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Julia Fullerton-Batten, Cathy Keen, Lapdancer, 2016, cprint, 40 x 54"

My most recent projects have involved social commentary on various aspects of past and present society. The role of the sex industry in today’s society and sex-worker rights have been heavily debated and disputed in recent years. The content of these often heated discussions have interested me and I finally decided to take on the challenge of building a project around the work and lives of young women engaged in the sex industry. As a fine-art photographer and despite my own personal open-mindedness, I approached this particular project with some trepidation as I knew it could be controversial and, in some respects, overstep the boundary between erotic fine-art imagery and pornography. The project is comprehensive and includes main images of the women ‘at work’, personal portraits of each of them, a video and written ‘stories’ of their lives built up from my interviews with them.

 

I selected 15 women for the project. In total, they cover a wide range of the activities associated with the sex industry. All are proud of their bodies and have chosen to use their physicality to make their living. Some freely admit to have had physical enhancements so that, in their eyes, they are more physically attractive to the audience or their client. During my meetings with them I soon found out that they live only in the present and think very little of their long-term future. Their day-time hours are spent as if they are constantly exhibited on a stage. Some are single, others, for me unbelievably, are in relationships. Some are brazen, others palpably very vulnerable. It is these nuances of conviction and inner conflict that I hope to have captured in my images.

 

I chose to create mini-theatrical sets as backdrops for the main images. Each setting is relevant to the woman’s profession. I also mounted the sets on a stage in order to heighten the illusion that they are ‘performers in real life’. I deliberately lit the scenes to heighten further the enigmatic nature of their acts, representing them as split second filmic recreations of their lives. I asked my models to pose or engage in their acts as they normally would – sexy and playful, but also provocative.

 

My ladies have chosen a way of life that could, perhaps, be considered extreme, or at the very least, brave. Maybe some of them entered into it by chance, but seem now to be glad that they did. Without exception, all claim to be happy with their lives and what they are doing to earn a living. I have concentrated on bringing the stories of each of them to life, both visually and in text. They are honest and personal narratives of 15 young women from an extreme segment of today’s society.

-Julia Fullerton-Batten