Human Negotiations is a photographic art project that explores the lives of prostitutes living and working in Bangkok, Thailand. A collaboration between photographer Katharina Hesse and writer Lara Day, the project uses both images and text to deal directly with the perception of women, and in particular sex workers in Southeast Asia.
Leaving aside stereotypes of exploited, downtrodden Third World females coerced into a profession in which they are passive victims, Human Negotiations reveals a more nuanced, open-ended world where women take center stage, and where reality’s complexities leave room for wider interpretations. The project focuses specifically on subjects who have not been coerced into their jobs, but who choose work in the sex industry as a means towards a better life: a mother supporting a child, a student paying off a college loan, a ladyboy saving up for cosmetic surgery, a woman living the lifestyle to enable her own freedom and independence.
Katharina Hesse graduated in Chinese and Japanese studies from the Institut National des Langues et Civilizations Orientales (INALCO) in Paris. Hesse initially worked as an assistant for German TV (ZDF) and then freelanced for Newsweek from 1996 to 2002. In 2003 and 2004 she covered China for Getty’s news service. Hesse is a self-taught photographer. Her images have been featured in numerous publications such as Courrier International, Der Spiegel, D della Repubblica, EYEmazing, Glamour (German edition), IO Donna, Die Zeit, Marie-Claire, Neon, Newsweek, Stern, Time Asia, Vanity Fair (Italian & German editions). Hesse participated in the “A day in the Life of the American Woman ” project in 2005, and was awarded the NPPA 1st prize in 2003 & 2009 (magazine: Portrait & Personality). Her work has been featured at various photography festivals including Visa Pour l’Image, Perpignan, France; the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography; the Angkor Photo Festival, Cambodia; “Road Trips” David Alan Harvey at LOOK3 June 2008, USA; Chobi Mela V, Bangladesh 2009; Noorderlicht Fotogalerie “Summer of Love”, July-August 2009, Noorderlicht Fotofestival; “Pursuit of Happiness”, September 2009, The Netherlands. Katharina Hesse lives and works in China for the last 16 years.
Lara Day is a writer, photographer and editor based in Hong Kong. Her work covers art, culture and travel topics and appears regularly in international publications such as TIME magazine and Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia. She holds degrees in English Literature and Publishing from the University of Oxford and the University of Arts London respectively, and recently completed postgraduate studies in Creative Writing at the University of Hong Kong under the supervision of U.S. National Book Award winner Shirley Geok-Lim. Books she has edited include World Press Photo Award winner Michael Wolf’s “Hong Kong: Front Door/Back Door” and “Fotolog.book”, both published by Thames & Hudson.
All images are © Katharina Hesse