For the past year, I've been working on a photography project on prostitutes in the Dominican Republic, specifically Sosúa on the north coast, a major sex tourism destination. I learned about it through Denise Brennan's book, What's Love Got to Do With It?, an ethnography of the women who come to Sosúa -- mostly from Santo Domingo, the capital -- filled with stories of their motivations and hopes, as well as disappointments. What's striking about the stories Brennan tells is that she doesn't characterize the women as victims, passive to their circumstances. Opportunities are extremely limited in the Dominican Republic for women to make a decent living, with men often absent fathers to their children, yet she describes women with agency, with plans, and with a purpose.
When I went there, as I got to know women in Sosúa, three in particular, I learned this to be true. They are disarmingly ordinary women, internal migrants, single mothers who send remittances back home to support their children, some saving to build a house for their family. My objective is to portray them as they are, who they are, and not present some degraded caricature, which is the typical approach to sex workers in popular culture and documentary work. I have thoughts on why that is, but for now I just want to create some dissonance with the cultural burden the rest of us impose upon them.