Illustration © Nikki McClure

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Artist Cordelia Donohoe has work currently showing as part of a V Day photography exhibition 5th – 20th March 2010 at the New Players Theatre, Villiers Street. London.

Gender studies
Girls and young women
Sex and sexualities
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United Kingdom

Tell me about the work you have been doing.
My recent bodies of work are around the notion of the prostitute, they are part of a dialogue about what creating a sexualized identity and advertising on the internet might mean. I take apart the process of taking photographs, I also use text and collage to question what one is seeing and who is being addressed. It is also a personal journey about my own relationship to my womanliness.

How did you get into doing this?
It started when women were coming to me for portraits for internet advertising of sexual services. This made me question my feminism and made me look at the process of constructing these images, what they were saying and the effect on me. I don’t do these commissions any more. I found it too depressing.

The sex industry is massive on the internet. It serves to construct countercultures affected by commercial considerations, in which certain practices are accepted as the norm and in which one may participate without seeming threat to one’s normal ‘self’. I wanted to look at this aspect of the internet as I think we are all affected by this.

It seems that your work is as much about your involvement with your subjects as it is about the work itself?
Yes, I think of my work as a dialogue on different levels. First with the viewer or the potential viewer then with the person or object in the picture and also with myself. Where I situate myself as the artist is very important.

Tell me about some of the series
In the text series I use parts of internet pictures of girls, with text, to question the process of making this advertising - to whom it is addressed, what is seen or not seen. This play on seeing and identity, viewer and viewed is underlined by the heads of the girls being cut off.
The Distortions through a pimps lens series is about when I went to a pimp who took photographs of me which I digitally rework. These are more expressionistic. Then in the In My Fathers House series, I look at the act of photographing a girl in my fathers house. I am a daughter subject to the law of the father in this society, I am to some extent constructed by culture. I cannot relate to a prostitute in any other way than as another woman, if I make a woman an object, what does that say about me?

The process of taking photographs of women who are directly marketing themselves and of going to a pimp must have been very challenging?
It was, it was a bit like going backstage, going behind the charade. And like in the wizard of oz, these small people operate the machinery to make themselves look big. I was nervous before I met people but they were quite sweet and vulnerable, they are women enacting a big strange lie to earn some cash and shore up the egos of the lost. I don’t think it has the greatest of effects on everyone who does it and it can be very isolating and sad. And whatever one says about the pros and cons of the sex industry or of individuals within it, its vastness must have an effect upon us all.

Cordelia Donohoe
Christina Olivieri
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