Do not judge a life
that you didn't live yourself.
“Splendor and Misery - Images of Prostitution (1850–1910)”. That is the title of an exhibition that Tim Oehler visited in 2015 at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris. The audience was very impressed by the way Toulouse-Lautrec and Manet, van Gogh and Degas (all male artists) had brought the subject of “sex for sale” to their pictures. More or less by chance, Oehler landed on one of the streets in Paris on his way back from the museum. The same characters, scenes, gestures ... But the audience's eyes were different now. Instead of murmuring “Ah” and “Oh”, people turned up their noses and shook their heads. Something was fermenting in the Hamburg photographer ... and this is how his pictures of prostitution were created.
"Sex-Workers - The normal life" is the name of the 288-page illustrated book in which Tim Oehler portrays 30 sex workers. 30 people who work as escorts or dominatrixes, tantra masseuses or masseurs, fetish doctors, strippers or bondage masters. They work in the studio or in the hotel room, in the strip club or in the brothel, but all of them have to carry the so-called whore pass with them at all times.
"Do not judge a life that you have not lived yourself." That is in large colored letters on one of the introductory pages and this basic motif also gives the direction: Tim Oehler shows the protagonists: inside in honest, never voyeuristic pictures, and thus gives the taboo sex work a face. Respectful and very open. Many of the colored photos create an almost intimate closeness, which gives an idea of what customers hope for from their visit, namely the fulfillment of human needs, which do not always necessarily have to end in a penetrative act. It's about affection and appreciation, touch and encounter, fantasies and fetishes - about an important care work, the meaning of which has still not reached the center of society.
Each actor is shown over a longer distance in his / her typical work environment. The aesthetically set artificial light refers to the red light district and creates the framework for impressive portraits and perspectives. In addition, the sex workers also provided insights into their private lives. Daylight scenes inside or outside that differ little from the average person's after-work hours: They cook, sew and shop, repair a children's bike or go for a ride on roller blades. Many pets can be seen and many comfortable sofas. Just normal life.
In very personal texts, the participants of the project describe their view of sex work and their respective self-image in this diverse industry. They want to be seen and heard with their motivations and attitudes and wish that their perspective helps to overcome the stigmatizing approach to sex work. Talking to each other, not about each other - that is probably the way to more appreciation.
In his foreword Tim Oehler writes ... "only when we break through our viewing habits and thought patterns are we actually attentive ...". The book has set itself the task of taking a careful look at the subject of sex work. We are allowed to see, read, recognize ...