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Max Eicke: “Exploring our society through the eyes of sex-workers in the BDSM and fetish community”

KT: How did you get into photography?

ME: The camera became some salvation as it enabled me to get in touch with the hidden and unfamiliar. Originally, I wanted to become a detective, then, I got interested in philosophy and politics, in the end, I found myself studying photography. So it goes as Kurt Vonnegut liked to say.

KT: In 2016, you published a book ‘Dominas‘. What do you like about photography in a book-format?

ME: From a very early stage onwards, this project turned out to be well made for the book-format. Considering the photo-book as a medium itself, it still thrills me how you can manage complex narratives within this format. Having gathered photographs, text and found footage for ‘Dominas,’ it was simply the best way to combine all of those layers. On top, I think that graphic design plays a crucial role by balancing out the importance of text and images.


KT: Your project deals with the society stereotypes about women in the world of ‘Dominatrix’. What got you interested?

ME: After I had stumbled upon this parallel world by reading an autobiography of a female literature student who started to work as a dominatrix, I got interested in looking at this universe in a more documentary and observatory way than the usual freak-show like features.

Looking at our society through the eyes of sex-workers in the BDSM and fetish community became interesting to me as I believe that it says a lot about the condition of our society and how we deal with sexuality. There were a lot of questions: What is a mask? What is real? How much veracity is there in the way the women present themselves – beyond glaring red lips and a stern gaze?

In my eyes, a statement of one of the dominatrixes sums it up quite perfectly: “Strength means being able to stand up and say, I am not a stereotype. I am myself. And this is something that I wish for everyone.”


KT: How many women did you contact for your project? What were the hardships faced?

ME: I found myself slowly researching on the internet and ended up with a plethora of obscure websites, all in all, I contacted well over 150 women. First I tried to contact them via emails, but I realized quite quickly that calling was the better deal.

In the beginning, it was super strange, but after I had arranged the first couple of meetings in the cafés to talk about my idea in person, it got better. In the end, it was all about the personal encounters to gain their trust. After they realized that I was not a random weirdo stalking them, but a photographer with a documentary interest in their life stories, most of them opened themselves.

Mostly, we first had a personal meeting to get to know each other and to talk about the project before we would meet for the actual photoshoot and extended interviews. I would say that we spent at least half a day or a day together, which was quite necessary for establishing a personal and trustful atmosphere.


KT: As a young photographer, how difficult was it to get your book published by a well known publisher ‘Kehrer‘ considering the cut-throat competition in the photo-book-world?

ME: Of course the concept of the book needs a lot of convincing, also the theme of your project and the idea of the book as an object should be well-thought-out. Publishers have to see the economical potential too and it may be useful to adapt to this thinking. But I think at the end of the day it’s about yourself being passionate enough.