Is it art photography or photojournalism? The Japanese-Brazilian artist Hirosuke Kitamura captures images of anonymous female sex workers, and the results are discomforting. Taken in a country associated with beautiful beaches and lively culture, Kitamura looks beyond the surface and finds faceless figures and dark, unknown spaces that don’t seek to be photographed. The images appear in his show Hidra, curated by celebrated Brazilian artist Miguel Rio Branco, presented by 1500 Gallery until April 28, 2012.
The exhibition’s title references the fabled Hydra figure in Greek mythology, a many headed man-killing monster which guarded the underwater entrance to the underworld. Although the women in the photos appear to be victims, the alternative reading suggests a sense of danger when encountering them. Kitamura, a resident of Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, has been photographing these locations for over ten years. Whether the images are received as a documentation of sex as a commodity or an exploitative project, their themes are true to the artist’s surroundings.