Thursday, March 23, 2006

Prostitutes - in black and white

Think of prostitutes.
What are the first things that come to mind?

Narrow lanes, lined on both sides with red-lipped women dressed in blouses and petticoats. Bare navels, distended. Fleshy cleavage.

Or do you imagine balconies, strung with filthy rags, filled with women with painted faces, calling out provocatively.

Or do you see tall faux-blondes, sitting alone at a bar, looking a come-hither?

Is that what you think prostitutes are made of?

Then look at this picture that I have not been able to get out of my mind, weeks after I first saw it. This picture that melts me, warms me, moves me, and gives me a reason to smile in the middle of a day when there's too much bad news.

Look at the whole series by Maya Goded: The prostitutes of La Merced.

15 comments:

Anirudh said...

It's beautiful.

Akshay said...

these guys from Magnum know what they are doing when the camera is in their hands.

Here's a Mary Ellen Mark presentation of Mumbai's Falkland Road at The Digital Journalist.

http://digitaljournalist.org/issue0602/mark.html

smriti said...

babe! these pictures are horrifying! not because they are of prostitutes but because they are just what come to the mind if you stop thinking romantically or film-ically about the profession. And yes, i see narrow lanes, and desperation, and provocation...everything here. Especially in that one picture where that little girl is being groomed by her mother for her first job, and the one where an old faded woman sits on a large bed (found dead one week after the pic was taken)...and several others.
I have seen prostitutes here, visited several strip clubs and in some of those girls and most of the boys there is a recklessness, an athletic movement which I enjoy as much i would a well put up dance.
But these pics were not about that. Here prostitutes are more or less protected, what i don't see in the pics is the protection (for instance, the pic of the woman beaten up by the police).
I will become comfortable with prostitution the day prostitutes become comfortable with it. I am more comfortable with it here because i don't see fear or listlessness in the job the same way i did back home.
Listlessness is pretty much what most of the pictures you linked depict.

smriti said...

I looked through the pics again and found a few that made me smile too...the one in which she lies with the man who has been coming to see her for the last 30 years...the one where carmen is smoking and her husband (once a client) is standing by her side...the one in which she is eating something out of a paper bag...but there are others, which i wish were not there.

Rabin said...

the picture made me smile at first but after a few minutes i was thinking.... 30 years?? 30 years of a marriage or a relationship is very special...there is nothing special about a 30 year business relationship...it is a bit sad...

even the way he is touching her seems so wrong...maybe i'm straight laced...or maybe she looks like anyone's grandmother..

david raphael israel said...

Smiriti--
one incidental correction, if I may. The caption of the young girl photo says she's being prepared by her mother for her first communion. Mexico is very much a Catholic country. In context, "communion" means a religious ceremony: essentially, it's the Chrisian form of sacred prasad (it absolutely does not mean, being prepared for a customer). The mother is a prostitute, but the little girl presumably as yet is not -- or this would seem an idea fairly implied in the caption. This photo might also put one in mind of the film Born Into Brothels.

But the photo essay also somewhat put me in mind of the latest work of fiction -- a novella -- by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Memories of my Melancholy Whores (a passage from which I lately excerpted on my blog).

Harinath Mallepally said...

no comments!

annie said...

anirudh: it is
akshay: that too is
smriti: maybe, but why i love these pictures is that these prostitutes are so human. so 'us'. so not 'them'. they're naughty, they're drab. they're young. they're old. they're there by choice. they're dead. they're listless. they're vulnerable....
about the mother and kid, david's answered your fear - communion, not job.
what you said about prostitutes in the Us being protected, well, probably most of the people are too. here in india (and perhaps in mexico), nobody's protected and the vast majority is no less or more desperate than prostitutes. which is why i like these pictures.

rabin: grandmothers need sex too, even if they're not prostitutes :)
and what makes you think that just because a woman accepts money from you, she can't love you? think about it.

david: i'm looking forward to reading that book. it looks nice, for sure

harinath: wise man.

Maya Cassis said...

they are humans just like us

Abyss|Ashwin said...

This is not just prevalent in one area .This is prevalent all over the world.There is even a great Movie released about prostitutes in Japan during 2nd world war time 'Memors of aeisha'. Once u see these pictures you may feel sad for their vulnerable position.But as far as i studied you've just showing a single side of picture.As smriti said these are more or less protected.If you really visit devoloping nations and under developed nations you can find girls & women who dn't even have a proper home,no food to eat and being raped by passers by. Apart from that sex is considered sin by many of us,But nt by every one,I've even read in history wher people trteat is a god's gift.So Every thing is relative and every one has a differnt perspective.

Winter said...

Amazing images, so powerful and, yes, so human. I think it's important that see them, although some are painful.

Raccoon said...

yeah....I was immediately struck of a similar work in bombay by Mary Ellen Mark on falkland road...

Lien Nguyen said...

It's a bit confusing.

It's beautiful on the fact that she has been there for him for such a long time, but to have not had a closer relationship other than just a 'business' partner, makes it quite empty and rather heartbreaking.

K-Os said...

I smiled too, and thought of letting the smile stay for a longer time by not letting my thoughts wander. Or by not letting myself think more on it. Because it's quite touchy! Nice share...

Fiona Ferrao said...

Their eyes tell the story of their lives.

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