Sex workers with cameras project strikes a chord

Published April 25, 2012

Guests view the exhibit of 33 images at Holy Trinity Church in downtown Toronto. Photo: Michael Hudson

A photography project to empower women who work in the sex trade has raised about $38,000 for the drop-in program at All Saints Church-Community Centre in downtown Toronto, where the project began.

Carly Kalish, a full-time social worker hired by the church, dreamed up the idea of giving 10 women disposable cameras and photography lessons as a way to tell their stories. The result was The Exposure Project, an exhibition of 33 images at Holy Trinity Church in downtown Toronto. The exhibition ended in a fundraiser on April 19 which attracted a sold-out crowd of 250 people. Most of the photos, which were professionally framed, sold for $75 to $200 each; gala ticket sales and donations further boosted the bottom line.

While the photographers did not attend the gala themselves, they did bring partners and friends to a private viewing beforehand. “It was just breathtaking to see them see their own work,” says Kalish. “They were so proud of themselves.”

Importantly, the experience helped the women feel more comfortable about coming to All Saints for support-with housing, with experiencing violence or just to talk. “To me, that’s the success of the project,” says Kalish. All Saints will do the project again next year, she adds. In addition, a 2013 calendar with The Exposure Project photos is under consideration.

Now Kalish is dreaming of a fashion show, working with women from the drop-in centre as well as local designers. A proponent of art therapy, Kalish envisions a sewing group at the drop-in centre that will begin by making fashion accessories such as jewelry and headbands.


  • Leigh Anne Williams

    Leigh Anne Williams joined the Anglican Journal in 2008 as a part-time staff writer. She also works as the Canadian correspondent for Publishers Weekly, a New York-based trade magazine for the book publishing. Prior to this, Williams worked as a reporter for the Canadian bureau of TIME Magazine, news editor of Quill & Quire, and a copy editor at The Halifax Herald, The Globe and Mail and The Bay Street Bull.

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