Documenting Thierry


Year after year, young Europeans come to London to learn English and try to make better money than they do at home. London appears as a place of total freedom for young queers, where nobody gives a fuck about who you are, to the point that you can die on the sidewalk and people will keep walking along your body. To be hired as a bartender in any gay venue is easy when you know how to smile and seduce your audience. But, it doesn’t take long to realise that sex work provides better income and more free time without a boss above you.

I used most of that time to do activism in the labour movement for sex workers’ and LGBTQ rights. The personal is political but sometimes the political is a convenient way to meet new people and become more personal. This is how I met photographer Marc Vallée who read the articles I wrote in the Guardian advocating for sex work decriminalisation and labour rights. We talked about anarcho-syndicalism, what an absence of power could mean, and the similarities between different freelance jobs whether as an independent photographer or as a sex worker. It seems he liked me enough to make more than photographs with me. Now you hold in your hands the result of our collaboration.

“Ok, so, my name is Thierry Schaffauser, I’m a sex worker, or a whore if you want, I’m queer, I’m a drug user, I’m a migrant, and recently I’ve read something about sexual addiction so maybe I will claim that as well! What I’m doing in terms of political activism I do, particularly everything, for freedom. Which is related to sexual minorities.  I started activism with Act-Up in Paris around HIV politics. I’m very involved with sex worker activism, queer activism, things like that. And trade unions, the labour movement which is a new thing but you learn a lot. It’s interesting how sex workers have been excluded from institutions like the labour movement or the feminist movement. So we start making connections with, you know, Slut Walk, the GMB [a TUC-affiliated trade union].

“What do we campaign for? Basically the decriminalisation of the whole sex industry: sex workers, clients, third parties, families, partners etc.  Labour rights for sex workers which means equal rights with every worker. Anything that empowers minorities and the working class because I think many people don’t necessary love their job.  I think work is exploitation whether it’s in the sex industry or any industry. Ideally, we should be free not to have to work as well. I think maybe I develop these kind of anarchist ideas now to try to question any kind of power, a system without power maybe would be good.”

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