Freelance photojournalist Sandra Hoyn, 41, from Hamburg, Germany often focuses her lens on social, environmental and human rights issues.
She recently won the first place in the Sony World Photography Awards’ professional photography competition this year for her photo series “The Longings of Others,” based on the Kandapara brothel in Tangail, Bangladesh.
The Kandapara brothel is one of the oldest and largest in Bangladesh, with more than 700 sex workers who live and work there with their children and their madams. Though it had been demolished in 2014, it has since been re-established with the help of local NGOs.
Responding to queries on the World Photography Organisation blog
regarding her choice of subject, Hoyn states: “I read that Bangladesh is one of the few predominantly Muslim countries where prostitution in registered brothels is legal. The brothel is a microcosm with its own rules and hierarchies of power which are completely different from mainstream society. I was curious about living in the brothel and the women's situation in the society.
“Although prostitution inside registered brothels has been legal in Bangladesh since 2000, these women are socially stigmatised outside their ‘homes’ and thus often choose to stay and continue supporting their families with their earnings.”
According to Hoyn, it was difficult at first to gain access to the women and customers, and when she did, she found it near impossible to maintain journalistic distance as she had developed friendships with many of her protagonists and felt bad taking their pictures.
“I hope that recognising the existence of sex workers in Bangladesh is a step to ensuring that they have a right to live a normal life as any other human being and to prevent the reasons of prostitution. Their environment should be improved. There should be more NGOs who educate them about their rights, about health etc. Education of the girls and women is a step to securing their future,” she added.
The Sony World Photography Awards & Martin Parr 2017 Exhibition, which started yesterday at Somerset House in London and will end on May 7, will showcase the winning, shortlisted and commended images from the photography competition.
Check out Sandra Hoyn's award winning series "The Longings of Others