photography

We travel in the same universe; we exist on different planes that intersect through her husbands' nakedness.

A regular client for me is someone who has been seeing me for years; there are too many to name, too many to remember in one sitting, there indeed are a select few who have been seeing two or three times a month, every month for years. Men who have transcended the status of client and landed firmly between my legs like a lover. Men who still pay because money keeps sex civilised, bounded. Respectable. Men who occasionally forget to pay and pay me next time because a blissful just fucked state makes me absent-minded. Some men who no longer pay but gift me thousands of pounds here and there.   Men, I imagine illicit affairs with. Men whose cum I want dripping out of me.  Men who know everything about me, and I know everything about them, names, lives, travel schedules, where they got their last tan from. Men who set up appointments through their work e-mails and e-mail me when I'm away asking when I am back. 

Men who have watched me have a crymax post fucking as I settle and crumble under the pressure of being a whore and an academic. Men who know how to fuck, the men I authentically fuck. The real wetness and orgasms, the boundary exploring, the intimate connection that hobbyists try to haggle for but never get. The sore knees and displaced hips.  The Battersea set I call them.  Educated, smart, intelligent, tall, trustworthy men. Well travelled, accomplished,  come complete with a family and a Battersea mortgage. Handsome. So fucking attractive, really bloody handsome with majestic cocks and astonishing abilities to fuck and drip sweat onto me.

Our lives are intertwined, whether we like it or not. Sexually and on social media, so it came as no surprises that one of my weekly husband's wife popped up and followed me on Instagram.  I'm not worried, these things happen, and with the interconnectivity between our offline and online selves I am genuinely not surprised at all. Why would I be? I've been looking at her timeline, admiring her constructed visual marriage. We frequent the same places. Dine at the same eateries, fuck the same man, the children all swim at the same Clapham Common paddling pool which is opposite my apartment, where her husband comes to fuck me.  Not sure it's jealousy, ambition to be the next Mrs or an inquisitive nature that makes me keep looking at her photos.  We travel in the same universe; we exist on different planes that intersect through her husbands' nakedness.

What is interesting though, are the dates on the photos.  Two weeks ago a certain Battersea set gent asked if I'd mind flying to Sicily for a quick 24 hours of sun, fucking and passport control. Paid, of course, I did not doubt the genuine nature of his offer, and I liked the idea very much of taking off at Gatwick and having him wait for me.  I suitably declined and rationalised it by prioritising PhD deadlines over a penis. The end of it, so I thought. No. He came to me, and I thought nothing of it. He left his holiday, flew back to London, fucked me for five hours and then flew back to Sicily.  I know he did this, not because he told me he did, but because a photograph posted to her timeline that came with a  comment that they were having a lovely time sans so & so who had to dash back to London for work. 

Through her Instagram feed, I see him in his natural state. Adoring father, middle-class traveller, comfortable lifestyle, attentive husband. Quirky dresser.  I know better though, know better to believe the visual lies and narratives we tell ourselves through Mediterranean filters, a tilt-shift blur and the hashtag of #happilymarried

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Research Participants ...

I am undertaking doctoral research that is providing a critical analysis of the way full-service sex workers use photographic self-representation in online spaces.

Doctoral Research

To civilians situated outside of the Institute of sex work, the posting of visual content by sex workers on social media platforms may appear to simply be the posting of pornographic content in order to attract male buyers of sex, the danger in categorising the photographs of sex workers posted online as nothing more than sexually explicit marketing content is that it leads to the misunderstanding of complex intentions as to why full-service sex workers post self-portraits and portraits online rendering sex workers vulnerable to online censorship and persecution by those who seek to deny sex workers the right to participate in online visual platforms.

The visual stereotyping through art, media and cinema acts as a blindfold that enables people to forget that sex workers are individual human beings like everyone else. Through my research,  I wish to provide an alternative visual discourse that challenges that response to the visual landscape of sex work that sees sex workers as ripe for ‘rescue’.

I am looking for sex workers with current or past lived experience of full service sex work who would like to participate in my research endeavour, Whoretography: Sex Workers as Image-Makers. There are many ways to be involved, from being interviewed to submitting photographs or just putting into words the way you use photography.

Get in touch if you'd like to know more!

You are more than welcome to follow (sex workers only please) to follow my doctoral research twitter account: @Whoretography

Read the research website: www.sexworkersasimagemakers.squarespace.com - please note that this site is password protected, for the password please contact me. It is due to go live at the end of June.

If you enjoy my writings about photography then please support my doctoral research, thank you!

Ask Yourself One Question ...

To understand the originality, the urgency, the significance, and the potential impact of my doctoral research on our understanding of the visual culture of sex work, you need to understand four things, I want you to imagine for a moment that;

1) photography has been a key advertising tool in the transaction of sex since the inception of photography in the 1800s. In 1883, The Pretty Women of Paris guidebook for English Gentlemen was published. The guidebook was the historical precursor for the modern digital sex worker website, like websites, the guide provided textual descriptions of the services provided by the sex workers and more importantly, a series of photographic portraits of the sex workers selling sex in Paris at the time

2) that photographic depictions of sex workers began appearing not long after the art of photography was born. That there are a plethora of photographic works of art that exists of sex workers as the subject matter and there is a massive complimentary body of academic literature that critically comments on the sex worker as a photographic (as well as media and cinematic) subject matter.

3) that there is also a plethora of existing research that uses photography as a tool to understand the lived experiences of sex workers. Photo-voice, photo elicitation and participatory photographic research methods are well documented and well used visual research method for academic scholars to engage with sex working communities.

4) that sex workers sex workers have been selling sex online since the 1990s, that the sex worker self-portrait arose from technological advancement and social media and although the self-portrait has always been present in art (primarily made by men, through men and for men), self-generating visual content by sex workers themselves has been a part of selling sex since the 1990s. Stored digitally and distributed instantaneously, sex worker self-portraits on social media platforms are now commonplace. Contemporary sex workers are in control of their photographs, this is in marked contrast to the 1980s and early 1990s when men controlled the visuals of sex work.

Now having imagined all that, I need for you now ask yourself one question;

Why in the 180 years since the inception of photography, and with everything we know about film theory, photographic theory, female representation, the male gaze (the female gaze), the impact of digital technologies, the online censorship, the hostile oppression faced online by sex workers and not to forget all the heated and highly contested feminist and political debates that rage around sex work, why WHY am I the FIRST and ONLY visual arts-based (or any other type of academic for that matter) academic that has ever critically examined the way sex worker visual depict themselves?

I need your help in funding my ground breaking original research into sex workers as image-makers and help me make academic history by being the first person to publish research into the way not how others depict sex workers, but the way sex workers depict themselves.

In addition to the research, I am also creating:

*A safe space on the internet to discuss sex worker imagery free of hostility, stigma and shame.

*The whoretography review of sex work photo books and projects with an emphasis on challenging hegemonic photographic representations of sex industry participants in the media and arts.

*A list of sex work arts-based research projects that use photovoice, participatory photography, photographic essay or photo-elicitation to study sex work communities.

*A living document detailing global photographic projects that depict a vast array of experiences within the sex industry.

*A reflexive and reflective blog documenting my doctoral research.

*A platform to promote the photographic work of current or former sex working photographers and visual artists.

*A best practice photographers guide for current sex workers that promote safe, professional and ethical photographers.

*The publication of a magazine dedicated to the discussion of contemporary and historical aspects of the visuals of sex work.

* A publishing house dedicated to the publication and promotion of Whoretography books.

*The design, print and promotion of sex worker zines and photo books.

*A bookshop of second photobooks, zines and photographic magazines the sale of which will help fund the Whoretography project.

*A program and workshop that enables individuals exiting sex work to develop the skills required to pursue a photographic career in creative media arts.


If you enjoy my writings about photography then please support my doctoral research in photography

Visibility, connectivity and men who pay for sex.

I have an article due out in March so just wanted to share the submission I pitched. I have tweeted about this before and received mixed responses, in part due to the fact I’ve not explained the methodology behind my madness but also because I imagine looking at the visual aspect of sex buyers can be somewhat confronting.

So, here is what I pitched. It forms the basis of an article and a forth coming book due out in March …

How do we visual depict men who pay for sex? Why is there a scholarly silence on the visual aspects of clients of sex workers despite men buying sexual services online since the mid-1990s. Why do we, as academics and visual artists rarely consider the photographic representations of men who pay for sex online? Why do men get to remain relatively unlooked at and unseen in the transaction of sex?  In a digitally networked world where players in the sex industry construct visual narratives about themselves through the creation/construction of a self-image, my submission seeks to decontextualise these images by reaching into the circulation of these images on social media and grabbing visual fragments of the lives of men who pay for sex and then using these visual fragments to construct a visual landscape of sex buyers.

With this paper I seek to address the photographic imbalance in the visual representation of sex industry participants and seek to explore ways art and research can investigate, present and represent the photographic landscape of sex buyers.  In this digital age of gendered experiences on social media, men, the sex buyers can lurk anonymously on the internet without suffering the same level of harsh critique as female sellers of sex.  

My submission explores the connection between the photographic identity that sex buyers construct through their WhatsApp profile photographs, visibility, connectivity and men who seek sex online – the inter-connectivity of the photograph used to construct on identity on social media in their everyday life that is also used to arrange illicit sex in exchange for payment. Working with photographs collected through cyber-ethnographic methodologies my submission addresses the ways of re-imagining visual user-generated content of sex buyers to challenge the visual stereotype sex industry participants.

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A Review: Modern Whore

Modern Whore is a sharp-witted, brilliantly shot, visual take on contemporary whoring in North America. Andrea Werhun and Nicole Bazuin are a talented artistic duo who, perhaps without intending to, have redefined the genre of sex worker created photo book and set a new benchmark in the visual portrayal of sex workers.   To dismiss this book as some sort of middle-class porno-doco that ignores the grim reality of sex work with block colours and humour is to miss the fact that these very block colours and photographic wit, kitsch feel and photographic social commentary is a revolution in the way the sex worker story is visually told.  It is to miss the intelligent use of visual storytelling and quirky pop cultural references and use of visual wit in slapping down the patriarchal notions of sex work review culture.  Make no mistake about it, this photobook is clever and to be honest, I can’t recall the last time a sex work book referred to Mary Tyler Moore, can you?

Every facet of this book has been created with meticulous thought.  I’ve always thought that the natural home for a photo is in a book. When asked about why a photobook, in this age of digital distribution, why put yourselves through the editorial hell of a creating a photo book, this was photographer Nicole Bazuin’s response “The printed book has a certain significance, especially these days, partially because it suggests that the content inside merits the expensive process of creating a physical object in which to house it. The luxury of a printed book is increasingly evident as publishing moves online and into e-books. Creating an artful, printed book is intended to elevate the project and support the central aesthetic theme in the book of high vs. lowbrow. For instance, Andrea could find herself working in a 5-star-hotel one evening and a mouldy basement bungalow the next. She held the ‘respectable’ position of university educated office-worker by day and the ‘role of whore by night. It’s that duality of sex work and the ironic tension of feeling both empowered and oppressed by her work which supported our choice to present a bold book within a classy format.” I find myself asking who amongst us has not had sex in a mouldy basement bungalow? and with that thought, I knew that Modern Whore transcended just a book of photos.  I knew this book was not JUST another photo book of a hapless hooker sitting in a brothel with a collection of used sex toys on display. This book is smart. Modern Whore redefines what is expected from a sex working photo-moir.   This is not just another photo book by a photographer who goes out of their way to mention that just because they photograph whores, they could never imagine themselves being a whore.  No, this is a photo book shot by a woman that knows sex work, that explores the theme of whoredom in our modern culture and its rich spectrum as a compassionate outsider.

In the opening section of the book, Bazuin points out that she photographed Andrea in a powder pink and blue Britney Spears inspired “baby whore” look that accompanies the story of first entering sex work. She goes on to say that indeed, pastels are not a colour palette that’s synonymous with sex work, but the aesthetic of a sexualized teen Disney pop princess in the context of opening a visual conversation about female sexuality and money seemed fitting. That section includes a William Blake verse Andrea quotes about a virgin goddess plucking a flower, and so both the visuals and text establish female virginity, loss of innocence, and virgin vs. whore as early motifs.

With that level of understanding about whoring in the modern era, it comes as no surprise that the bold red hue wrapped around the cover and author/cover girl Andrea Werhun is absolutely a reference to the Sex Worker’s Rights Movement, specifically to the symbol of the red umbrella which represents sex worker solidarity - rights movement but it is so much more than that. When asked about the use of red, Bazuin said “The seductive associations with the colour red also symbolize the relationship between unconventional sexuality and shame. Shame is a theme Andrea explores throughout the book - her own shame, and the shame of others that is thrust upon her. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter an adulteress must wear a scarlet ‘A’ to mark her with the shame she is meant to feel. In the Bible, the ‘scarlet woman’ is another name for prostitute.”  That comment alone gives you a sneak peek into the intelligent thought process of this legendary duo and is a lesson in feminism and body politics; “The relationship of the colour red with femininity is also of interest: red lipstick, red blood, red roses. The beauty and horror of womanhood. A dangerous lady-in-red femme fatale on a pulp novel. On our cover, Andrea poses coyly with a subtle she-devil smirk below the very un-subtle title of Modern Whore. She meets the viewer’s gaze and opens the book by presenting beauty, humour, and self-awareness. She’s oozing glamour as she embodies the trope of the ‘cover girl,’  the confident woman sashaying/shante-ing (™ RuPaul) in a tight red dress with her hair blowing in the wind machine. It’s like a Cosmopolitan magazine stripped of its sex-tip taglines. I’ve also heard that cover girls in red dresses sell more magazines, so there’s some sales strategy happening there, too.”

What is not to love about the creative juicy fruits of this powerful collaboration; a meeting of remarkable creative minds, their jaw-dropping honesty, their refreshing spin on the polarised body of the whore and therein lies the problem with Modern Whore. If you have an issue with sex workers being seen as smart, sassy, hilarious, free thinking, free-spirited characters and well, let’s be frank: as human beings then you are going to hate this book.  Totally hate it, but you’re going to have to get over it because this visually ground-breaking work gives a verbal and visual lashing to the shame that underpins sex work stigma, violence and the radical feminist abolishment movement and does so with a hefty amount of humour and pop culture. In this book, they have managed not to reproduce a politics of pity, an ability that seems to elude most photographers these days.  A politics of pity which is rehashed and played out in endless photobooks that give the audience a voyeuristic glimpse into the daily life of a hooker, the sad life of a 19th century fallen women who happens to be whoring in the 21st century. The image of the prostitute has become an icon in the cinema and media landscapes, and it is factual to say that the use of comedic wit and hilarity is something not usually associated with visual depictions of sex work, that is until Modern Whore.

They are quick to point out that credit must go their book designer, Laura Rojas.  Who, without doubt was bang on brief in what Andrea Werhun and Bazuin wanted Modern Whore to be; “We approached Laura to design Modern Whore with some specific considerations: the book must be readable as a novel while balancing the use of photographs presented as illustrative art. I wanted the book to feel visually engaging without verging into a magazine feel. There’s a touch of the spirit of the ornate typefaces, and prismatic colour palette of 1970s Playboy magazines stripped down and streamlined to feel fresher and more timeless.” When asked if the natural flowing movement of the book was intentional, Bazuin goes on to say that “Laura’s effective use of block colours is absolutely meant to add movement and flow and to relate to the colour palettes associated with the corresponding portraits.” Modern Whore is not the first book to employ this tactic of leading the reader through the book with block colours; it is, however, the first time I can recall that it has been done with a book about sex work. Bold colours are in stark contrast to the muted tones of despair and violence that surely must come with any photographic spin of sex work; you will not find 1970s California cinematic or pornographic grainy presents in Modern Whore, that editorial cliché seems beneath this book.

What is lovely about this book review, is that by interviewing Bazuin she gave me an insight into the way the book evolved, about the interconnectivity of photography and text.  “The stories and the photography for the book were interconnected in our vision from the project from its early stages. Andrea had exited the industry and was living and working on an organic farm, and I took a bus to visit her. Hanging out in her farmhouse bedroom, she shared some of the first rough writings that became the seedlings for her stories in Modern Whore. It was on that trip that I began photographing Andrea for the first time. We both love vintage ‘60s-’70s era Playboy mags, and we started musing about making our version of Playboy as if it were run by the bunnies. Visuals would be integral to the project to shift the perception of sex workers, and Andrea would create writing based on her experience.  At that time, Andrea wasn’t out publicly, so we were finding creative ways to explore the idea while being ambiguous as to whether the stories were her real-life experiences.”

Then Andrea decided to make a brave, bold move and out her self as a sex worker.  The impact of being an “out” and most importantly a “face-out” sex worker was not only the bravest thing a sex worker can do, but it was a stroke of creative genius.  The resultant shift in focus from concealing Andrea’s identity to celebrating it sent this book off on a tangent of face slapping honesty, authenticity and originality.  “When Andrea eventually decided to come out, we were able to approach the work as a more straightforward memoir, and I committed to illustrating it entirely with photographic portraits. I wanted to explore the idea of creating erotic imagery with conceptual meaning to reference and reimagine the aesthetics related to being a ‘modern whore,’ i.e. a contemporary woman making money off of her sexuality. So with the portraits, I was inspired both by exploring Andrea’s experiences specifically as well as how the themes fit into a larger thematic framework. The function I envisioned for the photographs was to be as evocative as a beautifully illustrated storybook, helping to stimulate the reader’s imagination as they experience the stories. The visuals and text can be stand-alone pieces of artwork to an extent, but I do think they benefit from being incorporated together.” 

Bazuin is a talented photographer, an accomplished visual artist and storyteller.  She possesses an innate ability to create photographs that are as much challenging to view as they are alluring.  Indeed they are thought-provoking, evocative and I imagine difficult viewing for men who pay for sex.  Firstly, the lack of nudity in abundance will no doubt render some clients confused as to the whereabouts of the obligatory tit shots.  The lack of the bog standard unrealistically posed image of sex worker bent awkwardly over kitchen island whilst baking a cake, drinking a martini and simultaneously masturbating while wearing nothing but a pair of Louboutin’s will undoubtedly make people question if indeed they are reading a memoir of a former whore.  That may be a reductive view of men who pay for sex, but it’s not far off the mark for the men whose self-indulgent one side penchant for sharing sexual encounters on online forums has been a staple on the online sex work world since the mid-1990s.  

There is no disputing men who post comments online forums are engaging in misogynist bantering.  To me, reviews are nothing more than an online pissing contest between men about their sexual prowess and a one-sided version of the sexual encounters that have. The danger of review culture, of course, is that the men get to lurk anonymously in the shadows casting disparaging comments about the visible bodies of sex workers without having to share with the world their flaccid and inadequate failings. Modern Whore’s take on review culture and the rapey nature of some of her clients is done so in a series of truthful, raw, cutting and frankly, bloody hilarious slap downs of some of the men who abused and reviewed Andrea during her days of bedding men for money. It is poetic justice. Describing a rapist as coming out of the bathroom wearing a terrycloth dressing gown helps shove these men and their rapist tendencies back to the 1970s, as does the newspaper black in block the story is printed on and the seedy night car shot that immediately follows the story. These men’s outdated bedroom attire is matched by their obsolete version of masculinity and attitude towards rape which controversially is matched by the 1970s, and 1980s feel of some of the images.  Enter the Mary Tyler Moore connection.  Only a pair of sharp-witted women could challenge the misogynistic review culture with such piercing painful accuracy as a swift kick in the nuts, and her responses will make you rightly cross your legs, cringe and laugh at the same time.  They are polite when the refer to the written johns-cums-fantasy reviews as imaginative, I’d be more inclined to describe them as total masculine ego-driven and a hint of resentment about having to pay for sex bullshit, but this is not my book.  Fortunately for you lot, Werhun’s gift of language is brilliantly spot on. Says Bazuin “It’s a delicious combination to present the fan-fiction-esque yarns some very imaginative clients had posted online on escort review boards of their appointment with Andrea, followed by her own account of the session, the ‘Modern Whore Review.’ Andrea’s responses to these ‘hobbyists’ are cutting and hilarious especially because of how intensely they contrast with what was presented in the original reviews. For instance, one client had described the sex in great detail, when in fact, they’d never actually had sex in the appointment. Visually, I wanted to play with the idea that each of these johns-cum-fantasy writers perceived Andrea through their unique lens. The campy, candy-coloured portrait series transforms Andrea based on the men’s description of her. For instance, we took the comment that she looked like “Mary Tyler Moore with slightly bigger breasts” all the way, even having Andrea’s hair chopped into a flippy bob to assume the role.”

Slating review culture with campy, candy-coloured portraits is the best response to review culture I have seen to date.  Slating men for being fanciful dicks who are a bit haphazard with the truth online and rapist pricks is not without consequence.  I worried if in writing this book, if in outing herself as a former whore she had opened herself up to backlash; “In terms of potential backlash, we talked through it with each other before publishing the material, and we felt that those men had chosen to post reviews of Andrea’s performance and in the same spirit, she had the right to share her own account of the experience. The larger significance is to highlight review board culture and demonstrate how one must question the validity of what they’re reading, and when girl’s careers hang in the balance, Andrea wanted to make the point that the threat of a bad review could be used as leverage by a hobbyist to pressure a girl to perform outside her boundaries. Beyond just the reviews, Modern Whore, in general, is about Andrea presenting her story, with the hope that sharing her experiences and perspective can make a positive difference towards the safety and respect owed to sex workers.”

An artistic licence is one hell of a tool to take aim at the controversial aspects of the sex industry and men who pay for sex. Modern Whore reads like a feminist manifesto. Bazuin describes it as the whoring version of a Trojan horse; “On the surface, there’s an overt, erotic aesthetic that may catch the eye and quicken the heart, but I’d like to think that the book can poke holes in the stereotypical views of whores in a way that allows Johns to see the humour and ridiculousness of those tropes and laugh along with us”  Assuming men who pay for sex can indeed find the hilarity in what they do, and for me, I could not think of anything more ludicrous that plonking two strangers together, naked for an hour or two, surely only comedy and hilarity would ensue, but then again maybe that is  just me, Bazuin went on to explain that if men are; “Feeling called-out by the book ultimately depends on the client. If a john reads Modern Whore and sees his own behaviour reflected in the problematic men depicted in the book, then he must question and hopefully correct his actions. I think those clients who are respectful, and kind will feel that their proper conduct is applauded”

The genius in Modern Whore is it uses photography in the way that has never been used in a sex work photo-moir before. It is artivism, feminist visual activism that challenges the visual landscape we have become so accustomed to viewing. The hooker leaning in the car shots, a skeletal drug-addled woman sucking a johns cock while holding her baby or the enslaved woman in chains is not the visual truth of sex work; No matter how much radical feminists want it to be, It’s visual rhetoric at best.  “With the use of photographs, sex work becomes more visible, and that’s important when shining a light and confronting assumptions about an underground job in which whores and johns operate in secret. Art also offers a degree of ambiguity and personal interpretation that is part of why it’s so valuable. There’s an undeniable brashness about some of the images, yes, but I also think that people will also see them in their own way and have their own unique associations and sensations in response. A space for reflection, to spark conversation, and offer a different perspective is some of what art can offer towards challenging problematic depictions and treatment of whores.”

I cannot find fault with Modern Whore. Not in its design, execution, it’s message or its method, if you have not read Modern Whore then you are missing out on clever photographic innuendos littered throughout;  “The photographs that get the strongest negative reaction are the images of Andrea posing as ’Carrie Kardashian’ with a bukake cum facial subbing in for pig’s blood. The photos are based on the infamous prom queen crowning scene from Carrie but with Andrea in Kim Kardashian-esque styling, and since they accompany a story called ‘Holy Ho,’ it felt appropriate to replace the bucket of blood that’s dumped on Carrie by her haters with semen instead. The shots represent the shame and stigma that society dumps on sex workers. The image is polarising. The reactions we’ve received range from repulsion to laughter, to an appreciation for the aesthetic beauty of the photograph. What I also find interesting about the cum-whore facial shots is how subversive and sexually charged they are while containing no actual nudity. It’s just Andrea’s face. And, in a broader sense, it’s Andrea showing her face that’s one of the most provocative components of the photography, because of how vulnerable it is to be out and visible as a sex worker.”

It is these not so serious photographs that challenge the seriousness of the issues surrounding sex work. “ The playful aspect of the photos is disarming because it allows them to connect with a viewer in an endearing and unpretentious fashion. Provoking a laugh and stimulating arousal are both powerful effects to have on a person, and they rely on a keen understanding of human nature. We’re imploring the audience to connect with Andrea through her humour, her sensuality, and ultimately her humanity. We’re inviting the viewer to laugh, to be turned on, and to be entertained as they learn, and it’s in that engaged state that people can be open to seeing things in a new way. For instance, one of the pinup-esque photographs would at first glance be an eye-catching erotic image of Andrea, but in addition, it’s meant to satirize the components of creating an erotic image while also allowing the viewer to imagine themselves in her position. The audience is presented with two parallel readings: one of Andrea as othered and objectified, and one of Andrea as a relatable protagonist and storyteller. In this way, a pinup can become a seemingly not-so-serious entry point to questioning the erotic imagery we encounter and to perceiving the humanity and nuance within sex work.”

I’m a harsh critique of sex work photo-books, contemporary photographers who latch on to the edginess of otherness without really knowing sex work or understanding sex workers.  What sets Modern Whore apart from its counterparts has to do with the fact that the depictions draw from Werhun’s personal sex work experience and are grounded in that truth, and therefore the imagery doesn’t get stuck in a stereotypical mode. The result is multifaceted, both through Werhun’s range of experiences and the range of representations and styles explored visually, “the thing about my gaze as a photographer in this project is that I relate to Andrea in many ways. We’re close friends because we appreciate each other’s sense of humour, intellect, and creativity. So, my photographs in the book are from the perspective of knowing and connecting to Andrea as a person foremost, and sex work was her job.”

You will realise that upon reading Modern Whore that it is the manifesto for change we have been waiting for.  For Bazuin as an ally and an artist looking in on sex work, she’d like her photographs of Andrea and their collaboration to help advance the depiction of sex workers, and to contribute towards a standard of image-making that abolishes exploitation and lifts up female creators. The only thing I can add to this is that they have set that standard exceptionally high, and rightly so.

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About ...

I am a Commercial Photographer and Creative Director of the Whoretography Project. I hold a B.Sc (biological science) from La Trobe University, a post-graduate diploma in criminology from Melbourne University, a Masters Degree in Photography and Creative Media Arts (Distinction, First Class Thesis) from LSBU and I am currently undertaking a PhD in Photography. I am interested in the way marginalised communities use photography in online spaces as a tool for visual activism and political change. I have extensive experience in self-publishing, photo books and zines both as a creative practice through and creative practice as research.  Further to this, I have interests in contemporary photography with an emphasis on theories of the author as editor and exploring issues related to politics, sexuality, surveillance and identity that are part of contemporary online photography.

Driving my doctoral research, developed through my own career as a documentary photographer, and my lived experience as an artist is the wider implications for the way other stigmatised groups exist online. It is hoped that those labelled as marginalised can harness the power of visual self-depiction as a tool for visual activism, by challenging prevailing ideologies of stigma, to act as catalysts for political change and exist online free of hostility, stigma and shame.

The Name:

Whoretography.  It's brutal, right? I am sure it seems counter intuitive to use the word Whore in light of my expectations about the use of appropriate language surrounding sex work.   I am mindful that it is viewed just as a smart play on words. An advertising slogan for commercial purposes.  It started out as just the name of a photo-book but  now is a public declaration of sorts against the linguistically disproportionate language used to label women who work in the sex industry and the role photography plays in the online sale of sex.

The Whoretography Project:

*A safe space on the internet to discuss sex worker imagery free of hostility, stigma and shame.

*The whoretography review of sex work photo books and projects with an emphasis on challenging hegemonic photographic representations of sex industry participants in the media and arts.

*A list of sex work arts-based research projects that use photovoice, participatory photography, photographic essay or photo-elicitation to study sex work communities.

*A living document detailing global photographic projects that depict a vast array of experiences within the sex industry.

*A reflexive and reflective blog documenting my doctoral research.

*A platform to promote the photographic work of current or former sex working photographers and visual artists.

*A best practice photographers guide for current sex workers that promote safe, professional and ethical photographers.

*The publication of a magazine dedicated to the discussion of contemporary and historical aspects of the visuals of sex work.

* A publishing house dedicated to the publication and promotion of Whoretography books.

*The design, print and promotion of sex worker zines and photo books.

*A bookshop of second photobooks, zines and photographic magazines the sale of which will help fund the Whoretography project.

*A program and workshop that enables individuals exiting sex work to develop the skills required to pursue a photographic career in creative media arts.

Exhibition ....

This is just a quick and brief post to introduce a central London exhibition I will be a part of in March 2019 (9-17), the exhibition at Ambika P3 forms part of my doctoral research activities at the University of Westminster in Central London and will take two forms; an exhibition and an evening event/talk/saloon.  It will serve two purposes; to formally introduce my research to sex workers, sex work activists, academics and allies and to explain the hyphen in my research title, Whoretography: sex workers as image-makers, a critical analysis of sex worker auto documentation in online spaces.  Sex workers as image-makers, in which photography functions as a hyphen in the sale of sex, sex work activism and feminist and political debates.

Hyphen?! confused? I am aware that this post marks a change in the tone of my posting, for those of you who are unaware, I am undertaking a visual arts practice-based PhD. 

I am part of a caucus group of doctoral researchers tasked with the creation of a new art journal, the theme of the journal is Hyphen, we are launching this journal with an exhibition at Ambika.

We were led to the idea of the hyphen as a conceptual frame by the initial question of how and when to expose research as art, and how to exhibit this coherently in a group show with such diversity of backgrounds, interests, cultures, media, etc. In this we are inspired by the writings of Erin Manning (2016), who in The Minor Gesture reflects on the in-between that connects, but also separates, negates, exceeds, explodes, the two terms that make up research-creation (the Canadian equivalent for practice-based research):
The Hyphen.
The hyphen is non-binary, multidimensional; a link, a gap, a joint, a hinge, a line, a break, a mark, an opening, a void: an indicator of a series, of a “yes, but also…”, Crucially of a more-than. The hybridity of the mark of the hyphen in the affirmative requests a cognitive leap: an addition, a multiplication even. It revalues, and it challenges. This is what our modes of practice that inhabit, overflow, interrogate and antagonise the institution also do. As ‘practice-led’ researchers, we are in a critical and precarious position that challenges ‘normopathic’ (Guattari) conceptions of knowledge and its production, consumption, locations, etc.
 

We mean for this to be an exciting moment - and needless to say, I am excited about this. Excited about presenting sex workers as image-makers as research in progress, eager to take sex work activism and research into the art theory realm, to be part of an exhibition that is alive and challenging to ourselves, our participants and our guests.  We want to challenge the institution of the university and the gallery/museum space by unfolding its limits/restraints and finding ways of inhabiting and exceeding it as a collective body or a collective of bodies. We wish to have an exhibition that shares our work as creative research, and that also speaks to our broader community in London

There will be security at the event.  It will be filmed and photographed as part of my doctoral research project, it goes without saying, but the primary emphasis of this event is about photography and photography as the multidimensional; a link, a gap, a joint, a hinge, a line, a break, a mark, an opening, a void in the sex work stage.

Dazed & Confused

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.

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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.

Update ...

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. 

Long time no post.

Hello!

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: 

  1. Hand delivering box orders, if I have not got to you yet you will hear from me on Sunday.
  2. Applying for PhDs - currently waiting to hear back from a few universities. 
  3. Updating the rejection page on the website to list all the mainstream places Whoretography has been rejected from - the list is long my friends.
  4. Ironing out a few kinks and quirks with the commercial photographer's list.
  5. Finalising the dummy books to get them to a stage I can present them to publishers
  6. Arranging exhibitions andinstallations influenced by the work of Christer Stromholm who once said, that his images of prostitutes as being“about insecurity… about humiliation… about the quest for self-identity and the right to live” (Vaillat, 2017). This coupled with the notion that “the book is the natural home, and the best showcase for photographers, because of the nature of the medium itself, making a photobook by virtue of the fact that it requires the selection and sequencing of a number of photographs, gives meaning to the photographers work.   The photobook allows the photographer the potential to tell a story, the possibility of constructing a narrative.”
  7. Heading to Australia to design a book cover for an academic publication and to work with an amazingly inspirational woman whose daughter was a remarkable person.
  8. Working on edition two of the magazine and submitting the original edition to competition for self and independent publishers.  AND FINALLY
  9. The matter ofInsuh Yoon,  I have written an article about him and sought some legal advice prior to publishing, as soon as I make the required changes we are good to go.

 

Commerical Photographers List

 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;

  1. A list of sex worker recommended photographers by country/county/state, I will only accept sex worker referred photographers. No self referrals, photographers need to earn a place on the photographers list.
  2. A list of photographers to avoid based on intel received from sex workers and that includes photographers who operate perfectly respectable business on the surface but pack a hefty dose of whorephobia into their camera bags.
  3. Blog posts about copyright and other issues when it comes to booking photographers
  4. Blog posts from sex workers regarding their experiences with creating their visual marketing.

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!

Add Recommended Sex Work Photographers

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

Photographers Name

Photographers Gender

Photographers Website

Email Address

Telephone number (if applicable)

Twitter Handle

County

County/State

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 missclairekeeler@gmail.com for now.

Come with me and join the creative resistance in the fight for rights.

Hey All!

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;

  • Finish writing my dissertation (crikey!)
  • Finishing the books for the MA (double crikey!)
  • Compiling the box sets and orders to send them out.
  • Arranging a Whoretography Exhibition
  • Re launching the bookshop
  • Redesign of the website to move it from a creative practice asresearch platform to a commercial self-funding visual activist and book publishing platform.
  • Applying for PhDs
  • The never ending quest to find funding.

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;

  1. Following Whoretography on the Twitter ( find us on facebook too!)
  2. Buy a magazine, a PDF, an e-book or physical book.  Everything is printed in-house (or via blurb) and is sex work positive.
  3. Comment on blog posts, retweet where you can.
  4. Donate if you wish by way of gofundme, bank transfer or Bitcoin.
  5. Submit content and send me examples of where the media betrays sex workers by the visual rhetoric they circulate.
  6. Send me suggestions for books to review for the Sex Worker Review of Books.
  7. and anything else you can think of!

Thanks for reading me and many thanks!

Sex Work Photo Book Rewiew Julia Fullerton-Batten's, The Act.

 

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.

Vape I say ...

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 ... info@theonlinevapestore.co.uk 

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 update

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

  1. Launching the Whoretography Magazine, a quarterly e-magazine dedicated solely to the discussion of sex work and photography.  Subsequent editions will be available as hard copies.
  2. Maintaining an internet presence via the website, blog and twitter accounts. I deactivated the Instagram account as not sure of its direction, and the Twitter account is locked due to a few people thinking its acceptable to spread whorephobia.
  3. Set up a Gofundme account for those who wish to support Whoretography anonymously www.gofundme.com/w-tography
  4. Publishing a book of anonymous found sex worker polaroids
  5. Photographing the cover of a sex work academic book
  6. Writing for the Beyond the Gaze research project
  7. Preparing to speak at an academic conference in January (will publish details soon)
  8. Preparing to speak at a well-known chain bookstore details to follow as soon as I have more information.

Project Mention.

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.

Showing Prostitutes The Green Light To Leave ...

I have seen a lot of disturbing content in the last 18 months.  I am sure you can imagine.  I don't need to show the graphic examples.  Everything from child abuse victims to privileged white women dragging out images of so called prostituted ethnic minorities reminiscent of saving the natives colonialism.    

I have seen it all.  I thought I had seen it all.  It saddens me that I have to write this post. I was actually filled with rage when I saw the image in question.  I am a vocal opponent of the commonly used police tactic of using forced portraits of sex workers.   Its an effective strategy for the continued oppression of sex workers and lets be honest,  nothing convinces the middle class masses they are safe more than a photograph of police in action.   I am continually amazed  at the ways state agencies wield photography to degrade sex workers and how the general public suck this up as proof absolute of effective policing.  

The mass circulation of a  photograph of a vulnerable woman being arrested makes the chattering classes of a  neighbourhood undergoing gentrification feel less vulnerable.   Picking up the human filth from the pristine over priced streets. The illusion of safety.  The propaganda of gentrification.  Police view sex workers as devalued commodities and  extend this commodification to their visual representation.  When a sex worker encounters law enforcement they are robbed of their photographic representation, ownership transfers to the state. These stolen images subsequently  inform the social landscape influencing draconian legislation that renders the sex worker dehumanised. 

A few weeks back Hackney Police - Brownswood SNT circulated a photograph  to 5000 residents.  The photograph depicted an easily identifiable vulnerable member of the local community being arrested for street walking.  The police made no efforts to conceal the woman's face. Why would they? This was an ideal public relations moment for the Hackney Police.    The photograph was accompanied by an article proudly boasting of moving these degenerate prostitutes out of the neighbourhood.    If this is Hackney Police taking a holistic approach to sex work  then I'd hate to witness the inhumane approach.   

I am grateful that Hackney Police do not carry guns given how unethically they wield cameras.

The photo is below.  I have crudely edited the women in question out. Took me less than a minute. If only Hackney Police payed the woman the same courtesy. There are other ways to visually demonstrate a crack down on prostitution. I am at a loss to think why the go to image was one of shame.  They effectively outed a sex worker to 5000 residents.   

I find many aspects of the publication of this image questionable.   Not sure what bothers me more. The blatant lack of consequential thinking on behalf of Hackney Police or the gleeful shaming of a sex worker.  It reminds me of a hunter holding up the dead bloodied carcass of his unfortunate catch.

 

Images have a traceable life path.  All Images are networked.  This image will never be out of circulation. Despite Hackney Police deleting the offending image, the photograph  is now on a journey.  It will proliferate online. Delivered to new viewers via social media platforms. The transmission and reception of this image is now unstoppable.  Hackney Police have robbed this woman of her photographic agency for a cheap publicity back slapping stunt.    In poor image selection, Hackney Police have demonstrated their pathological disregard for the safety and well being of sex workers.  The journey of this ill conceived photograph will be endless and will continue long after this poor woman has been forced out of her community. 

I've printed it. Its pinned to my wall as a daily reminder as to why photography matters in the fight for sex worker rights.  

 

 

Paradigm Visuals

Regrettably due to recent personal circumstances I will no longer be speaking at this event.

I have been asked to give an informal talk at the Paradigm Visuals Event to be held at London South Bank University.  This is very much an event for undergraduate students to show case their work and and its an honour to be invited to speak at an event curated and organised by a group of talented photography undergraduate students. 

Paradigm Visuals is an undergraduate student-led photographic research programme with a focus on photography, exhibiting and publishing based at the School of Creative Arts, London South Bank University, UK.

From May 23rd – 27th Paradigm Visuals occupies a pop-up photobook space. The group undertook a 12 weeks research project exploring self-publishing as a means of approaching photography in the materiality of the book. 

Please go to their individual websites, and pay attention to their work.  You can find links to their websites on the Artists Talks page.

Photography & Book by Amy Warwick - http://www.amywarwick.com/

Photography & Book by Amy Warwick - http://www.amywarwick.com/

You can register for the event here https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/photobook-pop-up-shop-tickets-25533812320?ref=estw

I will be speaking on the subject of browsing and walking as photobook research methods and will discuss my belief that its imperative that photobook research material be included to form part of the final body of work.

Regrettably due to come recent personal circumstances ( just see my twitter feed if you are curious)  I will not be selling the books at the bookshop but will have sample copies available for viewing and discussing.