Isolation, Vulnerability and Courage: Sex Workers in Macedonia
In Macedonia, as throughout the world, sex workers are pushed to the margins of society by a combination of prejudice, discrimination, and violence. Sex workers inhabit a particularly vulnerable position in Macedonian society, facing harassment and violence not only from their clients and pimps, but also from law enforcement officials and other authorities. These abuses include physical violence, illegal detention, compulsory testing for sexually transmitted diseases, and rape, which are compounded by substandard enforcement of law and lack of access to health and support services. Adding to these challenges are the risks of HIV/AIDS and other STDs, drug addiction, a hostile public attitude, and mass-media harassment. Because of the tremendous negative stigma connected to prostitution in Macedonia, most sex workers are living double lives, concealing the fact that they are sex workers from their families and the communities in which they live. A disproportionate number of street-based sex workers, those most vulnerable, are members of the Roma community, Macedonia’s most harshly discriminated against ethnic minority group. Gay and transgender sex workers are often targeted and further marginalized because of their sexual or gender orientation.
Building upon my previous long-term projects documenting the lives of sex workers in New York City, I spent several weeks in the spring of 2010 photographing and recording the stories of sex workers in Macedonia. I collaborated closely with Healthy Options Project Skopje (HOPS) to create the body of work, spending many days at their drop-in center, joining the outreach team in the streets and in the Roma community, and visiting sex workers in their homes. I recorded hours of audio interviews and conversations with the people I photographed, as well as the sounds of the streets and rooms where they live and work. Because of the sensitivity of the topic and the previous negative exposure sex workers have suffered in Macedonian media, it was essential to me to not only work closely with HOPS, but also to discuss the project directly with the sex workers themselves. Almost all of the people I photographed in Macedonia were eager to tell their stories but asked that I conceal their identities from the viewer; they wanted to be seen and heard but were terrified of being exposed. Theirs are stories of fear, isolation and vulnerability, but also of survival and courage in the face of relentless abuse and alienation.
Tiana Markova-Gold is a freelance documentary photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. She received a New York Times Scholarship to attend the full-time Photojournalism Program at the International Center of Photography in 2006-07. She has traveled extensively, documenting social issues with a particular focus on women and girls. Tiana’s photographs have been recognized in numerous photography contests including Pictures of the Year International, New York Photo Awards, PDN Photo Annual, American Photography and the International Photography Awards. Her work has been included in exhibitions at Sasha Wolf gallery, New York Photo Festival, HOST gallery in London, England and the Lumix Festival of Young Photojournalism in Hannover, Germany.
Since the spring of 2007, Tiana has been working on an in-depth project about the lives of women in prostitution in New York City. In January 2009 she traveled throughout Asia on a photography fellowship from the Johnson & Johnson Foundation, photographing social services projects in nine countries across the region. In April and May 2009 she traveled to Nigeria and Brasil as the recipient of a fellowship from Global Fund for Children and the Nike Foundation, documenting the work of several local organizations whose aim is to empower, protect and educate adolescent girls and young women. She is a 2010 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow in Photography and 2010 recipient, with writer Sarah Dohrmann, of the Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University for If You Smoke Cigarettes in Public You Are a Prostitute: Women and Prostitution in Morocco. website
We are proud to announce that the 2010 WIP-LTI/Lightside Individual Materials Grant, providing $1000 in artists choice of Kodak materials has been awarded to Tiana Markova-Gold for her project documenting social issues surrounding sex workers in Macedonia.