It’s an unusual question that isn’t often asked: What happens to sex workers once they retire? Photographer Bénédicte Desrus spent six years answering that question while documenting Casa Xochiquetzal, a home in Mexico City for (mostly) retired sex workers.
Desrus, who is French, first discovered Casa Xochiquetzal when she was assigned by a women’s magazine to take a portrait of Carmen Munoz, a retired sex worker who opened the shelter in 2006. Fascinated by the shelter, Desrus wanted to learn more about it and the roughly 26 women who lived there. To do that, she began with an organic and somewhat slow approach by simply showing up and developing relationships with the women. “You really need to live with them because they will tell you one story, and the day after they will tell you another story, and the next day they will tell you the truth,” she said. “They love to talk, but they aren’t open. You need trust, and for this you need to spend time with them.”
Desrus relied on humor and curiosity to help build relationships with the women. If she had to travel for work, she always made sure to return to the shelter to convince them she was sincere about sharing their stories. She only took photographs of the women who gave her permission and provided them with prints, which often inspired other women to participate. They often asked her why she was interested in taking their portraits. Desrus used that as an opening to earn their trust through lighthearted banter. “I was respectful,” Desrus laughed. “I said, ‘Because you’re old and ugly.’ ”
Read the full report at The Slate