2019 - Ongoing
Relationships have been rendered increasingly remote, occurring over Zoom and FaceTime on the other side of a screen. Webcam models who perform on online streaming platforms, trading sex for money, have long struggled with how to communicate from one side of the screen to the other. What have they learned? Who are they? What do they have to teach us?
These online webcam models turn out to be experts in the field of online-based human bonding–their livelihood depends on it. By exploring their experiences, “On Dreams and Screens” investigates how intimate and real you can get through a web camera. It explores how virtual bodies manage to thrive and function in an online fantasy world, often (but not always) going beyond the transactional for something more authentic and lasting.
Ultimately, I seek to understand the paradoxical relationship of intimacy and distance, connection and disconnection, in a world newly transformed. As someone who has much experience with long-term, long-distance relationships, these are questions that I have long been asking myself. How do these relationships affect a person’s self-image and real-life perception? Who do we become when we exchange feelings over a keyboard?
I'm working on this project in tight collaboration with seven Eastern European female webcam models aged 19-24, who consider themselves non-professional or semi-professional, “girl next door” type, and are based in the US or Ukraine. Cam girls live in a shared web habitat, but the geography of the project makes sense: all leading camming platforms are registered in North America, yet Eastern Europe is the world’s major hub of webcam models. In the US, camming is legal. In Ukraine, it is not.
Humanizing sex work is an additional important goal of the project. Yet to keep my heroines anonymous (expect of the most "open" ones), I was looking for visual strategies to avoid straight portraiture while sustaining a deep, intimate connection with the viewer.