Thailand has long been known as the sex capital of Asia, and according to a survey in 2004, there are approximately 800,000 underage prostitutes in Thailand in a trade worth 4.3 billion baht per year or three percent of the Thai economy. This alarming number has put Thailand on the top of the list of underage sexual exploitation according to the U.N.
Underage is a photographic documentation aimed at understanding the minds of these underage male prostitutes in a most candid and visceral way. I want the process to uncover a bit of the life, choice, and consequences that these young boys are experiencing.
Underage prostitution results from several reasons, from being molested by family members and/or relatives, poverty, being a runaway, and drug addiction.
This project is multi-layered and complex in its nature. Psychologically, the project offers provocative and haunting portraits of these lost souls. The visual is visceral and represents the ugly mess that is the manifestation of deep-rooted problems concerning family, teenage years in Thailand, and society. The personal data of each subject is included to offer an insight or a peep into their lives and journey to the opposite side of normalcy, tradition, and perception. In addition, sexual identification and orientation are being questioned and investigated. While all subjects identify themselves as heterosexual young boys who come to terms with having sex with gay guys for money, most of them have never had sex with females. Many of them reason that all men must go through having sex with gay guys in order to understand how to have sex with females when such time comes.
I want the images to act as a mirror reflecting the rotten reality of child abuse and exploitation. I also want the images to pose painful questions about life, choice, consequences, and of humanity. Lastly, I hope the project will shed some light on this pervasive situation, raising questions for us about society, corruption, morals, and human treatment.
Apart from dealing with elements of desire, innocence, corruption, exploitation and injustice, amongst others, when we look at these pictures we step into the shoes of both participants, the boy and the buyer, and engage in their personal story, real or imagined…Mirror neurons