"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.