no more macho fake poverty porn
writing in italics by @deluxeevildoglady
We stand with sex workers questioning the presence of Oliver London (@raoul_moat) on the MA in photography at Leeds Arts University. He takes photos of (he claims) street sex workers with unclear consent, unclear exchange and a pretty clear exploitative power dynamic all in the name of exploring the underground.
“where you can see the women are turning away from the camera, or are taken from behind without the knowing, and he may have blurred ones face however you can see her body language which looks like she is caught off guard and would have felt uncomfortable. We have to remember the fear that these women will have with their photo being randomly taken - is it the police? is it someone they know trying to find them out? These are legitimate worries if a sex worker.”
This was brought to our attention by @deluxeevildoglady, an activist and outreach worker on sex worker rights, after she saw @spicy_alan’s (Oliver’s girlfriend) Instagram. She’d dressed up as Oliver London (@raoul_moat) and openly mocked full service sex workers.
“It’s important that we realise in this situation he is fetishising poverty, and although he claims he doesn't make money off this project, people living in poverty don't have access to the social capital that this Oliver does in which he will exploit them by claiming he is an ally to sex workers, when as you can see him and his girlfriend are calling these women "prozzies" and saying "they gave me AIDs" which shows how little respect he has for them.”
Shit white dude art and explicit/implicit violence often go together: this stuff is not harmless or aesthetic fun and its function needs to be recognised and held up to the light. His work is far from an outlier - it’s closer to a standard for many shitty (white) men who are allowed to hang out on the peripheries of scenes and become silently the most successful, taking space away from people to tell their own stories and shape their own aesthetics. In this case, offering an unequal contract of the photograph and rendering its subject always as the oppressed and the photographer often the oppressor, making the vulnerable always visible and never vocal, turning lived experience into fetishised bodies.
This is just a man (and girlfriend) who were too silly to cover their arses, who got bold and edgy and let the truth slip out. Many others are much better at wearing a cloak of respectability and faux-concern, doing the same basic work with the same basic dynamic but getting away with it like a streetwear-brand Louis Theroux.
Institutions love it and other men love it because it makes them feel like they’ve gotten away with it, which they have. It’s not new for institutions to support these people but we don’t have to, and we don’t have to bow to their colonial logic of all ‘subject matter’ being fair game and to a meritocracy which has always been rigged for the white and privileged. We’ve also heard that BBC3 may be planning to platform this guy, which sounds about right because it’s the kind of stupid shit they keep managing to scoop up in their desperate attempts to appeal to millenials, so auntie beeb, can u not pls - let’s talk, how about you let sex workers speak for themselves for once?
The influencer economy leeches off marginalised ppl, in this case sex workers: ppl create onlyfans accounts whilst looking down on full service sex workers and street based workers who are the most marginalised and unprotected within the industry. people in privilege then benefit from the increased conversation around an issue and instead of standing in solidarity with the most marginalised they render it into an aesthetic to generate clout and capital. It seems obvious to us that a person using the name of an abuser who tried to murder his ex-girlfriend and murdered her new partner is not a safe person for women (or anyone) to be around. We have also been made aware that he has previously sent revenge porn of an ex-girlfriend to her mum and friends.
If you want to support Leeds-based sex workers you can donate to Basis Sex Work Project (@BasisSexWork on Twitter). And if you’re planning a documentary/photography project on a marginalised group of people, even if you’re better intentioned than Oliver (which we’d hope), please stop for a minute and really think about why you are doing it. If your first reaction to a perceived issue is to pick up a camera, legit please sell ur camera and give the money to someone who needs it. There are plenty of much better sex working students and artists who should be able to access the social capital he gets from this blurry trash. There will be sex working artists on the same course as him at Leeds who should not have to deal with this and could potentially be at risk. This person should not be rewarded for perpetrating violence against women and Leeds Arts University should consider why this is the work they choose to support and platform.
We could go on further about his racist, supremacist photography, his misogyny, his gross-as-fuck white male gaze, macho posturing fake poverty porn and capitalising off exploitative methods but we don’t want to give him any more time than we already have. This should not be happening. We hope Leeds Art University reconsiders its position and think about the safety of its students, and we hope that Oliver London can recognised the harm he has caused others and stop perpetuating that harm.