The Attendants Project
While the collapse of the Greek economy brought many industries to their knees, one sector saw profits boom: the sex trade. Demand actually rose as prices collapsed and the pool of women vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking grew ever bigger. The ultimate result has been that the industry, both legal and not, has become more brutal, with sex workers facing harsher conditions and greater exploitation and insecurity even while profitability on the whole has risen.
The Attendants Project is an attempt to document this phenomenon through the stories of sex-workers - and their clients - in modern day Greece. At its heart it is an attempt to re-humanize those who have been systematically de-humanized. We may not always like to admit it, but there is a bit of all of us even in the darkest corners.
Since 2010, photographer Myrto Papadopoulos has sought and gained access to brothels and strip-clubs, photographing the dimly lit interiors where the trappings of sexual fantasy thinly veil harsh realities of exploitation and abuse. Despite the inherent difficulties, she formed trusting relationships with sex-workers and others in the industry, chronicling their stories. A key point of focus is also those driving the trade: the clients. What are they truly seeking? A purely sexual release, or something more?
The resulting work – namely the photography, video and interviews obtained from the red-light districts of Athens and other Greek cities forms the bulk of the material obtained. This work is ongoing. A portion of it has also been the basis for several newspaper articles about the project, a presentation given to the European Parliament in February 2014, and most recently, a TEDx talk in Thessaloniki in May.
This process naturally brought Papadopoulos into close contact with social workers and public servants working on issues of prostitution and sex trafficking. In Greece there are very few frameworks available to those seeking to escape the industry. Even more problematic, sex workers - regardless of their circumstances – are customarily treated as criminals by the police and justice system, increasing their social exclusion.
This led to the launch of the next phase of the Attendants: the ‘Re-flower Project’ where, sex-workers are offered support and are invited to join participatory photography workshops which provides a basis for self-expression and empowerment.
The participants will use the medium to produce documentary photography and artwork based on their experiences. This, together with interviews (written and/or on film) will be used to create a mobile exhibition of photography, text and installations (due spring, 2016), both of and by the participating sex workers.
Myrto Papadopoulos finished her studies in 2003 after completing a five-year Fine Arts degree, majored in painting and photography. In 2006, she applied for a documentary photography degree at the ICP (International Centre of Photography) in New York, where she was granted a scholarship.
She has won various awards and nominations and in 2013 she was a winner and named emerging photographer 2013 from the Magenta Foundation in Canada. She has taken part in several exhibitions including the Mois off de la photo 08 in Paris, the PHOTOQUAI 2em Biennal Du Monde 09 at the Museé Quai Branly in Paris the New York photo Festival 09, the Biennale of young artists of Europe XIV bjcem 09, the LOOK3 Between Festival 2010 USA, the DUMBO Arts Festival 2011 in NY, the Athens Photo Festival 2011, 2012, the Flash Forward Exhibition 2013, in Toronto and Washington DC, Greek America Foundation / Film & Photo Week 2014 in Toronto, the Euroart Photo Exhibition 2014 in Milan, the Lishui Photography Festival 2015 in China and more.
Her clients include TIME Magazine, GEO International, Le Monde, WSJ, DIE ZEIT, WIRED, DAS Magazine, Neue Zuger Zeitung, CAPITAL, Vision Magazine, Lens New York Times, Time.com, ARTE TV, ZDF TV among others. Today she works as a freelance photographer and a documentary filmmaker and is represented by Redux Pictures in NY.