La Puente is the largest brothel in Southern Ecuador, and Charlotte Schmitz first heard of it while she was studying in Machala in 2006, aged 18. The brothel was stuck in the artist’s mind as a place that symbolized the gender-based double standards that exist in every society. Hyperaware of and always bothered by the inevitable hypocrisy surrounding one’s existence as a woman in a number of different countries she has lived, Schmitz returned ten years later at La Puente with the intention to interview and photograph women sex workers, to make sense of their marginalization and misrepresentation all around the world.
The polaroids were created in collaboration with the women, who chose their own poses and became part of the creative process by applying nail polish on their portraits. First used to provide anonymity, the nail polish elevates the photographs, and brings a rarely seen auto-narrative quality to the images. La Puente gives a new perspective on a somewhat clichéd subject matter by creating space for a nuanced and relatable depth to the individuals.
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