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Nail polish and polaroids: Charlotte Schmitz collaborates with sex workers

Located in the city of Machala, La Puente is southern Ecuador’s largest brothel. It has been operating as a family business for 45 years, employing 170 women who are paid $10 per client. Charlotte Schmitz, one of BJP’s Ones to Watch in 2019, first heard about the brothel while she was studying in Machala, aged 18. Returning a decade later as a photographer, Schmitz immersed herself into the brothel, befriending regulars and employees alike, and collaborating with the women to produce her first photobook, La Puente, a dazzling collection of polaroid photographs. Schmitz gave the women full agency over their images: they posed how they wanted, and had the option to anonymise or embellish their images using nail polish: “A great material, to paint, to cover, to enhance.” These bright and colourful images are accompanied by Schmitz’ rather sobering diary entries. “The men at the urinal lean on the wall with their lower arms casually. One man pees freehand and looks at his mobile,” she writes. Collaborative, inclusive, and impartial, La Puente is an antidote …


BJP Staff