Brothels and Fundamentalism
This body of work examines the uneasy peace between Islamic fundamentalism and profanity in the brothels of Pakistan. Pakistan’s little known sex industry survives under a blanket of modesty, pretense and oppression. This isolation with its inner conflicts drew me in. The sexual natures of their business interest me less. I find the women proud despite their stigma, yet modest in keeping with their Islamic upbringing; a woman sits on her bed, a madam. She recently sold her 14-year-old daughter’s virginity.
Arousing movie posters hang discreetly in a corner of a local cinema appear stark and uninhibited, though tame compared to what we are used to in the West. Here a hint of a cleavage or bra strap, or a woman not covering her chest with a hijab is a ravenous display of seduction. As we look closer, the sex workers themselves have censored exposed thighs and cleavage with a black pen. Repressive fundamentalist Muslim laws not only shun these women’s existence but also in some areas make their actions punishable by death. However, unlike any other place in Pakistan, in their brothels the women are the breadwinners. This underlying dualism surfaces in portraits of the women sitting proudly on the same beds where they not only service their customers but share with their husbands and children. These paradoxes forced me to set aside my in-grained expectations of how things should be or appear, to deepen my understanding of this culture and its complexities.
Since ’01 Kate Orne have documented social issues in Afghanistan and Pakistan using photography as a tool to create awareness for the wellbeing of women, children and animals. Her commitment to social causes has become the defining part of her life as an artist and human being.
Her portfolio is extensive and relies on a personal and quiet aesthetic to communicate visually, whether in documentary work or commercial photography, intimacy has played and important part of her work. Essays ranging from indentured laborers in South East Asia where the poor are sentenced to lives of disease and want, victims of domestic abuse, orphanages in Kabul where thousands of children lack such basic things as bathroom facilities, maternity wards without the most basic care and imprisoned women committed to long sentences themselves being victims of rape and abuse.
She continued her work among the sex-workers and their families — re-encountering the daughters, barely teenagers, whom she knew as little girls, now introduced to the sex trade by their Mothers. At the same time, Kate have also seen the first anti-drug program and two little schools founded by sheedsociety.org for the stigmatized children of the prostitutes, and joined in their efforts to improve the lives for the next generation. She use this project to raise awareness about this little known community, and to raise funds for the two little schools, the first ones ever to offer education to the children of the sex-workers in this community with the mission to break the cycle of children being born into prostitution, sex abuse, drug addiction and crime. There are currently 80 students enrolled.
Kate received the Bernice Abbott Prize for 2008. She was selected a winner of Hey, Hot shot! and American Photography 24. She has been exhibited at Jen Bekman Gallery, NY Noordlicht Photo festival, Photographic Center Northwest and Chelsea Art Museum NY among others. Her editorial work has appeared in The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Esquire, Trace, Grazia, Interview, Artnet.com, Vision, Arena, Vibe, Spin, Marie Claire, Harpers Bazaar, Glamour, Tokion among others. www.kateorne.com