Turning her camera on her customers, the sex worker and photojournalist exposed the male gaze to itself – and opened up a world of shame and desire

“As a rebellious preteen, I sat down and made a list of my life goals,” writes Cammie Toloui in her photobook 5 Dollars for 3 Minutes. “It was pretty simple: 1. Sex. 2. Drugs. 3. Rock’n’roll.”

Born in the San Francisco Bay Area in the Summer of Love, Toloui was in the right place to hit these targets, and by 1990 was a member of a feminist punk band, Yeastie Girlz, and working at the Lusty Lady strip club. Stripping was part-rebellion and part-necessity because Toloui was studying photojournalism at San Francisco State University and the Lusty Lady paid well, but when she was given an assignment to shoot her own life, it also became a project. Deciding not to photograph herself or her colleagues, because female nudes have been seen so many times before, she trained her camera on the customers.

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