“This is a silent scream to all the people previous in our lives who’ve passed judgement on us because of the dark places we’ve been through drugs, prostitution and abuse.”
Amanda, Susie, Maggie and Lynda, part of the collective An Untold Story – Voices
‘Absence of Evidence’ is a collaborative work between art duo Henry/Bragg and An Untold Story – Voices, a group of former street sex workers in Hull, honouring 14 of their fellow workers who have died. From the outset of this collaboration, the women were very clear about what they wanted to achieve. “We wanted this to be a journey around the old spaces we shared, a mapped memorial to friends and other women we know who haven’t made it.” The images, at first glance, seem innocuous; ordinary places that could belong anywhere. But these places hide a thousand untold stories. These are locations where the women worked and where serious violent crime against street sex workers took place. The body of work consists of 14 photographs, taken by both the artists and the women, one for each of the women who died. They are accompanied with fragments of conversation recalling their time working on the streets. By placing the work on billboards in a street setting it is hoped to reach a diverse audience and provoke discussions around the decriminalisation of sex work.
Supported by Lankelly Chase.
Henry/Bragg are artists Julie Henry (born Cambridge 1959) and Debbie Bragg (born Kent 1974).They highlight subject matters that mean a great deal to them, such as the erosion of working class culture and the human longing for escapism. They shine a light on overlooked members of society and capture parts of culture before they completely pass, using a mix of documentary photography, film and social engagement. They take the familiar and displace it in order to present it back to the viewer as a mirror to themselves.
“From amateur talent shows at working men’s clubs to mod reunions in provincial dancehalls, sharply focused and unsentimental, the work nonetheless possesses an almost nostalgic bittersweet quality, as if aware of both the transience of these moments, and the increasing fragility of many of the working-class subcultures that sustain them.” Steven Bode, Film and Video Umbrella
‘On side-by-side screens Going Down shows the ‘home’ and ‘away’ spectators at a Premier League football match in London. Possibly the greatest work of art ever made on the subject of sport, Going Down is 90 seconds of contemporary agony and ecstasy in football.’ Bill Jeffries, Presentation House Gallery,Vancouver
“Probably the finest interventionists working in the UK today.” Graham Crowley, Professor of Painting RCA, 1998-2006
Works include: Going Down (1998) a film installation about football fandom; Talent Show (2000) about people who enter talent shows in East London; Dyed in the Wool (2005) about the commidification of football; Blooming Britain (2011) a study of people who enter gardening competitions; The Surrey Hills (2012) an audio-visual piece about a landfill site; B.I.N.G.O (2015) about the changing face of bingo; Ecoute Bien la Campagne (2016) about the contrasts of living in the city and the countryside; One Night in Benidorm (2017) documenting a single night out in the Spanish holiday resort; Columba Livia Domestica (2018) looking at the humble pigeon; Three Minute Heroes (2019) documenting original punk bands still going today and Absence of Evidence (2019) a collaboration with former street sex workers, shown as a street exhibition on billboards and posters in Hull and London Summer 2020.
“Our interest is in people and our work is a socio-anthropological approach to social groups, usually involving 6 -12 months participant research. During this time we have the opportunity to interact with the people involved in the subject matter. Our thoughts and ideas change throughout this time as we develop a relationship with participants, making this an organic process. Because of lengthy research time we nearly always feel an attachment with the people involved so we feel more like a co-participant rather than a dispassionate observer. Our work to date has given us the opportunity to work with a diverse range of people from football fans to the women’s institute, old mods to talent show contestants, pigeon fanciers to ageing punks. We have always gained some understanding from our work and research; we see this as a dialogical process with learning on both parts. We like to turn the spotlight onto real people in real situations.”
An Untold Story – Voices are a collective of women with lived experience of street sex working in Hull, and allies. They authored and were involved in the publication of An Untold Story in 2017; a self-edited book of narratives, images and poetry which outlines the major themes of lived experience which the authors wanted to highlight.
They are concerned by the multiple and complex disadvantages still faced by many women who are involved in street sex work. Though admitting they don’t have all the answers, they know how these are both created and made worse by all forms of marginalisation, the misapplication of legislation, and punitive government policies which impoverish those who struggle the most.
They exist to support the raising of voices of lived experience of those sex workers most at risk of these challenges and injustices. They endeavour to do this through promoting understanding via human stories and working together as an inclusive community to shift cultural perception and effect justice and systemic change. They aim to see greater equality for current street sex workers, women at risk and therefore for all of us.
To read more about the women’s life experiences in their book ‘An Untold Story’ and to get information on their campaign, please see: