I have deactivated my twitter account - just having a wee break from it to spend more time on the behind the scenes going ons and get back into commercial photography work - if you want to get into, just e-mail.
I'll be back on twitter soon!
I have deactivated my twitter account - just having a wee break from it to spend more time on the behind the scenes going ons and get back into commercial photography work - if you want to get into, just e-mail.
I'll be back on twitter soon!
It's not you twitter, it's me. Me, ME. ALL ME! Noooooo, that’s a bullshit. It is you, it's all you TWITTER! Damn you! DAMN YOU TO HELL, TWITTER! And just to clarify, I am ranting about the platform of twitter not the people on it. Not the fabulous peeps, mes amis.
Social media is both a curse and a wonderful blessing for sex workers and for photographic artists trying to garner support for visual activism, for anyone who must spend a significant portion of their lives on line to generate an income or support for a cause. Online activism on both sides of the sex work debate, can be brutal and time consuming. I have engaged and meet with some truly fabulous sex workers, clients and fellow activists, academics and sex work friendly journalists via the twitter and look forward to meeting many people in 2018 who I crossed tweeter feeds with some point in the last few years
Whoretography began because twitter has an amazing ability to network the global, highly marginalised sex work community in one fabulous hot spot (I am amazed clients have found it to be honest, nudge nudge wink wink). It was super important to me, when Whoretography began to be transparent as possible about my sex work back ground, I wanted contributors (namely sex workers) to know about my lived experience as a photographer and sex worker. However, having said that …
There is a lot about twitter that unnerves me, and I need to address these issues and change my practices, hopefully for the better.
For one, I am spending way too much time on it and I am not sure what it really brings to the project now and will re asses in the future. I have a clear plan of where Whoretography is heading, and there are some new and exciting changes coming in and whilst I adore that support I get on twitter, to move Whoretography to the next phase, I need funding and I need to market it outside of the sex worker community. To do this I need to spend less time on twitter. To give you an example, I have two conferences 4 weeks apart on opposite ends of the globe to speak at and manage, this takes a lot of my time. I also will be doing book fairs and a lot of off line promotion. More importantly though, I have a life outside of sex work and of this project. I have friends and a family to pay attention to and 2018 is an epic year for me, not only will I be trying for another baby I will be starting a PhD, and something has to give and it has to be twitter I am afraid to say.
Secondly, although Twitter has been an amazing axis that Whoretography has spun about, there are however a lot of lurkers on twitter who are more than happy to be entertained for free but not step up when it counts. Robbie Williams may be in the habit of saying let me entertain you, but I am not. This is not to say I am not 100% grateful for those who buy and financially support the project in other ways and retweet me when I tweet something that is vaguely interesting. I adore talking about photography and happy to share my knowledge with the peeps of twitter however, I have decided now, it’s in my own best interest to do that from my commercial photography non sex work research twitter account. I accept full responsibility for what I am about to say, and it’s entirely my doing but clients have blurred the boundary of my sex work persona and the Whoretography twitter account, it was a massive mistake on my part to link Claire Keeler to Whoretography and whilst it gives a certain authenticity to the project the flip side of that is that it attracts the men who flock to twitter to engage with sex workers to alleviate the boredom of the daily grind or for whatever reason. It’s also my fault because it’s all I talk about in bookings. Whoretography this, Whoretography that. Someone just said to me that twitter is collapsing down all our boundaries and I guess I want to limit the access. I need to re establish boundaries and separate my sex work life from the project, so not only will I be hopping off the twitter for Whoretography, I have also done so for Claire Keeler and I know this is terrible timing giving the demise of my namesake but I will be killing off the Keeler for new clients and will only be seeing regular clients.
Thirdly, being a sex worker online is hard work, you are constantly under the voyeuristic gaze of people who now have unlimited access to sex workers thanks to the social media devil that is twitter. Twitter attracts a lot of unhealthy interest from all walks of life and a lot of hate, I guess having to justify my existence has finally done my head in and I really do not have the time or inclination to go into twitter battles when there are other more helpful ways I can fight for the cause. My work is all about shattering the gaze on the lives and bodies of sex workers, being on twitter does not really help me to do that.
And finally, this may be somewhat controversial to say but if you have been paying attention, there have been many suicides in the sex worker community in the last 2 years, one of them has had a profound effect on me. It saddens me to see the twitter descend into a slinging match of who is grieving more, who was to blame, who was the better friend and who can use someone’s untimely demise to garner interest for themselves or for whatever political ideology they prescribed to. For my own mental health and wellbeing, it’s best to step away from this. I come from a working background managing offender suicides and deaths, I used to write daily reports for the justice minister about offenders (every single day for 2 years) who had killed themselves, I could leave it behind at the office at the end of the day, you can’t do that with twitter. I found myself muting the name of a sex worker who recently killed herself, and that made me kind of sad that to enjoy twitter I need to mask out the ugliness and I do not wish to do that anymore.
So fine people of the internet, these are my reasons, and to be honest there may be a few more. If it sounds to raw and angry then perhaps it’s because, I do indeed need a break from twitter.
I was interviewed for the online publication - being interviewed by journalists is always fraught with danger as a sex worker, so thought I would publish the full set of interview questions and my unedited answers.
Tell me about Whoretography. How did the project come about?
It’s difficult to pinpoint where exactly Whoretography began, but it was somewhere between realising I was in the business of a photographic conspiracy in which my camera was acting as an agent for the falsehood of couple cohesion and intimacy, and the idea of documenting paid-for sexual intimacy as the antidote to the visual falsehoods of wedding photography. Whoretography sits nicely at the intersection of images, technologies, society and the sex worker rights movement. It’s the first academic, ethnographic and creative platform dedicated solely to understanding the role photography plays in sex work via self-publishing as an artistic practice. The objectives framed a body of creative work that takes the form of a collection of soon to be published photo and artist books, zines and the recently launched Whoretography E – Magazine. My visual activism is about exploring a set of research questions through a mixed methodology approach designed to challenge the prevailing ideology of sex-work
I work within the photographic genre of found imagery, with other peoples’ photographic material and written documents. The material for Whoretography is sourced using cyberethnographic methods; however, online interactions alone are insufficient to develop a deep understanding of the visuals of the sex worker online community. So I’ve conducted offline research consisting of qualitative interviews with internet based sex workers, and their customers in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States of America. Found photography allows for an editorial style in which I can act as both as editor and author; this is not common when working with sex work imagery. Standard approaches to visually representing sex workers include photo-voice, wherein sex workers themselves create the photographs (typically of their workspaces), and photo-essay; the publishing world is awash with photo essays that, for example, take a sneaky look inside brothels. I wanted to avoid these visual clichés. Working with found images means constructing new narratives from seemingly unconnected photographs to provoke critical dialogue about sex work and present an alternative view of sex work. It allows me to take the discussion of sex worker imagery from the realms of the sex work community and place it in the wider community. Fundamental to this goal is deconstructing the visual vocabulary of sex work imagery online to investigate the overarching questions, “Is it possible to reclaim the word ‘whore’ through creative practice as research?” and “What role does photography play in contemporary online sexual consumption. ?”
I have an interest in ensuring photography is relevant in the fight for the full decriminalisation of sex work. We must celebrate the fact that sex workers are now image makers; we must challenge the exclusion of sex workers from online visual spaces; and we must talk about the posthumous humiliation of sex workers via the standard practice of releasing morgue photos. The prohibitionist war on sex work is underpinned by their belief that their photographic rhetoric is photographic truth, and we must name the game when it comes to the middle-class masses being in an uproar about the apparent gentrification of sex work via some mythical photoshop gentrification tool.
I have been careful not to open Whoretography up criticism by only offering one extreme perspective on sex work, but rather a less dogmatic photographic endeavour that could convince someone and neutral or undecided ideas about sex work why the visuals of sex work are important.
How are you challenging the victim narrative of sex work?
My visual activism is about exploring a set of research questions through a mixed methodology approach designed to challenge the prevailing ideology of sex-work and to present to the viewer an alternative perception of the industry and its participants. To stop the over-simplification of the lives of cis and non-binary gendered sex workers, and to challenge current imagery that encourages the sense that the only way of interpreting the lives of sex workers is to see them as ripe for ‘rescue’. This narrow and particular visual representation of male oppression reproduces a politics of pity that is embedded in the visual representation of sex workers. This suggests only pity makes sense as a political, social and cultural response.
I am committed to setting up a visual activist platform and a sex work positive publishing house. I have seen child abuse victims marketed as teen sex workers, prohibitionists create rescue images with the tonal quality of reminiscent of colonial missionary times of saving the natives from themselves, the publication and subsequent outing sex workers by newspapers, the dire consequences of the pixilated face in propelling stigma and the shaming of sex workers as a police tactic to help in the gentrification of up and coming hipster neighbourhoods. I offer a critical review of sex work photobooks, calling out the callous nature in which photographers shoot sex workers and then whose cunning deception is celebrated by the British Journal of Photography, calling out photographers who take advantage of sex workers who pay them for visual content. I publish a magazine that discuss all aspects of sex work and photography from the spectrum of sex worker experiences The world does not need another photographic essay of the working space of sex workers nor another photo voice project of brothel workers. That’s a tired worn out gaze, what we need, what Whoretography is, is a new gaze on existing imagery that challenges notions of victimhood. I am on a mission to shift the political landscape of sex work by forcing people to understand the visual landscape.
What do you want people to know about sex work that isn't being talked about in mainstream discourse?
I want photography to be dragged into the discussion about sex work, once private sex work spaces now occupy very public spheres on line and the Web has brought massive change to the sex industry. As with many other industries, the technology-led disruption has changed its fundamental economics. The easy availability of information on the Internet has revolutionised the industry’s marketing techniques and its verbal and visual vocabulary. Words still matter and have their allure, but digital photographs are now fundamental to the transaction of sex.
Photography needs to form a greater part of the sex work discussion, I have learned how negatively impactful photography can be in presenting sex workers as different from and less than other people. This flows from "the power of photographs to capture elusive abstractions that one intuits before clearly understanding them" Every sex worker is reduced to a few negative assumptions by the stereotypical images in anti sex work visual rhetoric to peddle one brand of feminism over another.
So why focus on photography, why spend so much time talking about the imagery of sex work, why drag it into the debate? The reason is that all the visual stereotyping is a kind of blindfold that enables many to ignore the fact that sex workers are first and foremost people, individual human beings like everyone else deserving of rights and safe working conditions.
What is your background as a photographer? What aesthetic are you aiming for in your Whoretography project?
I am addicted to photography; it’s a lifelong obsession of mine that began as a 2-year-old with the death of my father. When you lose a parent as a baby, the only connection you can form with that parent is through imagery. The last photograph before his death, the only one of us together, him proudly sitting on his 1970s motorbike. His death sparked my purpose in life. I bought my first camera when I was 12 and I have never been without one since; even when I was homeless for 18 months, I refused to sell my last camera. My mother evidently thought photography was just a phase adolescent girls go through, because I was not permitted to study photography at secondary school; I went on to graduate with an undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Genetics, Post Graduate in Criminology and a Graduate Diploma in Small Business Management I put photography to one side in this period, prioritising an institutionally-defined career in criminal justice, and I moved countries; I sold and traded cameras to pay rent, tuition and one-way tickets to London and Paris. Finally, I followed my passion and become a full-time photographer; initially as a wedding photography however I eventually managed to make sex work about photography too. I undertook a Master’s Degree in creative media arts and I am now a published commercial photographer taking on United Kingdom based and international commissions and I have just been accepted as a photography PhD candidate commencing in January 2018.
The initial aesthetic of the home page of the Whoretography website is one of the commonality, familiarity, nostalgia for vintage imagery, the photographs on the front page are of stripper audition Polaroids from the 60s & 70s, we all have memories of Polaroids and by using them on the front page I am trying to establish a sense of connection in sex worker imagery with the everyday person, I want them to see something of themselves, something they can connect visually and emotionally with however once you enter the site, the black text with vast whiteness is inspired by the work of Susan Meiselas and her photobook of black and white images, Carnival Strippers.
Why is photography 'instrumental in the war against sex workers'?
Make no mistake about it, sex work imagery is war imagery and whoever controls the image controls the message, and this is more relevant than ever. In the prohibitionist war on sex work, the camera has been weaponized against sex workers and wielded as an agent of violence that silences the intentions, actions, and feelings of sex workers & serves to make their lives more precarious. This narrow & selective representation of male oppression reproduces a politics of pity embedded in the visual representation of sex workers. This visual representation suggests only pity makes sense as a political, social & cultural response. Prohibitionist photography acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy. The anti sex work lobby creates the visual rescue narrative that gives legitimacy to saving sex workers from themselves.
The prohibitionist lobby would have you believe in the irrelevance of photography to the sex work debate. The only photographic truth is the prohibitionist photographic truth. A much tried and tested prohibitionist tactic is to label anyone critiquing prohibition photography as nothing more than laziness and nitpicking. Prohibitionist photographs tends to encapsulate the formulaic prohibitionist approach to the visual representation of sex work. Dark alley, street walker leaning into the car, robotic fallen woman robbed of agency, distressed child, always unseen predatory male, bad mother, battered corpse. A sense of desperation and the wafting smell of cocaine, heroin, lube and baby oil hangs heavy in the cinematic tones. The prohibitionist lobby argues that to discuss sex work photography is just laziness, that photographs do not matter and if this is the case, then it is a remarkable coincidence that prohibitionist websites are littered with visual rhetoric.
The majority of articles written about sex work are accompanied by a picture of outdoor sex work, regardless if the written words discuss indoor sex work. The media portrayal of sex work is just as lazy as the prohibitionists. Going to a stock photo agency website and typing prostitution hardly makes one a photo editor. To talk about sex worker imagery is just nit-picking. A standard reaction from those who do not understand the photographic theory, visual identity and that photography is inextricably interwoven into sex work identities, narratives, and society. Prohibitionists often argue that airbrushing and photoshop have gentrified sex work. However, if Photoshop has edited out the lower class reality of sex work, then they need only to present unedited photographs to show the class narrative that sex workers apparently remove via a Photoshop gentrification tool. If prohibitionists were honest, photographically speaking, they would acknowledge that what offends them the most is that the digital democratising of photography has robbed the middle-class masses of their control over photography and image dissemination. A photographic revolution has taken place, and sex workers are discouraged from participating in it. The Photo-shopped gentrification of sex work is an argument designed to keep sex workers away from the digital revolution. Through photography’s new found accessibility, sex workers now have access to an unfettered form of communication; they can now challenge social constructs about their lives. Sex workers are now image makers and it’s difficult for prohibitionists to control the visuals of sex work if sex workers themselves now have a photographic voice of their own. If war imagery has taught us anything, it’s that those who control the image also control the message and middle-class ladies who lunch cannot keep other women in line if they can’t control how wayward women are visually constructed.
Does feminist rhetoric that is anti-sex work annoy you? What would you like to change?
Does not so much annoy me as it amuses me, the belittling of sex workers online is a thinly veiled attempt by high profile prohibitionists and their cohorts to deny sex workers access to online spaces by labelling them and dismissing them as happy hookers in order to sell to the general masses their anti sex work rhetoric. This is all about the silencing of sex worker and their supporters. I got labelled a privileged scum bag after I simply posted a tweet that thanked sex workers for their contribution to the project.
Sex work prohibitionists are the mouth pieces for misogyny and they should invoice patriarchy for services rendered, the most hate and online violence that has ever been directed at me is from so called feminist that take offense to my existence. Anti sex work prohibitionists stir up the hate the justifies the violence against us that then then use as proof absolute to the victimhood of whores. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have been called just a hole by so called feminists. The tone of their hate is in the same vein as the defense barrister who ripped into me for 3 days as a prostitute in the witness box because I dared accuse a police officer of sexual misconduct. I find the notion that criminalizing men’s behavior will be enough of a deterrent to end the demand for commercial sex as willfully and dangerously naive, the prisons are empty because criminalizing peoples behaviour works but not as much as I am disgusted by their twisted logic when it comes to the definition of consent – they really do not understand what they are preaching against. I would like to see whorephobia treated like a hate crime online as seriously as other forms of hate.
Is sex work compatible with feminism?
I could not think of anything more feminist than capitalising and taking advantage of the patriarchal social conditioning of men that see them as slaves to their penises. That see them so disempowered by their sexual needs, for whatever reason they find themselves in a sexless or sexual inadequate state, victims of circumstances that they simply have or want to pay for sex and intimacy. I'd be a foolish woman not to play on that and take advantage of a set of social circumstances that apparently renders me as the objectified one. There is no power imbalance in sex work. Money is power, sex is power, the balance remains at equilibrium, I am merely exchanging power. if anything, it is me who occupies the position of power as I know which end of the supply and demand chain I sit on and If exclusionary feminists can only imagine my existence in terms of sad oppression, perhaps that is a reflection the fact they confuse their personal views of I would never do that, with others must never be allowed to do that.
The only time in my adult life that I have ever felt unequal to a man, is when I was in a 3 year sexual relationship in my private life until I get pregnant, miscarried and he literally sat on the end of my bed whilst my body was still expelling his baby and said, I can't deal with this, I did not sign up for this, and pulled the man card at the age of 38 and left me to alone to deal with a traumatic experience simply because he could.
The only time I have ever felt uneasy about being a feminist and had conflict about my work practices was when I was a wedding photographer. I’d often question what role I was playing in selling the myth of the bride when, by example I’d photograph a bride who scheduled her wedding a day before her 30th birthday because apparently it is social suicide nowadays to be unwed at 30. I’d over hear brides comment that this is the day they have been dreaming about since they were little girls and I once had a mother of the bride say to me that she never thought her daughter would get married as she left it so late at the grand age of 25. It’s not the sex trade that shakes my feminism core, it’s the wedding trade.
Is there still a myth that all female sex workers are slaves to the patriarchy and hate their profession/lives?
Yes, the prohibitionist for profit industry is banking on the proliferation of this stereotype, there is big money to be made in platforming against sex workers and ensuring they are viewed as victims ripe for the rescue. You cannot belong to an arm of feminism that is all about saving the lower class masses from themselves if you do not paint them as prime rescue fodder. I do find this slave notion difficult to comprehend as any woman who has ever gotten married is a slave to the patriarchy, the £5 billion a year wedding industry is testament to that but not one is calling for the abolishment of the wedding trade, lets criminalise men who propose said no one. Maybe we should be asking why little girls are raised to be conditioned to be wives not make the pointless statement of no little girl grows up dreaming of becoming a sex worker. Take the case of boudoir bride photography, this is the soft porn phenomena of brides creating sexually charged images to present to their husbands to be on the night of the wedding, gift of a woman sexing herself up and self-objectification for the man she is going to marry. I am waiting for the feminist condemnation of the commodification of the bodies of brides to be.
Tell me about your decision to use 'whore' in the title - was there a specific reason?
The name Whoretography is complex. It was not an easy decision to use the word whore but it’s my word, it’s a slur that is levied at me on a regular basis and whilst I am mindful of it being dismissed as a clever play on words, an advertising slogan for commercial purposes. It’s so much more than photography + sex work and directly relates back to my original thesis question of “is it possible to reclaim the word whore through creative practice as research?” Whore is a word in state of reclamation to disempower the negative connotations attached to the lives and bodies this insult is hurled at, It’s really in recognition of sex workers activism on social medial, reclaiming a word and disarming its power. A public declaration of sorts against the linguistically disproportionate language used to label women who choose to engage in sex work compared to that of the men who pay for their sexual services. A new term for the genre of sex work imagery.
How is fundraising going for Whoretography? What has the reception been?
The reception outside the sex work community has been less than welcoming in part because people do not understand what Whoretography is about, ironic giving I am asking people to see and understand what they are looking at in photographs. Within the global sex work community, and the sex work research community the support is strong, there is certainly precedent for visual activism when working with marginalised members of society. It’s just a matter of preserving and taking advantage of every opportunity afforded me to make Whoretography an issue for everyone not just for industry participants. Sourcing funding is It’s an ongoing battle, and at times, I question the amount of time I devote to the project, I am sure all art based projects must face the funding problem but Whoretography does have unique challenges. I am excluded from traditional photographic funding resources as I am working with existing imagery not creating my own, there is no rescue element of the project so supporting some arts based project that supports sex workers is not always palatable for funding bodies. In my attempt to take Whoretography mainstream I created a Linkedin profile to network but I was booted off because I wrote the name and subject of my thesis and this is evidence of the stigma you face being a sex work researcher but having said that, I have had generous help from individuals. People have donated an industrial printer, a laptop and a photographic scanner and I do have a loyal base of supporters who contribute via gofundme, it is amazing they support my work and I am grateful and humbled for the support. I just self-funded a Master’s degree and I am about to self-fund a PhD people assume if you are not an impoverished sex worker then you must be sitting on a mattress stuffed full of cash, it can be a tough financial struggle at times but just because I can’t get a significant injection of cash at this time is not a good enough reason to cease the project, I’m not that easily deterred. I raise money via the sale of the Whoretography magazine via blurb and ibooks, I am working on edition two at the moment and 2018 will sell the books I created in the MA with the aim of the project being self-funding. Lately, I have been toying with the idea of adding an element of photography teaching to the project, to offer skills to sex workers exiting the industry but I am hesitant to do this as it feels like I am pandering to the prohibitionists, so I appear more palatable when applying for grants.
I have found social media to be a mixed blessing, I ask for help with funding and I get flooded with requests from men asking out to talk about photography in general, my desire to take this project mainstream apparently makes me more desirable to date, men seem to find me more fascinating than the project, and I think this is where my experience as a sex worker overshadows my work. Once I had lunch with a loyal follower who came to one of my talks, and I am ashamed to say this but fell for the come to lunch and we can talk funding routine, so after listening to me talk for 3 hours, at the end he said if I had the money, I would give it to you but I don’t – I felt like an utter fool and it was a harsh lesson to learn about being a vaguely interesting woman on the internet and unsolicited attention from men. Men also have difficulty separating my photographic research from my sex work, one now former client, insisted on calling my service fee for sex work a donation and become indignant about the fact I refused to thank him on my twitter feed for supporting my art, I have no interest in partaking in the delusion about what he is paying for. I also seem to attract many men who photograph sex workers, they reach out to me saying oh, I photograph prostitutes as somehow that makes a bond between the two of us, a reason to catch up. Over the last 3 years, I have learnt to curb my disappointment, instead when I receive one of these request for a free catch up, I kindly request a small donation in via GoFundMe to support the project, needless to say – it never eventuates.
How and why did you start working as a sex worker?
I started as a full-service sex worker in 2005, when I immigrated to the United Kingdom, I guess it was easier to become a sex worker when I removed myself from my normal context, away from question asking friends and family. I had dabbled as a topless waitress in the summers whilst I was an undergrad in the mid 90s but that was my experience with the sex industry until I arrived in the United Kingdom. I initially worked for an escort agency called Northern Star but that lasted about 4 weeks as their work practices were questionable at best, then I found myself in a relationship and ceased working. In 2008, I returned to sex work but this time as an independent practitioner and this coincided with me going freelance as a photographer, the sex work I rationalized was a security blanket in case the photography caper did not work out. It was a simple as buying a copy of the TNT magazine, flipping to the back and finding the advertisements. Going independent was just a matter of finding the websites I could list myself on. I stopped for many years as felt it was not for me and did at times have inner conflict about what I was engaging in however my views and circumstances shifted and I returned to it in 2010 seeing 3 – 5 clients a week, whilst I studied for my Masters’ Degree, it was my only source of income. I found that difficult as there is a fine line between only seeing the clients you want to see and needing to see clients to pay your bills. I did not really enjoy the first few years of sex work, I had played what I thought the whore role was and as a result attracted clients, who conflicted with my values and beliefs, and this at times resulted in the potential for conflict, so in 2013 following reporting a client for stalking ( he was subsequently convicted of other offences against sex workers and now sits on the sex offender register) I completely changed my approach in a targeted effort to attract my ideal client base and it worked, the quality of my clients shifted literally overnight. Most of my clients now, are they type of men I’d date and who share life experiences and value, men in their late 30s and early 40s. This is one way to avoid conflict because with conflict comes the potential for violence and frankly, I do not have the inclination to be involved in violent confrontation. Many will dismiss this as the arrogance of privilege as I get to select my client base, but it really is nothing more or less than a small business knowing it’s target market. I apply the same principles to my commercial photography work.
Do you want sex work to be decriminalised?
That's a two fold answer. For my own current work practices, decriminalisation will not change my work practices, (nor would the Nordic model it has to be said) as I currently operate well within the current legislative regime, and if ever on a future occasion I find myself needing to operate outside the confines of the law for safety purposes, then I am not one to let state legislation get in the way of what I do with my own body and my own safety however just because the current legislative framework works for me, does not mean that I am so arrogant to suggest that this is best practice for all sex workers nor am I suggesting that I have not suffered stigma, been a target of vile whorephobia or a victim of crime as a result of sex work laws and attitudes in the United Kingdom. I advocate for decriminalization for sex workers across the globe not because it will undo the whorephobia I have endured and the crime committed against me but rather it will reduce the stigma for others and make work practices safer for those coming into the industry and for those who the current legal parameters are woefully inadequate underpinning this is my absolute resolve to shift the political landscape of sex work by challenging the notion that people think, when viewing sex worker imagery they are looking at something they know, all Whoretography is asking is, for people to give up their predefined concepts of sex work and start looking at what you truly see then perhaps the decriminalization of sex work will be possible.
thought I would give you an update of the Whoretography going ons.
I got accepted into a PhD at a central London based university, my research will be a continuation of the Whoretography project, I will post further details once I have completed all the required paperwork and whatnot, I am due to commence in January 2018.
Whilst here, in Australia I will be starting work on an academic book - I am designing the cover and will be working with someone who has a very personal connection with sex work. I will be flitting between Melbourne and Adelaide to get this done.
I have been invited to speak at the Stigma, Discrimination and Sex Worker's Rights conference in Wellington on the 22nd of February. Details to follow, if you are in New Zealand, you are more than welcome to attend, it's a free event.
I need to thank the person who donated a Lenovo laptop, it was a massive help for my PhD interview, THANK YOU! and the person who sent me scanner after I mentioned I found some vintage transparencies of sex work, THANK YOU! Also, thank you to the peeps who have donated via GoFundMe and Patreon.
I have added a rejections page to the Whoretography website to highlight all the mainstream places the Whoretography project has been rejected from in my quest for funding.
I am being interviewed by a journalist for an online art and photography publication, this is a wonderful opportunity to take Whoretography out of the sex work and academic community and kick it mainstream.
and on a personal note, I forgot to mention in this blog post that I am archiving and digitising my Dad's photographs, negatives and transparencies from his service Malaya & Vietnam 1963 - 1968 and this includes vintage photographs of Honk Kong. There are 1000s of photographs and I hope to have this finished within 3 months.
Thought I would give you a brief up date of what I have been up to as I know it has been a bit quiet on the blog lately and my twitter feed is awash with sarcasm, summer antics and not much photography talk. I finally finished the MA (at last), handed in dummy versions of the books in May and graduate in October. For those of you who would like to know, I got a First for my dissertation that asked the question "Is it possible to reclaim the word whore through creative practice as research?" but that does not mean it is the end of Whoretography - oh no my peoples, this is only the beginning. This is now my passion, my photographic purpose that I will do along side my commercial work, this matters to me.
This is what I have been doing:
In response to the unfolding scandal involving photographer Insuh Yoon I have decided to create a commercial photographer section to the Whoretography website to help navigate the internet in finding a trustworthy sex worker friendly photographer. This section will include;
If you want anything else added, then just hell out. This is very much a work in progress and I am doing this out of pure rage at the stories I have been told re Insuh Yoon and photography is my thing, so this is my way of giving back to the sex worker community and well, fuck that arsehole!
Here you will find the details of photographers who shoot commercial visual (image and film) content for sex workers. Whilst I am a photographer myself, I do not currently offer photographic services to sex workers. The photographers on this list have been recommended by sex workers, I need at least 3 positive recommendations before I will add a photographer to the list, please note that I will not list photographers who self recommend or sex work clients who have decided that the are emerging photographers.
To recommend a photographer, please provide the following information:
Photographers Business Name
Telephone number (if applicable)
A few words about your experience with this photographer, not just about the quality of the photos but the quality of the overall experience
You can let me know this information via DM on the twitter @Whoretographer or by way of email, please use firstname.lastname@example.org for now.
I am taking a bit of a break from social media for the coming weeks. I envision it to be six weeks, but we will see how long I can go for without engaging in sarcastic Twitter banter. I can give up sex and cocaine, affairs with handsome bourgeois married men of Battersea but I am not sure if I can give up the Twitter, even for a brief time. We will see. I will occasionally be tweeting from the wonderment that is TweetDeck about the books and magazines. Sorry, I feel dirty saying this, but I need to schedule my tweets in advance, the Twitter equivalent of faking perhaps. I apologise for my lack of spontaneous tweeting. I apologise for the lack of sarcasm in the coming weeks. I am sure it will come back with a vengeance and a hefty dose of wit, honesty and sarcasm come May.
Whoretography has morphed into something more than what I could have ever imagined it to be. It has gone from an off the cuff (I should say off the pillow) remark post fucking Steve McQueen when it dawned on me that I wanted to photograph him naked. Photograph us naked together. Somewhere between realising I was in the business of a photographic conspiracy in which my camera was acting as an agent for the falsehood of couple cohesion and intimacy, and the idea of documenting paid-for sexual intimacy (okay, mainly with a married Steve McQueen) as the antidote to the visual falsehoods of wedding photography. I remember it like it was yesterday but it was not, it was sometime in 2014. I quipped that he could call me the Whoretographer and three years later, here we are today.
It is now the reason I have to take a break from social media for about six weeks. There are many things I need to accomplish;
I still very much need your help and support, and you can be a champion of Whoretography in many ways. Come with me and join the creative resistance in the fight for sex workers' rights.
You can be a part of the creative resistance by;
Thanks for reading me and many thanks!
I will start by saying that the audience of this book is not sex workers nor is it really about sex workers. It's about a carefully curated selection of whores, who somewhere along the narrative, in the eye of Julia Fullerton-Batten lose the status of a prostitute and transcend to that of the desired model. I should say the white model which is comical given an article in Huck Magazine about The Act begins with the line the sex industry in 2017 is as diverse as ever, but you'd not know it from this book. This book is all about white toned skinny modelesque whores with token women of colour thrown in for political good measure.
The Act is no different from other photo books that depict sex workers. They are never about sex workers nor are they intended for the viewing of sex workers. The Act is a visual expression of how a non sex work photographer views whores and the validation of an already existing worn out photographic gaze that falls upon the bodies of sex workers. A gaze perpetrated by photographers who seem to think photographing whores is some pinnacle of visual expression that will eventually bestow the photographer with accolades for creating art from the bodies of a marginalised group. Sorry, but to me c'est passé!
So, if this photobook is not for sex workers then who is the audience? Well, to me. That is obvious and should go without saying. Fullerton-Batten's book The Act is for the eyes of men only. History is littered with a visual representation of sex workers created for the titillation of male eyes only but I am no Whorestorian though, see Whores of Yore for that expertise. The intended male only audience and well, to be honest, everything about this book makes me question the role the photo book plays in the ordinary lives of sex workers. The role they play in the fight for rights. This is not a critique of the images, though. They are stunning, cinematic, quirky, dark and as Fullerton-Batten says herself they are playful and somewhat sexually charged. I'd expect nothing less from a collaboration with Vogue Italia but I can't be the only one who sighs at yet another photographic essay of naked topless sex workers. Legs spread. Mouth open. Tits on display. It's not to say I have an issue with nudity, it's to say I have an issue with the reductive view of sex workers.
The stunning photographs are independent and interdependent, the way movement flows through the book is a stroke of creative genius and the haptic experience of this book, the highly sexualised tactile sensation is key to its success, and here the heterosexual male audience comes into play.
The Act is described as;
Generously sized, beautifully printed, hand-crafted, sumptuously bound in a soft material flesh-like to the touch, and embellished with a lace garter, the book is a dream for collectors of fine-art photography.
They only way to interpret this is, The Act is a dream for men. I imagine the removal of the garter, the touching of the flesh, inviting you to enter the book, exposing the photographs is akin to the feelings of fingering a woman. I need not have to comment re the reference to being generously sized. I'm not convinced nor am I impressed. This presentation plays straight into the argument of a whore as an objectified sex object and what seals this book's fate in my eyes is the comment made by Fullerton-Batten herself “Although it’s not a choice of career that I would make" Well, why the hell not? Fullerton-Batten is that far removed from women who are sex workers that it has clouded her photographic output. If, as a photographer, you can't imagine yourself as a whore then you have no right or place to be photographing whores. This renders The Act, in my opinion nothing more than high-end fine art wank material.
It's difficult to pinpoint where exactly Whoretography began. I had been a wedding photographer for some time and had grown increasingly frustrated with the lack of critical thought in the wedding industry. It was evident from the beginning of my photographic career that I was never going to fit in with an industry that expected photographs to conform to a set of predefined photographic wedding rules. The rules conceived so long ago that asking the simple question of why do wedding photographers shoot the way they do was routinely met with the answer we are wedding photographers, it's what we do. I was never comfortable with that dismissive approach to wedding photography and sought a greater understanding of my craft from a theoretical perspective.
So, I began wondering about what was the actual role of wedding photography. Was I reflecting reality with a creative edge? Was I part of a conspiracy of intimacy in which my camera was acting as an agent for the falsehood of staged love? Was I in the business of creating photographic bullshit to help husbands and brides to be to convince themselves of couple cohesion and family unity?
These thoughts would swirl around my head at ceremonies and receptions. Consequently, my work took on a more rebellious edge; I started to challenge the conventional norms of wedding industry as I steered away from soft hues and romantic presets to dark imagery that began to make a social comment about marriage, feminism and the illusion of togetherness. I was subconsciously producing advant garde imagery that reflected the internal conflict I had about being a wedding photographer. Had I sold my photographic soul to a £6 billion a year industry and will my photographic archive only consist of marital photographic fluff?
Something had to give. Then something did give. I got outed as a sex worker to a wedding magazine editor, and all hell broke loose. A horrendous time of business loss, homelessness and an 18-month bout of vile whorephobia followed what was an exceptionally painful and challenging period in my life.
When I came out the other end, I was more determined than ever to be the type of wedding photographer I wanted to be. At the same time challenge convention and well, to be honest, stick a cheeky fuck you two finger salute to the people in the wedding industry who took offence to a whore in their midst. It was irrelevant that I was an award winning, published photographer who'd shot magazine covers. There was no way a clique of bloggers and editors with their cliched wedding ideas and apparent rock n roll approach to the industry was going to welcome a whore.
So, I did it without them. Fuck 'em!
When I was rebuilding my photographing career, I returned to sex work and committed the cardinal sin of falling for a devilishly handsome married client. Within three visits we'd stopped using condoms, within four he'd stop paying and then what were monthly visits and became weekly trysts. So, this is part two of how Whoretography began.
I had a longing to document the sexual encountersI had with that Battersea Bourgois married man. To photograph that connective (what felt like MDMA-inspired) Friday morning fucking that we enjoyed. A desire to shoot that feeling of how deep he was inside of me, photograph our hot entangled bodies, to photograph that look on his face as he convulsed beneath me as he came. To capture it all before we royally fucked up by making a baby.
Our affair exists now to me only as a stash of Polaroids secreted away in an innocuous metal box in my studio along with the ultrasound scan of the baby we lost. A baby who like our affair ended up as just a collection of photographs.
It's this belief that we all end up as a collection of photographs that made me, as a wedding photographer, question the role photography plays in creating the illusion of couple cohesion and marital intimacy. Made me explore the role wedding photography plays in creating the falsehood of togetherness. That happily ever after we chase. If wedding photography is a grand illusion of intimacy, then my thinking was documenting a recently married man with a sex worker is photographic proof absolute of the lies printed on the pages of wedding albums.
My married lover was my muse - well he was until he left me while I was miscarrying. Married in July 2013, he came looking for me in November of 2013. I was interested in photographing that rapport and alchemy that was absent from his marriage. Not alchemy with a husband and wife but with man and whore.
I am fascinated with documenting human connection, the courtship rituals within the confines of payment. Lovers and friends but within the boundaries of a commercial transaction.
I want to photograph the genuine intimacy married men seek out of their marital beds. I am fascinated with the hidden worlds of husbands. Steve McQueens ( I called him Steve McQueen because he'd show up riding his motorcycle, travelling all the distance of 7 mins from his home to mine), His role of the husband, was a source of fascination to me, as was his role of lover.
Moving forward, I approached a university with the idea of documenting paid for sexual intimacy as the visual antidote to the false visual intimacy of wedding photography. Whoretography has since morphed into a Masters Degree in the field of digital photography and creative media arts. It's avisual platform at the intersection of images, technologies, society and the sex worker rights movement. It's a combination of cyberethnography and visual research methods. It's an independent publishing and activist platform.
It'scalling into question the role imagery plays in the online transaction of sex and marriage. Whoretography IS the first academic, ethnographic and creative platform dedicated solely to understanding the role photography plays in sex work.
There are no methods to my photographic madness (madness is probably not too strongly put) I am a little nuts bonkers when it comes to cyber ethnography. I am an obsessive hoarder of pictures. If only I collected lovers the way I collect photographs. Editor as Author. Creative Director. A photographer not using a camera. A collector. A curator. I've plundered the depths of the internet; I can't unsee shit, torn out images from magazines, spent money I do not have on books. I like to create order with typologies. I rescue images from the chaos that is the collapsing digital archive we call the internet. I am obsessed. Whoretography is a compulsion, an addiction, a love letter to prostitution, a rebellion against brides. A fuck you to a lover who left me; it's the moment we change the way sex worker imagery is understood forever.
You can buy the Whoretography magazine for £3 via the Whoretography shop on Blurb as a PDF or an e-magazine as of Wednesday the 11th of January. I will post the link on Wednesday morning. This edition is not suitable for printing (the photographs are low resolution, purposely so), subsequent editions will be sold as limited edition hard copies also.
The aim is to make the magazine a quarterly publication but given this edition took me 5 months it make take sometime before it comes to fruition ...
I don't normally do this, talk about non sex work, non photography stuff on the blog but I wanted to give a shout-out to a friend of mine who has been a massive supporter of Whoretography since before, well before Whoretography was just a random post fucking idea I had whilst staring at a naked sweaty Steve McQueen.
As a freelance photographer, I know running a small online business can be a ball buster, so I wanted to give a shout out to my friend who has launched an on-line Vap Store and to be honest, I am not sure what goes better with fucking than smoking (okay, vaping)
Please follow him on the Twitter @OnlineVapeStore and visit his store here If you want more information just email him ... email@example.com
and in the spirit of changing the visual landscape one awesome photograph at a time, be sure to enter competition via the Twitter Who sends in the greatest picture of vaping in London #theonlinevapestore #londonvapers. The winner will receive a great selection of random prizes from our store to enjoy.
Many thanks, go forth and Vape peeps.
Whoretography scored a nice blog entry as part of the Beyond the Gaze Project , you can read the blog post here. It's a redacted version of the one that I'll publish in the Whoretography magazine https://www.beyond-the-gaze.com/2016/11/17/false-photographic-consciousness-the-visual-war-on-sex-work/
Here is a snippet ....
The prohibitionist visual portrayal shapes everyone’s understanding of the lives and bodies of sex workers. It's that; we must challenge and call out. A new interpretation of sex worker imagery can change the visual landscape that forms the political and social views that rob so many of us of autonomy. Change what people see of sex work, and we change what they understand.
People’s perception of other people’s experiences is informed by the images they see, so it's unsurprising prohibitionist picture selection always drums out the victim narrative. Except Rachel Moran, because Moran thought it fit to sell a harrowing tale of a working class girl abused with a fashion inspired photograph airbrushed and photo-shopped to boot. I believe they are not aware they are doing it, a false photography consciousness. So blinded by their visual rhetoric they believe it to be the obvious visual truth. This denial is handy if you seek to indoctrinate people perversely with their not so subtle attempts at visual rhetoric.
I thought it time I printed business cards for Whoretography since I commence a speaking circuit of sorts in December. The image is classified as a found image. One of the hundreds of found polaroids ofwomen who auditioned to strip at a club in the 60s and 70s. The polaroids bought for $10 and came with a box of 400. Despite the gentleman paying for them, he does not, in fact, own the copyright, that belongs to the original photographer and since he or she cannot be found, the images are classified as found photographs and can be registered pursuant to the Orphan Works legislation for commercial use.
Donating to Whoretography (https://uk.gofundme.com/w-tography) helps me to register these images as Orphan Works.
How much for that dead whore in the window?
No bloody idea to be honest but if you ask Mouvement du Nid I'm guessing a badly edited over photoshopped mock dead whore shot is a must have for the prohibitionists for profit these days. If pimps apparently profit off the prostituted then prohibitionists profit from death and questionably choice in editing. Trigger warning; the photo editing is woeful, can't believe these muppets won an award for this photographic nonsense.
This is an extract from an article to be published soon. The tame version to be published on an academic site and the more passionate I blame you people for the murder of prostitutes, I'm not letting you off the visual hook version in the magazine. If their intentions were not so vile, the editing would be laughable. They don't look dead they look liker they need B12 injections and a bit of sun.
The French anti prostitution organisation Mouvement du Nid, created a fake escort website (http://girlsofparadise.sex) with the aim of deterring men from paying for sex. The site a perfect example of why the dead whore is such a powerful visual marketing tool. Mouvement du Nid argue they are fighting violence against sex workers by using violent images, completely oblivious and ignorant to the way photography gives justification to the violence Mouvement du Nid claim to want to stop. So ignorant, they celebrated upon being awarded a prestigious advertising award for doing nothing more than promoting a stereotype. For an organisation that claims to save sex workers, an image of a dead prostitute is essential for bringing in cash donations.
The uncharitable bastards at the Salvation Army also understands the financial benefits of maintaining the visual status quo. They were forced to make a public apology after sex workers complained over the representation that vilified them as bad mothers. Although the Salvation Army issued an apology over the offensive material, and lacked the photographic balls to use the dead hooker look, other campaigns that visually depict sex worker as hapless deviants continue to form part of their fund raising strategy. Perhaps, one should ask them how much for that dead whore in the window? No, that is not a rhetorical question, as I'd love to know the amount of money a dead hooker photo is worth in so called charitable donations.
My apologies for the blogging silence of late but I have now returned to blogging on a regular basis. Thought it would be best to list what I am working on in addition to the academic requirements of a practice-based MA (writing my dissertation and completing the 5/6 books)
So, this is what is happening with Whoretography
Whoretography began because I had a longing to document the sexual encounters I had with a married man. That connective (what felt like MDMA-inspired) fucking that we enjoyed. A desire to photograph our entangled bodies before we royally fucked it up.
Whoretography has since morphed into a Masters Degree in the field of creative media arts. It's a visual platform at the intersection of images, technologies and society. A combination of cyber ethnography and visual research methods. An independent publishing and sex work activist platform.
So this is a side project of mine not directly related to Whoretography and my MA but it stems from the number of unsolicited penis photos sent to me via my MA website. There have been more than a few. Thanks, but no thanks. Not sure what offends me more. The state of hygiene these days (soap peoples) or the appalling quality of men's photographic abilities.
Then I got to thinking. What would happen if I started curating these images? So I did.
Whilst bed bound post miscarriage I started to group together (so to speak) random male appendages. I want to turn these visual tools of male aggressiveness into photographic social commentary via a digital & physical book. A book form with an emphasis on the photo-book as an exhibition space looking at the visual maleness on the internet.
Why not use these poorly lit and badly focused cock shots as a social comment about the aggressiveness of men via a visual medium? A photo-book mock the cock if you will. The use of photography and satire to make a point about random penis and the sharing of imagery.
Why the fuck not?
So I am in the process of curating a book. Any suggestions on a title is welcome ... no really, tweet me!
Just so we are clear!!!
I have never solicited nude photographs as part of this MA and at NO point in time have I EVER requested random penis photos from strangers on the internet. So what better way to challenge this anonymous hyper sexualised aggressive behaviour by publishing them as a fine art book that takes aim at what frankly men should be aiming elsewhere other than my inbox.
So, I relish in the fact that the Orphan Image (Works) Legislation permits me to use any image I like for commercial purposes just as long as I have made reasonable attempts to find the owner of the image. So listen up! To the men who have sent me unsolicited cock shots. To satisfy legislative requirements he is my reasonable attempt at finding the owner of this images.
Dear random anonymous dude,
Did you send me an unsolicited photo of your penis in the last 18 months because I am going to use these unsolicited images for commercial purposes. If so and you don't want me to use them for commercial gain, please come forward and claim your cock shot.
Thank you random dudes.
My book at the moment is a little short and well, not as thick as I would like it to be. Size matters in publishing . Its all inches and diameter. So if you are a sex worker and have had the unfortunate experience of receiving unsolicited cock shots, please send them to my via DM or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Men take note, if you send me cock shots, I will publish them with your email addresses. I really just want the cock shots that have been sent to sex workers.
Massive thanks to sex workers once again and average (in some cases less than average) thanks to the men who have already cock shot me.
Are you a customer of escorts/sex workers who advertise on line or via apps? Do you purchase webcamming services? Are you a customer of a professional dominatrix?
Please Help Us Out & Contribute to an important study on internet based sex work
The research project ‘Beyond the Gaze’ is the largest study to date of internet based sex work and is being carried out by an experienced team of researchers at Leicester and Strathclyde Universities, who have many years experience of carrying out research with people working in adult services/sex industry including their customers. It is a legitimate and important UK wide study which is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and is exploring the use of online and digital technologies in the sex industry. Go to our website to find out more about the research and the team who are carrying it out http://beyond-the-gaze.com/ As part of this research we are seeking the views and experiences of customers through an online survey which should take no longer than 10 minutes. This survey is designed for customers of all genders and sexual orientations. The survey does not collect any identifying information, it is completely anonymous, has permission from the University ethics committee and we work within strict ethical guidelines to protect the privacy and anonymity all people taking part in our research.
Please go to the survey at the following link;https://leicester.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/customersbeyondthegaze
The survey is open until 31st August 2016. We’d really value you input! Thanks for considering this and hopefully for taking part.
If you would like more information about the survey or the project please feel free to contact: Professor Teela Sanders on email@example.com
Whoretography scored a mention at an international conference on media and communication held last Saturday. Whoretography was discussed in relation to sexual marketing on the Las Vegas strip. Some of the points raised were the dangers of the continued use of the hyper-sexualised images of sex workers that lead to violence and stigma and that sexual marketing is about the spectacle, the illusion, the mirage of sex and very little to do with actually selling sex.
Whoretography began because I had a crush on a bloke. Yup. No surprises there.
It's all because of a man. Well, not entirely but he was at the beginning of my Whoretography thought process. His penis was inspired. In more than one way. I wanted to photograph him naked. I wanted to photograph us naked. Mostly I wanted to photograph him naked whilst he was fucking me. I had no intention of sharing the images with anyone except him. I had no idea how I was going to hold the camera. I wanted to chronical us together and then tuck the photographs away in a box on a shelf next to the one marked Summer, Paris 2008. He was that glorious belle époque age of a man, 36. There is something incredibly sexy about a man at that age. He just happened to be very photogenic. Naked in my bed and a willing co-conspirator.
What started out as a post fucking (literally) idea in 2014 has evolved into something somewhat remarkable. We can all thank a certain strapping gentleman for that. I was laying next to him one morning and just blurted out I want to photograph clients and sex workers together. It was at the start of our sexual obsession with each other. I did not have the balls to say I want to photograph us fucking. To bold perhaps. Instead, I said I want to photograph clients and sex workers. I quipped that I'd call myself the Whoretographer. We laughed. He left and I thought to myself, well actually that's not a bad an idea.
We did, of course, experiment with photography during the course of our over sexed, ill-conceived and entirely selfish affair. He would agree and beg to be photographed. Mainly whilst drunk. Sexting me from his £1.3 million marital Battersea abode. The baby asleep upstairs. A whiskey in one hand. His cock in the other. On more than one occasion he would come over and find cameras bracketed to the bedroom wall. That night on that couch will always be a grainy set of prints.
I wanted to capture the authentic intimacy we had. That undeniable connection of two strangers taken out of context. Plonked naked next to each other for two hours every week for 3 years. I was over shooting weddings and wanted to shoot him.
To understand wedding photography you need to understand one thing. That you are creating the illusion of happiness, the falsehood of togetherness in one breathtakingly stunning set of images. Photography as an agent for the illusion of intimacy.
If wedding photography is the illusion of faked intimacy then the antidote to that surely was to photograph married men with sex workers seeking the authentic intimacy that was faked in their wedding photographs. Sounds logical to me.
End of part one.