How am I funded? You may be surprised to learn that I have not earned anything from writing or photography.
My day job entirely funds my work on this project, but I am beginning to struggle to balance the time. I pay for flights, photographic film, cameras, analogue recorders and video gear. I sacrifice time I could spend with friends on holiday to interview and shoot.
No one, even the most committed activist, does anything for nothing. I know that within the community that I am trying to document, there are some very strong opinions about people who make money out of selling sex work stories. I try to give back where possible. I contributed money to SCOT-PEP in return for an interview. I crowdfunded Merritt Kopas in exchange for an opportunity to talk with Melissa Gira Grant. Under certain circumstances, I think it is appropriate to reward people for their time and I have a great deal of sympathy for people within the sex work community who are wary of the media and people piggybacking.
Writing may in the future generate some income, as can selling photographic prints, but in the longer term, I need to sustain myself working in this area through photography grants.
I'm very aware from my short time with White Ribbon that outcomes of social projects are very difficult to quantify. I think that many projects are self-serving and it would be naive to suggest that this is any different. Because of that, I reflect on what benefit the people I'm working with get.
There are a number of projects, individuals and campaigns that I have directly contributed to. I would encourage others to donate money if you actually care about sex workers. Donate to peer-led organisations to ensure that sex workers are actually included in service planning – services should be tailored for them rather than based on outsider assumptions. You can claim tax back on charity donations if that's a concern, though personally I think paying tax should be the way that everyone helps marginalised populations.
These are not organisations that 'rescue' sex workers. Sex workers do not need 'rescue'. These are peer-led organisations that work with sex workers to provide support.
SCOT-PEP (Scotland) - a peer-run Scottish charity that campaigns for the rights of sex workers in Scotland.
National Ugly Mugs (NUM) (UK) - a UK organisation that works to end violence and stigma against sex workers. NUM disseminates sex worker reports of incidents and shares them with other sex workers and front-line support projects across the UK. It shares anonymous intelligence with the police and supports sex workers in accessing the police and other professional services when they have been a victim of crime. There are local Ugly Mug schemes in many countries.
SWOP Behind Bars (US) - a community support organisation for incarcerated sex workers in the USA where sex workers are still criminalised. It provides books, study materials, and sex worker penpals for incarcerated sex workers and provides real support and resources for people who re-enter their communities after incarceration.
Aids Alliance - an alliance working on HIV, health and human rights through local, national and global action with communities in over 40 countries on four continents. It works through community action and designs and delivers health services with the involvement of people living with and most affected by HIV.
Amnesty International - a worldwide organisation campaigning for human rights, which has very bravely adopted a policy in support of the decriminalisation of prostitution. To understand more about why it took this step read its Q&A: Policy to Protect the Human Rights of Sex Workers.
Contributing Skills in Exchange for Time
I contribute my wide range of media and IT skills to the organisations and people I work with. I try to develop relationships with people so that in the longer term I can help them learn some of these skills for themselves – I myself learned about visual storytelling thanks to a DIY ethos and I think it's important to pass on knowledge.
Awareness Raising and education
Awareness raising does very little practically to change people's immediate circumstances but because I'm working on a visual storytelling project I'm very aware that it's an outcome.
Raising awareness with people who can change legislation or direct funding might make it more likely that the human rights of the sex worker community will be taken more seriously, so identifying a target audience is important. People who can change things include health professionals, people involved in the criminal justice system, civil servants, lawyers, the police and charities.
Another person I think of as target audience is 'Anne', a fictional character loosely based on someone I know. Anne is university educated, white and middle-class; she cares about current affairs and feminism. Anne has only been exposed to radical feminist arguments that sex work isn't work but exploitation of women. Anne isn't closed-minded – she just hasn't heard from sex workers talking about agency, consent and human rights. I always try and think about what arguments she may have and what might persuade her that sex workers are workers just like anyone else and that it's structural capitalist power that marginalises them in the same way it does everyone else.
My 'awareness raising' takes on a number of facets including written articles, documentary video and documentary photography.
I've already had some articles published internationally and I'm using Medium: @fraser.crichton.photographer as a platform.
I have a number of interviews on Vimeo that I am in the process of publishing with people talking about the New Zealand model of decriminalisation: Jason Hewett, New Zealand Police Area Commander Counties Manakau West; Jan Logie, Green Party MP; Annette Nesdale from the Ministry of Health (New Zealand); and Catherine Healy, Callum Bennachie and Chanel Hati from NZPC.
Sex workers' rights organisations are welcome embed them or get in touch for an edit. In all other cases, copyright applies.
In the much longer term, I'm hoping to have an exhibition. There are various forms it could take but I'd like it to be as unconventional as possible and designed to bring an audience face-to-face with sex workers, operators and those involved in sex workers' rights.
Like the rest of the world, I'm on social media and use it to raise awareness.
So what's in it for me?
The honest answer is that selfishly I want a voice too. Or rather, in this case, I share the frustration of many of the people I've met, who are not listened to when their stories are so incredibly relevant to how they are treated in society. It's hard to explain how powerful a feeling sharing that frustration can be, but clearly it is something that informs my project.
Am I building a career?
Well, yes, in the sense that I am developing a skill-set that I can use to attract funding in order to work with causes I care about. All photojournalists do this; they, like me, hold crummy second jobs to fund the work they care about. Building a career, however, does not mean taking resources away from the people I work with. Although NZPC have offered to pay for various costs and although they are government-funded, I have not accepted their offers of funding. They have contributed time, but we worked on ways to fit me into preexisting schedules.
It should be remembered, however, that the only way I can build a career is by working with people and organisations respectfully and ensuring that they get something of as high a quality as I can deliver.