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dissonant harmony: unveiling the lives of Britain's sex workers | photography

Alicia Colarusso is a London-based documentary photographer who was born in Wales, UK. She takes inspiration from her surroundings and is passionate about telling the untold stories of people who are marginalised within society. Alicia advocates for social inclusion and her documentary work gives a voice to those whose experiences are excluded from the mainstream media. Her work addresses themes such as intersectional feminism, identity, and cultural diversity.

"Dissonant Harmony: Unveiling the lives of Britain’s sex workers"

It is estimated that there are over 70,000 sex workers in the UK today – 88% of whom are women[1]. “I walk in the door and become Jade”, says the young woman who tells me of her journey into the industry and her daily routine. “The girls I work with are more like my family and we are there for each other through it all”, she adds.

This photographic exhibition forms part of a larger project which aims to demystify taboo aspects of society by bringing together the ‘seen’ with the ‘unseen’ in dissonant harmony. Through connections with local female sex workers, the low-key images emphasise the marginalised position of those involved with the industry in Britain. The low lighting and high contrast reflect the obscurity cast over sex workers who remain within the shadows of society.

The images challenge dominant representations of sex workers and serve to humanise and desexualise these women who suffer at the hands of stigmatisation and instability. The focus on specific body parts shifts the centre of their identities as sex workers to those of human beings and members of society. Images of nonconventional body parts deviate from mainstream images of sex workers as erotic individuals striking poses under the male gaze. The fragmentation of the female bodies further aids the anonymisation of the subjects for their own personal safety and wellbeing.

Quotations from in-depth conversations with women are displayed amongst the images and tell the unspoken stories of mothers, friends and sisters who earn a living by capitalising on their bodies. In the text, discourses of female empowerment, violence, intolerance, and legalisation are brought to light to address key issues faced by Britain’s sex workers today.

[1] Brooks-Gordon, B., Mai, N., Perry, G., Sanders, T. (2015). Calculating the Number of Sex Workers and Contribution to Non-Observed Economy in the UK for the Office for National Statistics.

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