Exhibition: Inside Outside
A powerful and hard hitting photography exhibition by women who have been involved in the sex industry in Scotland has opened for the week in the Garden Lobby of the Scottish Parliament.
The exhibition, ‘Inside Outside’, is the result of an innovative project set up by the Encompass Network and gives a rare insight into the hidden world of the sex industry in Scotland.
The Encompass Network is a Scottish network of agencies working with people affected by involvement in commercial sexual exploitation or the sex industry.
The exhibition draws on lengthy interviews with seven women who have current or recent experience in different parts of the sex trade, from street prostitution to escorting, brothels and saunas, and features photos from four of the women.
The women talk of their backgrounds, routes into the sex industry and their struggles to leave. They also talk about their hopes and their dreams for lives outside the sex industry.
Levi: “I think I was putting mask on to make other people think, “Eh look she’s fine she’s looking fine she’s doing good.”
“But inside I really wasnae fine. Far fae fine.”
Natasha: “I had to drink like every day to get tipsy and drunk. A bottle of vodka. If I wasn’t drunk or something, I couldn’t go.”
Katie: “The money doesn’t last. You can make the money but once you’re not new anymore, the money is harder to come by.
“Oh when you’re new, it’s basically like you’re fresh meat. It’s something new for a customer to try and once they’ve tried you, you’re not new anymore.”
Holly: “I have a table in the hall with ornament paper weights on it. They looked… fragile. They looked pretty but I knew how heavy they were.
“If somebody was coming into the door, I could just take a step backwards, whack. You know, grab it. I practiced it.”
Sarah-jane: “You do become detached and you start to see yourself from the outside but not really see yourself at all. You all just become these numb statues that stand on a street corner, goes through the motions, doesn’t think about anything too much.”
Katie has been very positive about her involvement in this project, saying: “I have learnt quite a lot about myself throughout the course of this project so far, which I didn’t expect to.
“I learnt I actually like taking pictures and editing, that I’m arty.
“That I’m stronger than I thought I was, after going over my story realising how much I have dealt with and overcome and to the fact I’m still here I’m still standing, still doing something positive.
“I think the idea of getting women to tell their stories in such an individual way and using our minds to create something so beautiful that is going to reach so many people is amazing, and shows why we shouldn’t be ashamed of our stories – they’re our stories. They have made us who we are.”
A support worker in an Edinburgh-based Encompass service said: “”Everything done in Inside Outside is for the women, guided by the women. It allows women to look at their experience in a creative way with complete autonomy over their story.
“Inside Outside has shown how powerful art can be in emotional healing with the women finally been given the opportunity to have their voices heard and most importantly valued.”
The exhibition will run in the Scottish Parliament from 14-17 March 2017 – with entry by invitation – and will then be on tour to various locations in Scotland.
The Inside Outside book was also launched, and can be found online here.