Having spent two years photographing male prostitutes along Santa Monica Boulevard, Philip-Lorca diCorcia came away with some curious stories. "One guy told me that he had a john who always wanted him to use Nair," DiCorcia says of the photos shot in 1990-92.

Others suffered far worse fates, as DiCorcia recalls. "A lot of them deteriorated so enormously and rapidly that it was a frightening," he says.

Knowing that, it might seem odd that DiCorcia would use a glossy artificial approach -- rare at the time -- with staged situations and studio-style lighting. But as he says, "I thought it would be interesting to use techniques associated with advertising and Hollywood, since these guys were adopting a certain level of presentation and display."

Those rarely seen images are part of a retrospective at LACMA (lacma.org; ends Sept. 14), which includes a sampling of DiCorcia's recent work with other downtrodden figures, such as pole dancers, security guards and ordinary civilians. If they share anything, it's DiCorcia's ability to raise everyday situations into the fictional realm. "It's my job to bring as much visual and conceptual complexity to the image as possible," he says, "so that it'll reward repeat viewing."


-- theguide@latimes.com

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