Max Eicke (b. 1990 in Tübingen, Germany) is a multidisciplinary artist who uses photography, archival material, text and film to explore human agency, taboos, social relationships and the photographic in equal turns. Through a wide span of artistic practices, Eicke examines issues related to identity, secrecy and morality. Recognised for his debut artist’s book ‘Dominas’ marked by its distinct rich and contradictory narrative centred around taboos and desires, Eicke continues to question existing hierarchies and values by probing the idea of dualistic thinking. At its core, his work embraces fragility, risk, loss of control, and confusion, and rigorously resists the desire for certainty. Collaboration and participation are central to Eicke’s work. As he explains, ‘A good collaboration is like going on a long journey without a map, never knowing quite where you will end up’. He acts as producer or director of a broad range of projects, including photographic projects, films and publications, which draw attention to forms of culture on the fringes of the mainstream or reveal hidden histories. His works and artist’s books have been shown internationally including at Museum for Photography in Braunschweig, Limbo Gallery in London, Les Rencontres de Arles, Athens Foto Festival at the Benaki Museum and Münchner Stadtmuseum. Formally trained in photography, Max Eicke is currently completing his Master of Fine Arts at the Academy of Fine Arts in Hamburg.
Over the past three years, I have interviewed and photographed female sex workers, women who choose to make their living as dominatrices, switches, and slaves in the BDSM (Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism) and fetish community. The women portrayed are of different ethnicities and come from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds. They often live in the present and think little of their long-term futures. Most are single, but some have relationships. Some are poised, whereas others appear very vulnerable. Many operate honestly and autonomously, although some remain in the sex industry for lack of an alternative. It is these nuances of conviction and inner conflict that interest me.
I wanted to represent the personal narratives of these women and their reasons for choosing this profession, as well as the question of how they view their lives within the sex industry. Their anonymous histories appear alongside their portraits as text, juxtaposed with found footage appropriated from online resources.
During my meetings with the women, I sensed that they tend to live their entire working lives as if on stage. There was an ongoing power play between us; I kept wondering why they agreed to be photographed. Is it about being remembered? Is it vanity? Did they see me as a potential client? What difference would it have made if I were a woman doing this project? My role remained unclear to the subjects, for whom the camera seemed to offer some kind of salvation—a false promise inherent to photography.
To view more of Max Eicke’s work please visit his website.