I’ve Never Been Big Sick

by Ulla Deventer

“Only by invention, fiction and staging we can reach a higher level of the truth.”
(Werner Herzog)

“I’ve Never Been Big Sick”, is a long term project that addresses women who work as prostitutes. By exploring a cliché dominated society where the protagonists deal with different shades of their personality, in order to hide one part, I am interested in seeking and confronting the observer with insightful views from my female perspective, influenced and inspired by my protagonists, to open up questions around the stereotypical images that weigh so much on this topic.

In 2013, I began collaborating with several sex workers in Brussels, Belgium. Most recently, I continued in Athens and Paris, and now intend to proceed with this project in several other cities.

Obviously, building trust constituted a large part of the process and I have had to spend a lot of time with these women. Soon, I was able to build a close relationship with them which offered me an opportunity to be not only in their workspaces, but in their private homes as well as where I regularly stayed overnight.

By introducing fragility, sensitivity, innocence and melancholy alongside the little indications of the harsh reality these individuals experience in these settings, I attempt to compose an alternative narrative about sex workers through the staging of tenderhearted still scenes intended to derail stereotypical views on prostitution. Often, the effect is unsettling and/ or provocative, leaving the voyeuristic desire unnourished.

Each photograph can be understood and observed as a small chapter of a prose poem. This notion is enhanced by the addition of small captions and quotes with each presentation, whether as a book or an exhibition.

In short, I aim to seek authenticity by deliberately manufacturing imagery rich of atmosphere and emotions based on real-life clues, rather than straightforwardly depicting the realism or documenting reality.