American Sex Worker, Lindsey Weiss Photographs reproduced with permission, copyright remains with Lindsey Weiss.
“I was interested in thinking about how my body, as a stripper and cammer, is disseminated through a variety of digital lenses imposed by my audience and my clients. It becomes an almost Frankenstein-like assemblage comprised of the ideas that my viewers have about it. Particularly as a trans and disabled person trans.”
Visual representations of sex workers that appear throughout art history are well documented in the academic literature. Debated, and censored sex workers depicted in art have been done so for a variety of reasons, with changing cultural attitudes towards sex work, styles and artistic mediums, visual depictions of sex workers in art have changed over time. With the advent of digital photography and the internet, photographs of sex workers have left the art world and are now accessible in people’s homes. The figure of the female sex worker features heavily in cinema and media. Representations of sex workers who lapses into narratives of pity are heavily portrayed by contemporary images of sex workers. These visual portrayals have typically been created by non sex working individuals and this situation has created a voyeuristic gaze that depicted sex workers either as hapless victims or as complicit harlots upholding the social structures that underpin patriarchy. This narrow visual portrayal of male oppression reproduced a politics of pity and has resulted in a hegemonic visual representation that encourages the sense that the only way of interpreting the lives of sex workers is to see them as ripe for ‘rescue’.
Camille Melissa graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in sciences from La Trobe University in 1997 and with postgraduate studies in criminology from the University of Melbourne in 1999. After a successful career working in community-based offender rehabilitation programs she resigned from criminal justice to pursue a less institutionally defined career as a photographer. In 2017 she graduated with a Masters Degree in photography from London South Bank University, her thesis focused on reclaiming the word whore through creative practice as research. Her current research interests lie in photography as a tool for activism. She has extensive knowledge relating to publishing of photobooks as an artistic and research practice with interests in contemporary photography with an emphasis on theories of the author as editor, working with other peoples’ images and exploring issues related to politics, sexuality, surveillance, censorship and identity. She is currently a practice-based PhD Researcher at CREAM, University of Westminster.