India has between two and three million prostitutes according to estimations, three-quarters of which are aged under 17. Their numbers are double or triple in China, not including concubines. In the Philippines, a country of 100 million people, 500 000 people, mainly women and children, work in the prostitution industry, according to the International Labour Organization.
In Southeast Asia, Western tourists represent only a small percentage of the clients at the local bordellos. But the men from Europe, the United States or Australia attract a fringe of impoverished young women who see in these Westerners an opportunity for more lucrative encounters. This shadow economy – a modern treatise on women – represents between 2 and 14 % of the region’s GDP.
How should this tragedy be told ? Most of the reports choose to expose the evils : red-light streets in gaudy reds and yellows ; paunchy Westerners embracing mini-short clad little girls who’ve grown up too fast ; leering young tourists on benders, in the arms of miniature prostitutes with outrageous make-up. These images provoke nausea and anger, with the uneasiness that always accompanies the spectacle of the sex, money and pleasure that a man procures as of right, because he is born on the right side of the tracks and his handful of notes are worth several months of wages in a poor country.
German photographers Stefan Finger and Insa Hagemann chose to reverse the gaze. Surprised by the number of mixed-race children in the streets of the Philippines, they sought to find out why. “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans,” said John Lennon. Stefan Finger and Insa Hagemann discovered that these mixed-race kids were almost all the children of prostitutes. They decided to tell the story of sexual tourism through some of the thousands of children born every year with unknown fathers, the men passing through for several hours or weeks in the nights of their prostitute mothers.
While living among these families manufactured by international tourism, they modestly present a much more disturbing reality than the bordellos or beaches and their flocks of lost girls. How do you live when your skin itself betrays the fact that you are the result of commercialised rape ? Devoid of voyeurism, this report presents this tragic reality, more powerfully than all of the “Manila nights” shots put together.
A great many photojournalists prefer shocking, provocative imagery. On Google, the words “shocking picture” has 39.3 million hits, and “sex tourism picture” 11.4 million... The work that we are proud to showcase in 6Mois presents a different path. Stefan Finger and Insa Hagemann chose to reflect the world in a different way – even its darker side. They invite us, as photographers and as journalists, to disturb as opposed to shock, to suggest instead of imposing, and to question rather than affirm. Since the first issue of 6Mois, this has been our line of conduct, with confidence in the reader’s intelligence.
Laurent Beccaria, Patrick de Saint Exupéry, Marie-Pierre Subtil