I would become a sex tourist. While I might not be sold on his methodology, or the images that it has produced, I utterly agree with Schafer on the decriminalisation of consensual sex work. And honestly, not all people are interested in the process of authoring their own visual story. It is one thing to photograph someone, but working together to make images is a process that draws on an entirely different set of skills not least of all potential compromises in visual language, and the increased investment in relationship building. I mention my period of study only to point out that I have had the luxury of many years to think about alternative structures of documentary photo-making and experiment with structures of authorship. Many do, as financial help has been pouring in for the Bangladeshi national. It was an attempt to distribute authorship to people who would usually be the subjects of images. As a freshly graduated photojournalism student she was casting around for the kinds of stories she wanted to tell, and decided on sex work.
My observation of street-based sex work, over months of getting to know women who work in that section of the profession, is that each and every single person who works as a sex worker has their own unique experience and reflections on the industry. Many do, as financial help has been pouring in for the Bangladeshi national. But for the American man who travels to the Dominican Republic to photograph and fuck women of colour, working in collaborative ways may have addressed some of the deeply problematic power imbalances inherently present in those interactions. I know it is difficult, but I have the will to study. I mention my period of study only to point out that I have had the luxury of many years to think about alternative structures of documentary photo-making and experiment with structures of authorship. That is, I believe decisions are best left in the hands of the people who actually work in the industry. And it seems odd that the work got to publication without being challenged on this point, especially in an industry governed by peer review. If Amnesty International is advocating that sex workers should use their individual experiences to collectively influence policy I am resolutely for it. The anti-trafficking charity Prerana — which runs a night shelter for the children of sex workers — has record I want to give credit to Schafer where it is due, for attempting to find his own methodology of making work, and for moving away from the disingenuousness of documentary — in which photographers rarely reveal the compromises and flaws of the process of making work with people. Los Angeles-based photographer Scot Sothern has been making photographs in a similar fashion for a very long time. Remember mid-day's front-page report on a sex worker rescued from Pune, who had written a letter to the PM, requesting help in converting her Rs 10, in old currency notes to the new ones? I accepted the offer. It was an attempt to distribute authorship to people who would usually be the subjects of images. In order to photograph the dancers at The Lusty Lady club in Seattle, Langley spent six years as a peep-show dancer there. Red Light Dark Room invited women to participate by telling their own stories in image and interview. In this instance, having already committed to an alternative approach, asking the women how they wanted to be photographed, rather than merging the image making with a sexual and financial transaction may have facilitated a more revealing series. While I might not be sold on his methodology, or the images that it has produced, I utterly agree with Schafer on the decriminalisation of consensual sex work. Soft Skull Press, This period of research has allowed me to write about my theories before I throw work in the world for my peers to discuss and dissect. Pete Brook, editor of Vantage, saw it and offered to copy-edit it and push it out under the Vantage banner. Schafer is making a refreshing choice in revealing his process, but credit for candour only goes so far. As a freshly graduated photojournalism student she was casting around for the kinds of stories she wanted to tell, and decided on sex work. What this focus on the social and relational aspects of picture making has ultimately meant is that I have moved from being a photographer to a photo-based collaborator. Duration is critical to understand how to move beyond speaking on behalf of people Langley, for example, worked on her project for six years , and no one gets it right the first time though many of us fervently try to sweep those preliminary missteps under the rug. But this is the thing — feedback aside, most of figuring this out is time.
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