The art of sex work by Julia Fullerton-Batten

Sat, 15 Apr, 2017

Sex work is one of the oldest businesses in the world and has been around for centuries. The funny thing is that it's still rarely discussed openly and remains very secretive. Many sex workers wouldn't openly admit what they do and likewise with punters who use the services of sex workers.

Julia Fullerton-Battern a worldwide acclaimed and exhibited fine-art photographer, wants to break down the stigma of sex work and help to understand sex workers and how they choose this line of work.

Julia created The Act which is a photo series capturing sex workers in the act of performance. Julia wanted to capture the performances each with their own individual 'stage of life'.

Julia admits to knowing very little about the sex industry so she hired an agent to find the cast. She had two rules: : the women must be voluntarily participating in the sex industry, and the women chosen should represent as many different types of sex work as possible.

Once the women were selected, Julia interviewed each one to find out their involvement in the sex industry, their background, experiences and lives in general. Julia then narrowed it down to a final 17 women.

She chose women from as many different areas. The final cast included escorts, porn-stars, lap dancers, pole-dancers, strippers, webcammers and burlesque dancers. The whole process took over 6 months and the goal is to show the industry in a different light and that it's so much more than simply having sex for money.

The Act has been turned into a book with detailed interviews accompanying the stunning photography. A DVD is included with the book which has the recordings of the interviews conducted with the women in the photography.

If you'd like to read The Act and listen to the interviews in full, you can buy a copy online. Julia will also be doing a book signing at Rizzolo Bookshop on Friday 19 May from 12.30pm to 1pm. 

The Act: Lola Marie, Escort
Lola Marie, Escort (Picture: Julia Fullerton-Batten)

'Possibly like many other "normal" women I have long been curious why women, often highly educated with university degrees, choose voluntarily to enter a career in the sex industry, risking social stigma and the disapproval of their family and friends.'

'As I met and talked with more and more applicants I became increasingly aware that the girls spend both their business and personal lives as if on a stage.'

The Act: Shadait, Escort
Shadait, Escort (Picture: Julia Fullerton-Batten)

'So that's what I decided to do, put each of them in their own staged setting.

'I found a set builder to construct staged settings for each girl to my design ideas and with the agreement of the girls.

The Act: Chessie Kay, Pornstar
Chessie Kay, Pornstar (Picture: Julia Fullerton-Batten)

'I must say that it was amazing, exciting and exhilarating to watch them performing, Veronica hanging by her hair doing a striptease 3 metres above floor level, Sasha Flexy twirling around a pole, Monique doing her lap dance routine, and Mouse ejecting ping pong balls across the stage.

'Chatting casually with them during the casting, 'interviewing' them during the shoot, listening to their stories, then seeing them in their acts', I noticed how positive, happy and content they were at what they were doing.'

The Act: Veronica, Aerial Performer
Veronica, Aerial Performer (Picture: Julia Fullerton-Batten)

'I gradually began to understand and respect to some degree their reasoning for their career choice.

'The journey I undertook with them with them over those few weeks was certainly eye-opening and instructive, and in many respects quite enjoyable.

The Act: Morrigan Hel, Dominatrix
Morrigan Hel, Dominatrix (Picture: Julia Fullerton-Batten)

'After this experience, I recognise that regardless of the extremeness of their 'profession', they are still women like any other, except that they have for the time being and for their own personal reasons chosen a different path through life.'

'The staged settings concentrate your attention exclusively on the model, but not only on her nudity; you gradually perceive who she is as a person,' explained Julia.

The Act: Jaye Rose, Webcam Girl
Jaye Rose, Webcam Girl (Picture: Julia Fullerton-Batten)

The Act: Monique, Stripper
Monique, Stripper (Picture: Julia Fullerton-Batten)

'You see what she is doing and you get a sense of feeling that you know why she is doing it.

'Despite any potential for prejudice, I hope that you will appreciate an inner strength in the girls and yet sense, too, a degree of vulnerability arising from their performance.'

The Act: Bentley and Jade, Pornstars
Bentley and Jade, Pornstars (Picture: Julia Fullerton-Batten)

'As you conclude your viewing I hope that you will have developed a greater understanding towards them and their life choice, as I did during the shoot.'

'In some way, my project became almost a sociological study, which I feel opened the concept that sex workers are not demons incarnate and shouldn't be demonised as such.'