When Camille Melissa emigrated to the UK from Australia via Paris and entered the sex industry in 2005, she always knew that photography would play a crucial role as she navigated the complex structures – both visible and invisible – of this misrepresented community. The rhetoric surrounding sex work is often frustratingly one-dimensional in mainstream media; those who enter the industry are somehow ‘damaged’, labourers of the patriarchy, powerless individuals who need saving from themselves. Sex work activists continue to challenge the victim narrative forced upon them, across politics, film and art.
Camille is one such activist. She started her online platform Whoretography as a way of examining the intersection of images, technologies, society and the sex workers’ rights movement. As ‘a visual activist platform and a sex work positive publishing house’, Whoretography seeks to answer two fundamental questions: Is it possible to reclaim the word ‘whore’ through creative practice as research? What role does photography play in contemporary online sexual consumption?
“The easy availability of information on the internet has revolutionised the industry’s marketing techniques and its verbal and visual vocabulary,” Camille says, “Digital photographs are now fundamental to the transaction of sex. Photography needs to form a greater part of the sex work discussion; I have learned how negatively impactful photography can be in presenting sex workers as different from and less than other people.”
Camille's Twitter handle is @Whoretography and her website with more information about her ebooks is https://thephotographictheoris... and will be online from May
Rachel Stuart is a sex work researcher whose primary interest is the lived experiences of sex workers.