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PhonesexReview - Phonesex
by Phillip Toledano
Twin Palms, 2008
Review by Christian Perring
Jul 21st 2009 (Volume 13, Issue 30)

In Phonesex, Phillip Toledano presents portraits of phone sex workers along with a short quotation from them about their work.  They are mostly women, but he includes a few men.  He shows them in their homes, where they work, posing for the camera.  The lighting is a little dim, with their faces somewhat in shade, or obscured by their hands or cigarette smoke.  Few of them look directly at the camera.  Toledano frames the picture so that their rooms look sparsely furnished and dark.  There's variation: a number of the subjects are laughing or smiling, but mostly they look tired and preoccupied.  The words from the subjects with the pictures are very helpful, talking about their experiences, the reasons they do the job, what they did before, and how they feel about it.  The words are arranged on the page to look like poetry.  The scariest piece is by a woman who says that they night before, one of her clients shot himself while talking to her, and that had happened twice before.  Other subjects say they enjoy their work, and some explain that they have some limits about what fantasies they will play out. 

Apart from in the photograph that also appears on the book cover, there's nothing about the images themselves that indicates that the subjects work at phone sex, so we are made to integrate this information with what we see and read.  The images are subdued even when the subjects are active, and in most of them, they are sitting down quietly.  So the pictures how the non-sexual side of people who do a sexual job.  So there's at least a simple message that people who work in phone sex are full human beings, with complex lives.  The mournful tone of the pictures suggests some sort of lamentation, but it isn't clear what the photographer's stance is.  He remains basically neutral: sympathetic but removed from his subjects.  It makes the reader curious, but it's a mostly unemotional approach that does not leave a strong impression.

 

Links:

·         Twin Palms

·         Phonesex website

·         Phillip Toledano

 

© 2009 Christian Perring                   

   

Christian Perring, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York.

 


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