sex work stigma

Remembering April Brogan ....

"To them, she wasn't a woman, She was a prostitute."

This is April Brogan. I love this photograph. The effortless simplicity of it. The beauty in our fleeting lives. The everyday ordinariness of it.  A fleeting moment captured.  Happiness that her children will be able to witness.  Photographs alter in meaning when you have a parent die when you are a child. Trust me, I know.

This is how April's family wanted her to be remembered.  Much different to the way the state of Florida would have her immortalised.

 

I circulate these images not to use death for publicity. Although, showing prohibitions the consequences of their fear mongering does pack of powerful visual punch on the twitter. It creates a discussion.   I have for 10 years been working as a commercial  photographer, I understand how to edit and curate images for maximum visual effect but I also have great fears about the capacity of the internet to be archival. The internet is not timeless. It is not an archival body of work. It has no stable properties that render images safe.  Images will be lost. Images are being lost. Constantly.  Peoples stories misplaced in a digital dark age that has rendered photographs more fragile than ever.

The photographs of deceased sex workers who have been killed by stigma are more fragile than ever. Buried in the internet. People don't go looking for them. Lost souls.  Imprisoned in the depth of a vision machine that will spit out their mug shots as a cautionary tale for good women contemplating going bad..

I am constantly bemused by the prohibitionists who dismiss the relevancy of photography to the sex work debate yet drag out images of the prostituted to tug at the heart strings and help fund the rescue industry. Journalists and book peddlers like Melissa Gira Grant who does not like to be called out when pro sex work feminists talk about selfies but fail to mention the underpinning photographic theory of the selfie.

 

Cleary, she does not understand photographic technique either. Over exposed photographs are a bit of a photo faux pas.

April's photograph resonated with me.  In fact, her photo caught my eye because she looks remarkably similar to a friend of mine. From a photo album circa 1994 and my first days of university. April's beaming promising smile could belong to that of my best mate, Kelly. The difference is of course, my friend Kelly is a stay at home mum and April, another unexplained death of a mother in jail. Well, we know that's not that case because if people could see April beyond her work as a sex worker then the death of this women would be worth investigating.  A mother dies in Jail and no one seems to care "To them, she wasn't a woman, She was a prostitute."

But its not my mate Kelly. No body likes to see sex workers smiling and happy. Nobody wants to believe sex workers can be loving caring mothers.  We all have a vices and ways of self medicating but that does not excuse the avoidable death of a women who happened to be a mother and sex worker.

 

She looks like a wonderful mother.  Her child looks loved and very much wanted and cared for. Daytona Beach Police had other photographic ideas though for the way she should be remembered. April Brogan, a 28-year-old from Palm Coast, Florida, and a mother to two young children died in custody after being arrested as part of an anti-prostitution sting, she was charged with "aiding/abetting/committing prostitution." and died in custody after they failed to provide her with adequate care and supervision.

This is the way Daytona Beach Police would have you remember April Brogan, and people wonder why I am so passionate about challenging the visual representation of sex workers.

Remembering Hanna Karim - murdered by prohibitionist hate.

Warning:  Images of graphic violence are at the end of this post. I have included them after much deliberation and internal moral conflict but believe them to be necessary to the story of sex work stigma.  I use them in the correct photographic context. I do not believe them to be gratuitous.  If you disagree, please feel free to comment.

This Masters Degree has broken my heart on more than one occasion.

I cry more often than not. More often than the sarcastic banter on the twitter will lead you to believe. I cry at the socially acceptable violence that is committed against sex workers and then the victim blaming that follows. I cry at the self serving agenda of the moralistic who seek to have sex workers trapped in violence by state sanctioned draconian legislation.  I cry at the violence of sex worker imagery spread by prohibitionist hate mongers.

Photography is an agent for body political change weaponised against sex workers. If we don't start calling out prohibitionists on their use of photography against sex workers then sex work stigma will never end. 

I am 100% committed to having Whoretography as a platform for visual activism, my way to actively protest for legislative change. I know sex work and I know photography. I know how to question images and photographic theory. In this digital age, the message lies not in the photograph but in the transmission of the image. We need to disrupt the flow of sex worker imagery from the hands of prohibitionists. They are controlling the visual message.

Daily I read prohibitionists lambaste sex workers for photo-shopped images and accuse the falsely labelled privileged of creating a fakery and a falsehood of the perfect world of sex work.  One which apparently is masking the prostituted reality via one photo shopped image at a time.   One may suggest they are gentrifying sex work in a photographic photo-shopped conspiracy to hide the prostituted reality prohibitionists  believe to be truth.  Yep. its a pimp my photo conspiracy.

Sex workers are a photographic voice not welcomed on the internet by the very same women who alter their visual self representation on line.  Smells like visual prohibitionist hypocrisy to me. Yep, blatant prohibitionist hypocrisy.  Imagine that. Now let me explain in terms of photographic theory.

Follow enough anti sex work people across social media platforms and you see them doctoring their images. The filtered Instagram image is a phenomenon that has changed the visual landscape of the internet.  Allowing prohibitionist women to alter their self representation  without appearing to be vain or lying by manipulating an image through photo-shop trickery. That's what whores do after all.  A more honest way of creating visual dishonesty.  Photoshop is for whores lying about being prostituted.   The Instagram filter is attempt to make the lives of the antis appear visually special,  add an aesthetic beauty to the ordinariness of reality. To convince others their lives are better that yours, better than reality, better than the Photo-shop lying whores they are rescuing.  

It goes beyond a photo filter though.

All prohibitionists have profile photos on Facebook, a twitter handle image. A visual expression of identity, a form of digital self representation,  a visual performance at tricking the world to seeing you the way you want to be seen. Much like a married man who convinces the world he is a happily married man but his Facebook profile is not of a family unit. Its a self portrait that omits the other half of his apparent happy marriage.   A careful process of culling,  photo editing and selecting.   Sounds like photo-shopping to me.

So, in my journey to challenge the visual antics of the antis I stumble across images that are just gut wrenching. A direct consequence of the hate generated by the visual myth of the prostituted woman.  If men perpetrate the violence against sex workers its female prohibitionists who create the platform for the violence to flourish. What's not to love about exclusionary feminism and their photographic manipulation.

This is Hanna Karim murdered by prohibitionist hate.  She is the consequence of the visual hysteria whipped up by the anti sex work industry.

She was slaughtered on 12th July 2014 along with 27 other men and women massacred in an Iraqi brothel It would be easy to dismiss this as an act of sectarian violence in the Middle East. It would be easy to suggest they deserved it. Prostitution brutally inhumanely massacred them but as it was so eloquently described on Myth Buster this is the consequence as prohibitionist hate speech. 

As far as I see it, they were murdered by the visual war raged by prohibitionists that seek to represent sex workers as disposable worthless bodies worthy of the violence that becomes them.