Photographer Alicia Vera is a Miami native whose intrigue with photographing strippers led her to a close friendship with a young woman named Eden. Vera had tried to take photos at various strip clubs over the years, but was consistently denied access. She was able to get the privileges she desired after landing an office job doing social media in the adult entertainment industry. Through Vera’s visits to clubs, she met Eden, then 18, who was working as a stripper.
Eden swore she would never do “extras” (AKA the exchange of sex for money) but eventually started working as a prostitute in a small town in Pennsylvania. There she was arrested and Alicia asked her if she could photograph her trip to court, as well as some of her day-to-day activities working. If you’re wondering why Eden said yes, Alicia explains it easily. “We have a really, really close relationship. She had seen the work I had done on strippers and knew that I wouldn't portray her in a negative light,” Vera said. “She's really excited about the photos — she loves them, she understood the photographic process.”
Photos from Vera’s series titled “Eden” are available at NPR.org. Alicia goes into detail on her website about her relationship with Eden and her motivations behind the project. Her photo essay is about “a woman’s struggle to find herself,” despite her primary goals of revealing the world of prostitution and provoking a discussion about “issues that apply to everyday women such as self-identity and female chauvinism.” She concludes her artist’s statement with a profound quote from Eden herself:
“Nobody IS what they DO, but whatever we do becomes a part of us. I am a woman, a daughter, a sister, a friend, an artist, and a provider of sex in exchange for money. Although I set aside pieces of myself to protect them, I do not disappear. The daughter, sister, friend, and artist that I am outside of work will always carry around the memories and lessons I’ve gained.”