I've Never Been Big Sick
Ulla Deventer’s oeuvre finds itself at the intersection of documentary photography and portraiture. Moreover, it clearly features a phantasmagoric sensibility. Deventer translates deeply personal stories into dreamlike pictures grouped in series, carefully constructed with attention to symbolism and ambiance, and leaves behind the desired objectivity and ethnographic stance that so often weighs upon this type of art photography.
For “I’ve Never Been Big Sick”, Deventer has been collaborating for over a year with five women who work as a prostitute in Belgium. The artist has spent a lot of time with these women, in their workspaces as well as in their private homes where she regularly stayed overnight.
The material for this series is in fact gathered from two sources; the personal, living – as well as lived – environments of her protagonists that provide clues hinting to the image she wants to convey. Secondly, the artist incorporates several of the women’s verbal accounts and anecdotes into the series.
The ensemble is of an explicitly confounding nature. By introducing fragility, sensitivity, innocence and melancholy alongside the little indications of the harsh reality these individuals experience in the setting, Deventer attempts to compose an alternative narrative about sex workers; the staging of tenderhearted still scenes are indeed intended to derail stereotypical views on prostitution. Often, the effect is unsettling and/or provocative, leaving the voyeuristic desire unnourished.
Text written by Tom Nys
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