DANI DIVINE: JANUARY COVER

DANI DIVINE

PAWS FOR THOUGHT? Dani in leopard print latex dress by Pandora Deluxe (photo: Bommi)

Dani Divine: UK fetish superstar
– and now Miss Fetish Europe too.

Dani Divine will be celebrating her decade-long love affair with latex in grand style this year, having just won the coveted Miss Fetish Europe award at December’s Dominatrix weekend. Tony Mitchell talks to the London model about the secrets of her success for The Fetishistas’ first cover feature of 2017. Cover/banner image of Dani in House of Harlot latex by Frankinsella
Dani Divine began 2017 in fine form as the newly crowned Miss Fetish Europe, a title widely considered the most prestigious of the various current awards a fetish model can win.

London-based Dani will hold the title for most of 2017, the year that by happy coincidence marks the tenth anniversary of the start of her love affair with latex. As she recalls:

“The very first time I wore latex was in 2007, and it was by Lacing Lilith. I fell in love with it instantly; it made me feel powerful and sexy. It wasn’t really something you could wear out on a daily basis, so I made it my mission to find parties I could wear it to!”

For the past few years Dani has been a regular face at the Dominatrix weekends which host the Miss Fetish Europe and Best Up & Coming Model awards annually on the outskirts of Amsterdam.

After she won Best Up & Coming Model there in November 2014, many industry insiders felt it would only be a matter of time before she secured the main award too. And she has not let them down.

So how does it feel to have now won the big one?

“It’s a huge personal achievement,” she says, “and a reflection of how hard I have worked to get here. I had a lot of close friends and fans rooting for me, so, it feels pretty good!”

Since Miss Fetish Europe was launched, other fetish events and organisations have jumped on the bandwagon with their own model awards. What does Dani think about the general value of such contests — are they really good for models’ careers, or just a bit of fun?

“I think they are both good for careers, and also a bit of fun! Nothing wrong with a bit of friendly competition,” she reckons.

“At the end of the day, at these events many of the models (including myself) are competing against their good friends. There are numerous online competitions for models these days, which seem insignificant.

“I guess the ones people take seriously are held at actual events, where models attend and win a physical trophy and prize. And there aren’t too many of those!”

These days, even those awards associated with physical events and judging panels usually also include an element of public voting via social media. But as a judge on a couple of awards panels myself (including Miss Fetish Europe), I have noticed that some contestants are more willing, and perhaps more able, than others to exploit their social media followings to garner public votes.

As an indisputably net-savvy model herself, what does Dani Divine consider the right balance between ‘working one’s fan base’ and just letting nature take its course, as it were?

“If I am in a public voting competition, then I will of course announce it to my fans, in order to encourage votes,” she replies. “To me, it would be strange not to, and even then not all do. I am grateful to have a large fan base on social media.

“The reason anyone would vote is an act of support. It’s not like anyone can vote against their will — so these votes are of value.

“These are modelling competitions; it’s purely entertainment. We’re not competing for an organ, so I don’t feel too bad for being at an advantage!”

When I checked for the purposes of this article, the Dani Divine ‘public figure’ page on Facebook had more than 2.6 million likes. This puts her ahead of some previous high profile Miss Fetish Europe winners by up to a million fans.

‘If I’m in a public voting competition, then I will of course announce it to my fans in order to encourage votes. To me, it would be strange not to, and even then not all do’

But unlike these predecessors, she doesn’t have her own website. Why not? Is it something she doesn’t feel to be necessary if you really know your way around social networking?

“That’s exactly it,” she agrees. “I just haven’t found it necessary. I don’t think I’m missing out on anything by not having a website. My fans can see my work and interact with me via Facebook.

“It’s easy for me to update while I’m out and about, and it’s important for me to be able to tag collaborations. I do have an online shop for merchandise and prints.

“Until recently this has been working perfectly for me. However FB are rather prudish and removed some of my images despite no actual nudity. For this reason, I may consider getting a website to share my work.”

It might surprise you to learn that, despite her massive Facebook following, Dani doesn’t consider her social networking to be a particular skill — although, she admits, others might.

“I simply share my latest work on a daily basis, and keep my page updated with what I’m up to. It’s not something I’ve focussed on developing — I’m just happy to share my work with the people who are happy to see it.

“Facebook isn’t the best platform for promoting a fetish modelling career, mainly because, as I mentioned before, their standards for what contains nudity are quite high.

“Twitter is more flexible but I never quite got into it as much; my Twitter is automatically updated through my FB. The most important aspect of a Facebook page is keeping it updated regularly with new and exciting material.

“I also like to spend time responding to fans when I can, but it can be tedious to filter through comments. For this reason I have recently created a fan e-mail address for all non-work related matters and chit-chat.”

In 2008, the year after she tried on her very first latex outfit, Dani Divine won Bizarre magazine’s Ultra Vixen Of The Year title.

I tell her I can imagine that was quite a big deal, given how many aspiring young fetish models at that time worshipped Bizarre and dreamt of being on its cover.

“It shouldn’t shock you, but I was one of them!” she says. “I absolutely worshipped Bizarre as a teenager, so it was a huge deal for me to land a cover, as a teenager.

Did it encourage her to think that fetish modelling could one day be a career for her? And at what point did it become more than just a hobby?

“Modelling started as a fun hobby and it still is, except after many years of calling it that, now it’s a career as well. It became more serious for me the moment I started getting serious work offers and was able to support myself from it.”

‘Modelling started as a fun hobby and it still is, except now it’s a career as well. It became more serious  for me the moment I started getting serious work offers’

While people on the fetish scene may perceive Dani primarily as a fetish model, there’s plenty of visual evidence on Facebook and elsewhere that her personal and professional style espouses other overlapping subcultures such as metal and goth, and what for want of a better term I’ll call ‘rock chick chic’.

To what extent does she feel those overlapping interests propelled her towards fetish, and does she feel that having these broader tastes has broadened her appeal beyond just fetish and brought more work opportunities?

“I embraced all of those subcultures as a teenager,” she agrees. “I never cared so much for the labels, as I just listened to what I thought sounded good, and wore what I thought looked good.

“In that sense, my personal style and taste definitely gave a strong direction to my career as a model, and performer. It wasn’t a phase after all!

“Although I tend to stick within the subcultures in my personal time, I am a bit more open-minded when it comes to work. I often perform in clubs that are mainstream, and sometimes a change of look for modelling or scenery here and there is actually okay!”

Something her admirers often say is that Dani Divine has succeeded, where many others have failed, in making fetish modelling a paying concern. In an industry where so much modelling work is done on a trade basis (for pictures from photographers or clothing/discount from designers) rather than actual cash, a model has to be pretty tough and confident to specify ‘paid gigs only’.

But, says Dani, if you are serious about fetish modelling as a career, it’s the only way to go.

“It’s fine for hobbyists with fulltime jobs to be happy to model here and there for free clothes. But as a career choice, modelling is really hard work, so I believe it should be paid if you are confident enough that what you have to offer is worth your rates.

“The hours of admin, prep, appearance maintenance, packing for shoots, organising, hair and make-up and travel that goes into each shoot is literally exhausting!

“The outfits can be cold, hot or uncomfortable, and standing in heels all day is also not amazing. And latex outfit changes are a bitch! Still, I love it with a strong passion and I’m lucky to call it my job.

“Sometimes I might approach someone to work with me, and in that case I could not demand payment. But it depends how busy I am, or what my travel plans are… if I see a good opportunity I will take it. TFP [time for pictures] shoots get rarer and rarer, as I get busier and busier!”

Of course, the model adds, working TFP can be very helpful when building a portfolio, or for exposure, or for plenty of other reasons.

“But,” she maintains, “it shouldn’t be abused as it cheapens the industry. Relying on photographers for paid shoots is fickle.

“Selling merch is more reliable, and another thing models are paid for these days is not just for shooting time, but for social media posts.

“So there are always other ways to make money even if shoots are quiet.”

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Click previews below to see Dani Divine wearing House of Harlot, Iris Thespider and other latex labels.
Click on any individual thumbnail in each gallery to begin a slideshow of all full-size images

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DRAGET+RAST= Tall Storage Display Unit

IKEA Items: DRAGET + RAST

I needed more storage space in my kitchen. With only a small space for a tall display cabinet I decided that it was best to design and build one to custom fit the space. Ikea to the rescue! I like the look of the DRAGET shelf unit for displaying my dry goods but I still needed some drawers for hidden storage and I wanted it to be taller to take advantage of the vertical space. I checked the measurements online and the RAST is almost the same dimensions as the DRAGET. Huzzah! An ikea hack was born!

Draget±Rast photo 1-10

I assembled both units to get a visual of them together. If I were to do this again I would make all of my cuts before the assembly.

Draget+Rast Photo 2-9

First I sanded down the RAST top so it was completely level.

DRAGET+RAST PHOTO 4-8

I removed the legs from the DRAGET with an electric saw. Be careful of sparks!

DRAGET+RAST Photo 5-7

I attached the base of the DRAGET to the top of the RAST with liquid nails along the border where the two units touch. I clamped them together, carefully and quickly wiped away the excess glue that squeezed out of the edges, and let it set overnight.

DRAGET+RAST PHOTO 6-6

After the unit was glued together I realized it was still too tall for my space so I decided to cut down the base of the RAST 1 inch & a half just below the bottom screw that holds the front kick plate to the sides. Again, if I were to do this project over I would have cut the RAST pieces down before assembly.

DRAGET+RAST PHOTO 7-4

I stained the RAST with Minwax wood finish in Golden Oak 210B. To get this look I had to brush on the stain and immediately follow with a rag to wipe it right off. This allows the least amount of stain to absorb into the wood for a very light finish.

DRAGET+RAST= Tall Storage Display Unit

Once the stain was dry I reattached the RAST drawer handles and set it in my kitchen to display my dry goods and store my plates. I love it!

DRAGET+RAST= Tall Storage Display Unit

The Finished hack stands at 191 centimeters tall, 2 feet wide & 1 foot deep

DRAGET+RAST= Tall Storage Display Unit

DRAGET+RAST= Tall Storage Display Unit

~ Christie Sapienza

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50 Creative Ways To Incorporate Book Storage In & Around Stairs

Love books? Love stairs? These fifty unique designs make the most of that tight little cranny under your staircase. Use a block frame to hide books beneath, as they line sturdy shelves your feet walk over. Wrap a winding steel staircase around existing walls of bookshelves, immersing yourself in the reading experience. Put books within the stairs, as each level hides a few simply gorgeous reads. These creative, innovative and artistic features make the most of a good book collection and the most of awkward spaces left unutilised. Cater to stylish home décor for book lovers with these sets of book-hugging stairs and staircases.


Designer: Dreihausfrauen  

Conjoining two apartments in Dusseldorf, Germany, this multi-functional white and wooden staircase lets you pick a book from beside the stairs and say hello to the neighbours. Its clever ceiling-height stretch creates a feature for two apartments and residential space-saver in one.


Designer: Maxwan  

Matching the wood of the ceiling rafters, this floating staircase matches bookshelves above and below the stairs. A few drawers and a desk let you hide away and study in a light yet secluded space


Designer: Studio Mieke Meijer  

Dutch designer Just Haasnoot found inspiration from industrial building photography for this floating design. Halved into two oak and steel parts, the top half carries shoes, books and ornaments; the bottom half a desk, pot plants and a space for morning coffee.


Designer: NC2 Architecture  

Steep and zigzagging, this unique wooden structure lets you reach over for a read mid-thigh workout. Doubling as a feature artwork, its vertical design makes a visual impact without impinging on room space.


Designer: General Assembly  

Natural and black-painted wood coalesce in a block stairway with inbuilt shelves. Hide your books and knick knacks inside, for a stylish storage option.


Designer: Veran Émilie  

An innovative use of space is awarded to this conjoint bedroom, bookcase, desk and staircase. As small wooden stairs lead up to the loft, books in oscillating partitions aid a good night’s sleep.


Designer: Fujimatsu Architect  

Afforded more space, this desk, bookcase and staircase alternative oozes sophistication. White plaster and varnished wood lets you stop mid-climb for a scintillating read.


Designer: Gordon Walker  

Mimic the lines of your staircase with wooden partitions holding books. Hanging over a nifty desk space, this design looks kitsch and study-friendly with extra cabinets for filing.


Designer: Wild Rabbits Architects  

Connecting two separate apartments, this wood and steel creation offers a library of knowledge for two sets of tenants. The bottom and top of the staircase allow both dwellers to make the space their own.

Pleasing to the eye and book collection, this ascending wooden structure houses reads between each level of stair. The result is a polished, multi-functional feature without the slightest trace of clutter.


Designer: Marc Koehler Architects  

A white pyramid bookcase doubles as a stairway to heaven in this minimalist design. A large chandelier dangles over, adding sophistication with a difference.


Photographer: Pia Winther  

Bookcases are not just for books. This clever under-the-stairs unit hangs portraits, sit lamps and houses cabinets for all your storage needs.


Designer: Farrow Arcaro Design  

Make a bookcase level with your staircase, making two seem like one. White and wood tricks the eye into seeing simplicity, whilst hiding display fans, kettles and novels.


Designer: Koch Architects  

A rustic feel can be achieved with a conjoined staircase and library. Framed by wooden rafters, walls and railings, it evokes a wood cabin with a twist.


Designer: Kerr Construction  

Abstract storage spaces combine art and functionality. Using two different wooden shades, books, ornaments and stationery are displayed, as a family staircase pops over the top.


Designer: Stephen Moser Architect  

Make your staircase seem minimal, with overlapping library shelving. Simple Scandinavian panels hide books and vases, offering a seat to visitors before the climb.


Visualizer: Design+Weld  

Fit for an art gallery, this winding, floating London staircase looks ethereal beside a column of books. Aspiring to a glass-railed loft, glossy white floors and concrete walls give it added prominence.


Visualizer: Jianxiong Liu  

A library concept is the perfect avenue for stair ideas. This proposed concept creates a virtual treehouse complete with curved wooden bannisters, slatted railings and building-frame bookshelves.


Visualizer: Design+Weld  

Don’t have room for a full-scale library? Extend the space you live in with simple white stairs framed by a wall of books.


Designer: Dekleva Gregoric Arhitekti  

Another great use of space, these wooden blocks house books within steps. A block black desk gains access at an arm’s reach.


Designer: Process  

Whichever way you look at this staircase, it serves two purposes. Books, ornaments and trinkets are offered from the side, back and front; an artpiece and staircase from the short road up.


Designer: L’atelier miel  

Long wooden panes create a stable staircase with a few hidden inlets. A drinks cabinet to the side works well in the corner.


Designer: Studio Farris  

The Jenga fan can’t go past this decidedly different design. Leading up to an office, interlocking blocks create a canopy over the entrance space.


Architect: Jochen Specht  

Maintain simplicity by slotting colourful reads within wood. This light-coloured solution lets the bookcase be the hero, while the room fades into the background in muted, natural tones.


Visualizer: Studio 25  

The die-hard hipster has everything they want in this under-stair library. As a metal bike hangs beside glass railings, simple nut bolts lead to a triangular space dotted with trinkets.


Designer: Moon Hoon  

Wide, space-filled stairs leave room for a library. This ascending set marks the stepping zone with blocks; a place for books and filing in the spaces inbetween.


Designer: PAUL CREMOUX studio  

A feature wall bookcase makes an inspirational interior. Framed by pastel and Scandinavian finds, a white metal staircase zigzags over a high wall and wooden column filled with great reads.


Designer: One Girl Interiors  

Only have a few books to display? This small set of stairs keeps it simple, as a wooden bookcase fills an awkward space with a nifty solution.


Designer: Platform 5 Architects  

Create a piece of art with an unexpected shape. This wooden staircase mimics the stairs – atop an almost-full wall bookcase.


Designer: Andrea Mosca  

Mimicking stairs, this compartmentalised bookcase completes the ultimate rumpus room. White walls, floor and a mirror hold white and mustard couches amidst two sets of wall-held reads.


Designer: Drexler Guinand Jauslin  

Go for the smaller option in this mini wooden bookcase bathed in white. A juxtaposing staircase and railing emphasise the build-up to a dreamy reading session.


Designer: Rebecca Naughtin Architect  

For the staircase with no space, two walls of books will do the trick. A simple design with sloping elements affords enough room for a library to shine.


Designer: Chioco Design  

The high-ceilinged home adds a touch of luxury with a top-to-toe bookshelf. Metal railings echo a leaning ladder and window out to a view.


Designer: NC2 Architecture  

Inject the Scandinavian with an exposed brick bookcase. Slatted wooden shelving mirrors the staircase for an integrated experience.


Designer: Design42  

Create an aura of mystery with a book-lined stairway. Shuttered from adjoining rooms with an inside window, debate and dining is sought in the inlet below.


Visualizer: Design+Weld  

Minimalism reigns king in this steel-frame structure. Its thin panels hold stairs to the right, a place for ornaments to the left.


Designer: Oliver Fourny  

Suspended by cascading iron wires, this white and wooden staircase uses art to effect, without taking up space. A high bookcase to the side rises below the top step, for an interesting walk up and down the levels.


Designer: Craft Design  

Jutting out beside the bookcase, this set of stairs creates an optical illusion for guests. Wide enough to fit a person walking beside it, the destination is a hidden sleepout atop a storage box.


Visualizer: IFJ Architecture  

Skilfully utilise a cramped corner with a bed beside the staircase. Interspersed between each level, a row of books decorate a room swathed all in wood.


Source: El Meuble  

An attic roof comes with its challenges. Meet them at full throttle with a sloping bookcase that walks beside guests on their journey down.


Designer: Siemasko + Verbridge  

A two-storey bookcase has the perfect partner in this stairwell. Bound by wood and iron railings, a journey up or down greets the eye with walls of books and ladders, as if by chance.


Designer: Sergey Makhno Architects  

Disrupt tradition with a black bookcase. Floating wooden stairs are supported by black pillars underneath, making two structures seem like one.


Designer: Stone Horse Design  

The smaller library is hidden beneath this fusion staircase. Mid-wooden tones keep it industrial; thick steel railings industrial.


Designer: Edouard Brunet & François Martens  
Photographer: Dennis De Smet  

Geometry plays with these stairs folding into squares and hexagons. A wooden storage space provides a seeming platform, grounding the design.


Designer: Jarmund/Vigsnæs AS Arkitekter MNAL  

Fly into the sky with this bookcase-staircase hung as if by balloons. Two-stringed ropes pull up each level, while a large Chinese lantern illuminates the space.


Designer: Marc Cowan  

Don’t need a staircase? Put your books in ascending display, for an easy pick of the right title.


Designer: Papazian R.A. – doon Architecture  

Contemporary with a classic twist, this structure provides enough room for ample reads. Clad in white upon a wooden floor, its light hue doesn’t dominate the space.


Designer: Zminkowska Boise Architects  

Lead up to a nook with books beside and beneath the stairs. Its comfy end point lights up pages with four beautiful French windows.


Designer: Stephen Moser Architect  

Reward a stair climb with a few ravishing reads. This simplistic bookcase hides under the railings, maximising white space.


Source: Lighting Design International  

Three walls of books remain light and airy, on walls lit by LEDs. Matching furniture and a block staircase provide several white spaces for book immersion.

Are you a book lover? Check out some more unique wall shelves, home decor for book lovers and unique bookends to complete the look.

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Trick Out Your Bike: FormMount Makes Adding Tech Accessories a Snap


At its heart, cycling is a simple pastime. A bike with two wheels is people-powered to a destination for either fun, sport or commuting purposes. Now, however, it has evolved into an activity that uses technology to transform from its mere mode-of-transportation roots into something more efficient, safe and comfortable. FormMount is a new modular system that lets you mount GPS computers, cameras (we’re looking at you, GoPro fans. Read more…

http://dornob.com

A Small Space in Stockholm

Late last year we wrote about the new real estate site from Sweden called Nooks. As many of you know, real estate sites in Scandinavia have the best way of featuring homes for sale there. Styled in such a way that makes them more appealing for buyers, even a small space like this one in the Södermalm area of Stockholm is adorable and cozy.  Let’s take a look!

CONTINUE READING…

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Creative: The Leica File 31

mp_i_cani_non_possono_leggere_palermo_15
Let me take you back to Sicily and tell you the backstory of how this image came about and what it inspired me to do. It involves an exotic loaner Leica, fear, three days of free time, an apartment in Palmero, serious street dog issues, serious graffiti issues, a walkable city, responsibility, lack of responsibility, a vague plan, good shoes, the spark of an idea and JUST enough fortitude to see it through. And lots of drinking and eating.(This was back in the day.)
http://shifter.media

One year on, we should remember David Bowie as both genius and flawed human

A Bowie mural in Brixton, London. Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

It’s a year today since David Bowie died. His death-day (January 10) and his birthday (he would have been 70 on January 8) are being marked by both small-scale local tributes in tiny venues and high-profile concerts in cities such as London, New York and Los Angeles.

Sydney, where Bowie spent a lot of time during the 1980s and 1990s, will host its tribute concert on January 29 at the Opera House. It will feature local musicians including Sarah Blasko and Bernard Fanning and international artists such as Earl Slick and Adrian Belew who worked with Bowie.

Throughout the year, there have been hundreds of obituaries and articles discussing Bowie’s life and work, as well as a myriad of performances covering his music; graffiti tributes and other artistic homages. Bowie even made it into the Sydney new year fireworks display. Fans have also paid tribute with cold hard cash. Bowie’s last album Blackstar was one of the biggest selling albums worldwide in 2016, and best-of compilations of his work featured strongly in end-of-year charts (especially on vinyl).

An image of David Bowie is projected onstage as Eric Church performs Record Year during the 51st Academy of Country Music Awards in April.
Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

At the end of all this commemoration and celebration, though, what type of Bowie are we left with?

When anyone dies, a transformation takes place. The complexity of a living human being – with both good and bad qualities, contradictory and perhaps confusing – is replaced by an idealised version shaped by the memories and narratives of those left behind.

After Bowie’s death (as for many loved musicians) the focus was unsurprisingly on his musical and cultural impact – his influence and genius. This coverage was overwhelmingly positive; an overview of written tributes to Bowie compiled by the culture website Vulture notes how the media praised him for everything from his music to his willingness to be open about his sexuality, to his championing of African American musicians.

The picture painted here is of someone truly beyond the average human – an idea reinforced by references to the “Starman”. Perhaps not even human at all.


In the midst of this though, was some disquiet. For some people, remembering Bowie also meant remembering things he had done that might make us feel less comfortable. In particular, his history of sleeping with underage girls (as young as 14) was noted by some.

People reported being attacked on social media for mentioning this aspect of Bowie, to the point where posts were deleted and the discussion silenced.

On a lighter level, the praising of Bowie also led to a reassessment of some of his music that was usually thought of as a bit on the nose – such as his work with the band Tin Machine in the late 1980s and 1990s.


A critical and commercial failure at the time, even this aspect of Bowie’s work has since been reassessed by some as overlooked genius.

A very tricky tightrope needs to be walked when it comes to commemorating dead rock stars. As people grieve – which they did wholeheartedly with Bowie – it may seem heartless to focus on the negative aspects of the character or work of the deceased. At worst, it is a tactic used by internet trolls to try to deliberately upset people further as they mourn their idols.

At the same time, the tendency to only focus on the positives of the recently deceased can sweep under the carpet important issues that could lead to productive discussion if acknowledged openly.

In recent weeks, further challenges to some of the myths being built around Bowie have also emerged.


A new documentary on the last five years of his life has suggested that the widely-accepted interpretations of Blackstar – that it was the farewell message of an artist who knew he had little time left on earth, and that its themes are about Bowie’s own imminent death – are wrong.

The documentary makers say that while Bowie was sick, he did not know that his illness would be terminal until after the album was complete, and the ideas for the much-praised videos had already been decided upon.


Are the album and videos perhaps not quite the masterpieces on mortality that they were assumed to be?

The narratives created after the death of a public figure play a strong role in shaping how they are seen into the future. As they become more fixed in the public’s memory and imagination, they get harder to challenge.

With so many important figures in popular music having died recently – a trend that will continue as the stars of the 1960s and 1970s age – it is worth thinking about how we remember the dead.

Are we left with superhumans who guide and inspire us, or flawed, complex people who speak to what it is to be human?

The Conversation

Catherine Strong does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

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When Sex Workers Grow Old, This Is Where They Go

Portrait of Norma Angelica, a resident of Casa Xochiquetzal © Bénédicte Desrus

The residents of Casa Xochiquetzal in Mexico City range from the age of fifty-five to eighty-six, and at some point in their lives, they have all been sex workers. It’s a two-story house, with food and medical care provided by the government and public donations.

In exchange for a safe place to live, the women must participate in the daily chores and activities. They attend courses on human rights. Some write poetry; others paint. One does yoga on the patio.

French photographer Bénédicte Desrus has spent nearly eight years documenting life at Casa Xochiquetzal, beginning two years after it was founded by a woman and former sex worker named Carmen Muñoz and a passionate group of intellectuals and activists.

This is the only shelter of its kind Desrus was able to find. There is no similar refuge exclusively for elderly former sex workers in Latin America, and she’s unsure if there’s another in the whole world.

At first, only two or three of the eighteen women who lived there allowed Desrus to take pictures. Before she arrived, a photograph of one of the women had been published, and her history as a sex worker was made public. Her family hadn’t known.

Photojournalists were generally mistrusted amongst the group, and for this reason, Desrus made a point of only taking photographs when she was given permission. When asked, she refused to offer payment in exchange for pictures.

When considering what it was that ultimately won her the confidence of this group of women, the photographer says simply, “They saw that I would return.” She never forget them, and one by one, they came around. She brought them prints of the portraits she’d made.

The women of Casa Xochiquetzal confided in the photographer about their childhoods, their greatest loves, and their greatest traumas. They told her stories of abuse and redemption. Most were no longer in touch with their children, though they wished they were.

“They’re never victimized,” Desrus explains, “they’re totally survivors.” Often, they made her laugh, and she made them laugh too.

The photographer has also said goodbye to some of her protagonists. She vividly remembers the time she saw one of the women die a painful death. She took photographs, though some of the other women asked her not to do so.

She talked frankly with them about it—“Death is a part of life,” she said— and they saw her point of view.

Looking back, Desrus admits, “I think that’s when they really understood my work.”

These women, the photographer explains, have seen their friends die in the streets. When they’re approaching the end, most ask for their families, and the shelter will try to locate them. Even if loved ones are not found, everyone at Casa Xochiquetzal gets a proper funeral. All residents are required to attend.

Because of the shelter, Desrus explains, “They know they’re not going to die alone.”

Desrus, with the help of writer Celia Gómez Ramos, published a book about the women and the shelter called “Las amorosas más bravas” (Tough Love in English). A large portion of proceeds of the sales went to Casa Xochiquetzal, and each woman received a copy to call her own. They were proud.

Only twenty copies of the book remain today. Still, Desrus continues to visit the shelter. The women know her well now. They followed her recent pregnancy, and they look forward to congratulating her on the birth of her child.

“Next time I’m going to Casa Xochiquetzal,” Desrus says, “I will go with the baby.”

To help the shelter, you can make donations here. Readers are also invited to check out their website and Facebook page

The result of six years of in-depth journalism, French Photographer Bénédicte Desrus and Mexican writer Celia Gómez Ramos’ new book, Las amorosas más bravas (“Tough Love”), presents intimate portraits of the women residing at Casa Xochiquetzal, a shelter for elderly sex workers in Mexico City. To receive information or purchase the bilingual book “Tough Love”, please contact the authors at proyecto.xochiquetzal@gmail.com. A portion of the proceeds from the book are donated to the shelter.

Portrait of Luchita, a resident of Casa Xochiquetzal © Bénédicte Desrus

Elia, a resident of Casa Xochiquetzal, talks to her dolls as a method of coping with her past life in her bedroom at the shelter in Mexico City © Bénédicte Desrus

Juanita, a resident of Casa Xochiquetzal, conducts her weekly prayer service at the shelter in Mexico City © Bénédicte Desrus

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Mother and Daughter Reconnect Through Photography

Contemplation

When her mother’s health began to deteriorate in 2009, American fine art photographer Sarah C. Butler travelled from Boston to her mother’s Maine home, where they were reunited after a long estrangement. Confronted with a mother she hardly recognized, Butler turned to her camera and began to take photographs which chronicle the turbulent relationship between the two of them, set against the backdrop of her mother’s dilapidated but beautiful home. The project, it turned out, was far more than simply a document of her mother’s life; it became a way to reconnect with her, or in Butler’s words, it opened space for them to have a relationship. The photographs, now compiled into a book called Frozen in Time, manage to capture their relationship in a way that makes them at once universally relatable.

What compelled you to start this project and how does it differ from your other work?
I received a phone call from my mother’s husband that she wasn’t well and could I come to the house to see her. I was living in Boston at the time; I made the four-hour drive the following day. What I saw when I walked into my mother’s home on that March day in 2009, was beyond anything I could have imagined. If I had seen Mom walking down the street I would not have recognized her. I began this work as I thought my mother was going to die. Photographing gave me a reason to show up. She lived on a farm, not a working farm, but a beautiful property with many animals.  The property was my “reason” at the start.

This body of work differs from my other photography because of how I approach it visually, but the drive comes from the same place as with all of my work – a desire to learn and get close to something. The camera gives me the excuse to look at the subject closely, while at the same time enabling me to maintain a distance.

The Dream

10am

Did you set out to make a book of the photos or did the idea come later?
I did not set out with the intention to make a book. The first two years I did not show the work to anyone. It felt so private and I was working through so much internally. As time progressed I had a lot of images and while I knew I wasn’t done, I felt the need to show the work to get a response and see if others connected with it. For me, books are long-term projects. I need observe with my camera over the course of years.

Did you use a 5×7 camera for the whole project? If so, what do you like about working with this format?
Yes, I used a large format 5 X 7 (and on occasion 4 X 5) for the whole project. I love this format for many reasons. One is that it slows me down. Every shot is intentional. In the case of this project, Mom knew every photograph I was taking, so in time it became a collaboration. Also, the time is important to me – the process of shooting the film, developing it, and getting contact sheets back from my lab. I like to sit with the images on the contacts and then send them back to the lab to be scanned. I do all the work on my negative and give the file back to my printer with a match print. If I want to shoot a quick easy image I can do that, but it feels too easy. This goes for anything I am photographing that is a long-term project.

Irrelevance of Time

How did this project help you reconnect with you mother? Was there anything you learned during the time you worked on it? 
That’s a complicated question. The simple answer is I spent a lot of time with my mother. I learned many valuable lessons that I will carry with me through life.  One of the biggest is acceptance. I learned to accept my mother for who she was. Before I began this project, I thought I knew her. Through the process of making the work, I realized what I knew was just an illusion I had created through distance. Showing up day after day, week after week, year after year, seeing the contact sheets, printing the images – this process changed the way I saw. I truly accepted her home, and her. I fell in love with the stark simplicity of her life.  This opened space for us to have a relationship. It took about 3 years for this to happen.  If I had kept my mother in the neat and tidy little box I could maintain with distance, I would have missed out on one of the most kind, wonderful, strong people I have ever met.

In your photographs, your mother appears in glimpses, was there a reason you choose not to photograph her directly and focus mainly on the domestic details of the house? 
This was a conscious choice for the edit of the book and symbolic of my mother. I spent 6 years photographing Mom. I learned so much about her, yet there was so much I didn’t know. I saw her and yet there were always pieces hidden; things she never would reveal to anyone. I did take many images of her directly, but they are not in the book edit. I didn’t include them because the book would have become about something else that was not my intent. It would be too direct and take away the mystery. I wanted the photographs to leave people with questions about their own lives, and remind them of something in their past that would prompt them to ask questions and find their own answers.

To mark the publication of the book, the Mid-Manhattan branch of the New York Public Library (455 Fifth Avenue, southeast corner of 40th Street, New York, NY 10016) will host a book launch event as part of its Artist Dialogue Series on Wednesday January 11 2017. Butler will be in conversation with renowned photography critic and author Vicki Goldberg, who contributes the book’s foreword. Esteemed photo editor Alison Morley, who writes the book’s afterword, will moderate. The discussion will be followed by a book signing. For more information, please click here.

The book, published by Glitterati Incorporated, can be purchased here.

Bronze Horses

Control

Peppers and Tomatoes

Josephine & Chicks

Stairway

Lunch I October 16, 2010

All images © Sarah C. Butler

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