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 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.