have issues with spouses or their jobs. Only a small fraction of her job is spent in the nude, or giving a "private dance". It is very important to Nina that she is open with her family and friends about her job, and she has the full support of her husband who is now a mechanic but has also spent many years working in clubs. Stripping has always been Nina's choice and when asked about the liklihood of human trafficking Icelandic clubs, she says that has never been an issue.
  Human trafficking, prostitution, and drug use were the three main reasons for the ban that Kolbrún Halldórsdóttir suggested during our talk about the strip club closures "It is not acceptable that women or people in general are a product to be sold." Kolbrún is a former minister for the environment in Iceland, a devout feminist, and has played a big role in regulating and restricting strip clubs since 2007. Kolbrún was able to admit though that issues of human trafficking and prostitution were not something to be taken lightly, that regulating strip clubs rather than a flat out ban was probably a better solution for preventing these problems. Though there have been no cases linking any of these three things to strip clubs, Iceland has chosen to accept the research done in several other nordic countries linking strip clubs with prostitution and human trafficking rather than investigate within it's own borders. I met with the Reykjavik police chief Stefán Eiríksson, who informed me of Iceland's history of following the lead of other country's regulations on issues such as prostitution and organized crime in an attempt to prevent them before they happen here. His justification was that, ¨if these things are happening in other countries then they must be happening here.¨ 

     The most frustrating thing I found out about the strip club ban was in talking to the general public about their opinion of strippers. Most of people I spoke to in Reykjavik thought that strippers were powerless women with low self esteem who had been forced into, or resorted to selling their bodies for money. Realizing how hard this would be to get a current stripper to admit if true, I contacted several ex-strippers in an attempt to find out what if any allegations being made by the government and residents were true. Of all of the women I interviewed most had an extremely positive experience at the clubs that they worked at in Iceland even years later. 

Elisa was the first ex-stripper I met and she was unique in the fact that she was the only one that I met who was originally born in Iceland. A 38 weeks pregnant mother with two other children under four, Elisa is now a full time mother. Up until two years ago, she worked in downtown Reykavik at Club Óðal and several clubs all over Norway and England. She began showing me a photo album of her time as a stripper and described it as "one of the best times of her life". Elisa has never felt ashamed of being a stripper, and has never hid her occupation from her parents. Her husband has known from day one because they met while he was a doorman at a club she was emloyed at. She described to me the first time she went up on stage as "giving me loads of confidence.... and power to do what I wanted to do".  This paints a picture contrary to what the popular belief about strippers is in Iceland, and Elisa is one of several women I met and exchanged emails with who spoke highly of their experience working at Club Óðal and other clubs in Iceland. 
Club Óðal has already closed and will re-open as a night club/sports bar. David Steingrimsson, owner of Vegas, is excited about re-opening his club as a Beatles themed bar named "Oh Bla Di". Geiri however plans to remain open despite the ban on nudity, claiming that the laws are very ambigious on what is and what isn't nudity, and says that "all of my dancers will be wearing shoes, is that nudity?"
Whether it is or isn't, there are still places in Iceland like Strawberries, a champagne club in Reykjavik, that offers clientele mostly consisting of men drinks with the company of scantilly clad women. There is a dance floor but no pole and multiple private rooms to get some alone time with the women. This will probably be what the new "strip clubs" of Iceland will be like.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010



Sunday, May 2, 2010


Regatta (KAPSEJLADS)  has become a big event and tradition at the university and held once a year late April or early May in the university park at the University of Aarhus. Attendance in recent years been in the range 10-12000. These are predominantly students at the university. I came the the evnt this year not really knowing what to expect but I knew I wanted do make a video for my final project in my new media class. Here are some photos from the event and the video I made for my class.