May 2017

Death Valley

The Blackmail The Blackmail The Blackmail The Blackmail The Blackmail The Blackmail The Blackmail The Blackmail The Blackmail The Blackmail The Blackmail The Blackmail The Blackmail The Blackmail The Blackmail The Blackmail The Blackmail The Blackmail Text: Gabriel Knowles Images: Mike Piscitelli

It’s a bold move to depart on a journey no knowing where you’re really headed and leaving the outcome in the hands of the gods. For photographer and filmmaker Mike Piscitelli it has become a ritual of sorts, each month he wanders off into the unknown and returns with something he didn’t have before. “The whole point of my job is to have no objective and let the place show me. A lot of my photos and ideas come to me like that.” With that in mind it’s no surprise that the man whose career began assisting on porn sets should find himself shooting roadside brothels in Death Valley is it?

“I just finished a documentary with Ozzy Osbourne and wanted to clear my head with my producer, we just started driving towards Death Valley not really knowing where we were going or what we were doing. We just kind of got lost for a few days.”

“We were on unpaved roads for 200 kilometers.”

“I heard of those brothels but I had no idea were they where. We were getting gas at the first one we saw and there was a sign that said 24 Hour Prostitution and we were like ‘how the fuck is this real?’.”

“So we snapped some photos and kept driving down this road to nowhere and there was this compound of brothels. After the third one we got some balls and went and knocked on the door, it was about 10am, and this lady let us and showed us around and then lined up all these women. Then she asked us which one we wanted so I said we’re going to talk about this outside and then we took off.”

“You did feel like if you wanted to kill someone it would be a good place to leave them. We’d be driving for hours and see nothing on these weird, winding dirt roads. We made a mark on the gas gauge and said ‘alright, if we see nothing and we get to half way we’ve got to turn around and just go back’.”

“I did the same thing in Africa, I went there for three weeks. I was in South Africa and I’d just done a job and I had some cash so I rented a car. I got a map and said I’m going to get to the top of Mozambique and everyone said I was crazy but it ended up being super fun. I mean the first few days were scary.”

“The civil war ended not even 10 years ago so there’s still a lot of civil unrest and it’s really a poor country. You know, they’ve got and AK47 on their flag, it’s a little intimidating.”

Mike Piscitelli

Next story: Create And Cover: Eddie Martin