In the middle of the 1990's, diCorcia gained international recognition for his large color photographs of street scenes and passersby. For an earlier series, he traveled to Los Angeles on a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and worked on a part of Santa Monica Boulevard frequented by male prostitutes and drug addicts. For each picture he made there, he carefully composed his setting, then asked young men to pose for him, giving them a small fee (from twenty to fifty dollars) that was negotiated each time.
At that time, NEA support of artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe was highly controversial, and diCorcia had to sign a document stating that he would not produce any "obscene" work while on his fellowship. He set up the whole negotiating procedure as a symbolic way of sharing his grant with people whose behavior would surely have been condemned by the censors. The titles always mention the name, the age and the origin of the model, as well as the amount paid. The staged situation interacts with the raw reality of the exchange of money, blurring the boundaries between documentary and fiction, yet preserving an authentic emotional charge.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "After the Gold Rush: Contemporary Photographs from the Collection," March 22, 2011–January 2, 2012.