Frauentreff Olga (Women’s Center) & Kathrin Tschirner

A collaboration by photographer Kathrin Tschirner, Olga, and the UK NGO Photovoice taking the form of a “participative” photo project shown at the aff Galerie in Berlin-Friedrichshain.

an image from the collaborative photo project by Frauentreff Olga and Kathrin Tschirner.In spite of my misgivings about the exhibit, the project managed to skirt around some of my pet peeves when it comes to artists tackling the topic of sex-work. I was relieved at the general absence of some mental pit-falls typical of much of the dialog on the topic of prostitution and precarity; a note of condescending pity for those adversely affected by the horrific working conditions in the sex industry/trade, and often an (to my mind) over-emphasis of the possible role of law enforcement and of the customers in realistic schemes for the amelioration of these working conditions.

It was nice to read texts by the women working in prostitution juxtaposed to the photos these women themselves had taken, rather than seeing pictures “of them” and reading thoughts “about them”.

Misgivings remain on my part in regard to the use of such language on the “Photovoice” site such as “positive social change”. I have a great deal of trouble with the possible binary interpretation of “positive” as opposed to “negative” and its vague, and sweeping contentiousness. Also the phrase “social change” infers to me that injustice is a social problem and not system immanent phenomenon, the more or less conscious result of our everyday dealings in support of an economic / power-political system that requires injustice in order to maintain itself. For as long as in keeping with the current liberalizing trend, the responsibility for the undesirable effects of our dealings rests primarily with work force, whilst the desirable effects are claimed by those with the wherewithal to do so, those with the least access to power and resources will be consigned precarity. To my mind it is the role of the state to mediate this implicit power discrepancy. However it would seem that since the mid-80’s there has been a incremental blighting of the state, and its power to mediate and regulate, while at the same time the influence of extra-political, supraregional economic forces is increasing.

I am not certain whether “charitable”, non-government organizations like Photovoice can or even aspire to fill the gap that is opening as a function of the retracting social state, coupled with the global economic free for all some seem to regard as the panacea for the questionable growth and competition driven system’s current faltering.

Letting barely literate, half-starved masses scramble for the scraps from Master’s table may be a tried and true political model, i doubt however very much that it will lead to a world i am keen on waking up to every day. Whether my visit to an art gallery in some gentrified part of town is likely to slap the wrist of those eager to see this model gain universal validity, i sorely doubt.

Project Olga has kindly provided a PDF of the photo book* containing some of the photos, and texts (here):

* Tschirner, Kathrin; Frauetreff Olga et al.: Photo Voice Kurfürstenstraße, ein Projekt des Frauentreff Olga. On: (Angebote > Frauentreff Olga). URL: Last viewed: 08 Jun 2105.


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