The world of sex work is increasingly image-driven. The internet is used as an advertising platform for many, and it’s becoming more and more common for sex workers to create a distinct brand for themselves online. 

The crossover between artists and sex workers is a big one, I have found. Maybe it’s something to do with both professions requiring a certain openness of the mind. As an artist-sex worker myself, I have of course incorporated my sex work into my art,  using film and music as a vessel to express my experiences in the industry. 

However, never before did I consider the other way round- incorporating my art into my sex work, and using it as a way to build my online brand. This is where Circe comes in. 

Circe is businesswoman, sex worker, and artist, who has found a sweet spot, in which she uses her artistic talents in the context of her sex work- creating stylised photographs and films that she uses to advertise herself online. 

When we Zoom mid-afternoon, Circe greets me, self-assured and with an air of classic beauty strong enough to make itself present even through a screen. She’s in her stylish London apartment, with her two dogs which we obsess over for a few minutes.

 

 

Thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to chat with me today, Circe. Can we start by you telling me about your history as an artist and as a sex worker and how they sort of came together?

Since I was really young I was fascinated with art. I loved drawing and painting I was one of those kids who just had to make stuff.

I didn’t study in the UK until I did my A Levels. Before then I was at international schools and they were very focused on teaching us about art history and traditional techniques. We were looking at the works of masters and trying to almost mimic or understand their style.

Then when I got to London and did my A levels, the teachers looked at my portfolio and exclaimed how they thought I was very good at drawing and painting but they said that wasn’t what they really focused on.

They threw a bunch of books at me and said I needed to start looking at modern art and that art was more than just making a good painting- you have to be sending a message as well. 

So around that age, I discovered mid to late 20th century female artists such as Louise Bourgeois and Sarah Lucas. And seeing these women making incredible work clicked something in me.

I started analysing the idea of art being personal and the personal being political. After that I  started to explore this in the art I did in my A levels and through art school. 

It was also in my first year of art school in 2014 that I started doing cam work due to suffering from lack of fundings. I didn’t enjoy it because it felt very dry and impersonal- it wasn’t suited to me, especially compared to the FSSW I do now, which I love.

I feel that in person, you have the ability to create rather deep and meaningful human connections, which I struggled to form through a screen.

It was around this point that I started making art that was narrative-based, talking about my life and my experiences and at that point sex work was part of my life, so although it wasn’t necessarily explicitly, a lot of my art started to be about about sex work. 

 

 

I said to myself ‘I’ve spent the last four years of my life forgetting how to make pretty things, pretty drawings, in order to make political stuff instead. From now on, I’m only doing to make beautiful things.’

 

 

 

In final year at art school you have a graduate show where important gallery people come to see your final work and scout new talent- it’s quite a big deal especially as I attended one of the most prestigious schools in London, so I had a big platform. 

And I decided, (stupidly maybe when I look back) to make an art installation that was focused on online sex work and what my experience was of it at the time. I thought it was the right thing to do.

I wasn’t in a good place, I wasn’t doing the kind of sex work that I enjoyed. So the piece that I did was very honest and brutal, but filtered though a negative lens. 

It evoked very visceral reactions- people cried, some people even refused to go into the room where it was. Others told me ‘That’s so brave’, which I didn’t really enjoy hearing. 

So my degree show provoked me to ask myself the question- who is this conversation for?  I’m not doing anything to end any stigma or bridge any gap, I’m just telling my story.

Yet I’d only been in the industry for 2 years and I was only 22- did I really know enough about the topic to talk about it in a way that would make a difference? 

I said to myself ‘I’ve spent the last four years of my life forgetting how to make pretty things, pretty drawings, in order to make political stuff instead. From now on, I’m only doing to make beautiful things.’

Especially because at the time there was so much political turmoil especially with Brexit and Trump in office at the time, and I thought ‘What is life, if not beauty?’

 

 

So a door opened where I realised I could try and combine art and sex work, without it being political but simply being beautiful, where the two complement the other.

 

 

I became an interior designer because what’s more beautiful that being surrounded by a beautiful space? I was still doing sex work then, but I wasn’t creating a brand, I was just working through the typical sex work sites with a few selfies and my photos consisted solely of what I thought men wanted to see.

Fast forward to 2020 and Covid and like many others, I lost my contract in the interior design firm that I was working with. I was left with basically nothing expect for my sex work which was also complicated at the time because I was now only doing FSSW and obviously there were lockdowns. 

So I did two things with my time. I started a brand, which was making furniture and homeware, which I still run. But I knew that when starting a brand with no connections, I still would need to be making money. 

So I started to invest on my sex work brand and put proper time into it. I created a Twitter account. And spontaneously, one day out of boredom, with just my phone and tripod, I started recreating famous paintings, photographing myself as the subjects.

I started posting them on Twitter just to see what would happen and it turned out people absolutely loved them. In the span of a few months, I went from 0 to around 5000 followers. 

 

 

 


Delphin Enjoleas, Les Bas (1857-1945) and Circe’s 2020 rendition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So a door opened where I realised I could try and combine art and sex work, without it being political but simply being beautiful, where the two complement the other. 

So that’s where I am today. I wouldn’t say that my work as a sex worker is necessarily art because it’s still advertising to clientele but it’s within the realms of art. 

It’s sort of bridging a gap between erotic art, nude photography and storytelling.

 

 

With the type of work I make now, I’m actually creating more of a connection between the sex industry and the vanilla world. Because a lot of my photos get shared by art and photography accounts- so people who might never have been exposed to sex work are seeing my photos.

 

 

 

I think what you’re doing is very subversive. So often sex worker artists get pushed to make art that is offloading their trauma and that’s valid and it can be very healing but not everybody should have to do that. 

I think I got all of my demons out in university, not necessarily just about sex work but my life in general, growing up as a woman in the 90s etc…

With the type of work I make now, I’m actually creating more of a connection between the sex industry and the vanilla world. Because a lot of my photos get shared by art and photography accounts- so people who might never have been exposed to sex work are seeing my photos.

So maybe they will click on my profile, see my timeline, and the political tweets I’ve made regarding the sex industry. It helps to let others see into the sex work bubble and it also shows a different side of sex workers.

I think that’s more interesting than just having a little show in a South London gallery where you’re simply preaching to the choirs. 

 

 

Throughout art history sex workers have been utilised a lot, but not overtly. They were often models for these artists painting these saintly figures. But of course they didn’t get the credit.

So through taking inspiration from these images, I feel I’m paying homage to those unacknowledged sex workers from the past, by posing as a saint or a goddess like they did, yet making it very clear that I am a sex worker. And being the artist and the muse.

 

 

Yes! I feel that you are challenging pre-conceived ideas of what people imagine when they imagine a sex worker. And you even challenge the stereotype of an ‘artist sex worker’ who are often more overtly ‘edgy’ and into kink, latex, and mullets (no hate). 

I totally agree about preaching to the choir. I went to film school and I never liked the ideas of short film festivals- because not many people outside the ‘film world’ go to short film festivals.

If you care more about reaching a wider audience outside the echo chamber than about getting awards, the internet is amazing. 

How would you describe your aesthetic as an artist?

It’s heavily inspired by Renaissance art, Pre-Raphaelites, romanticism, poetry, mythology, religion. Theres a lot of cross references there.

Throughout art history sex workers have been utilised a lot, but not overtly. They were often models for these artists painting these saintly figures. But of course they didn’t get the credit.

So through taking inspiration from these images, I feel I’m paying homage to those unacknowledged sex workers from the past, by posing as a saint or a goddess like they did, yet making it very clear that I am a sex worker. And being the artist and the muse.

My name, Circe, also comes from Greek Mythology. 

I think it’s elevating myself but also other sex workers. I hope to shift the preconceived idea of us. History has proved we can be seen as these ethereal beings instead of  as the lowest scum of society. So in that sense, it is political. 

 

Is that how a lot of your ideas formulate- through art references?

Yes, I spend so much time just looking at imagery and going to galleries and from one image I then start creating a narrative. I look at logistics like location and styling and also I do have to think about my audience, which is mainly male, so as much as I’m trying to push a certain aesthetic, I still have to keep those ideas of eroticism.

However some photos I purposely make only for the female gaze,  not for the men. This actually helps me anyway because the more work you make that appeals to women, the more other women will share it, and more men will find you online.

 

 

I guess thats a win-win that you can focus on the the female gaze and still get the audience you need from that. I can definitely see the female gaze in some of your photos- it’s very appealing to women. 

Thank you so much! I also think a lot of my clients are intrigued by the work I make and that’s partly what inspires them to book a date with me. So that’s really nice too.

 

 

I guess incorporating your artistry into your sex work makes it feel a lot more truthful, or at least personal. It’s your heart and soul going into those ideas. Who do you work with to actualise your ideas?

I only work with one photographer. He’s called Alan Thomas. He’s fantastic and a great friend of mine. He mostly specialises in erotic glamour photography. I’d rather work with him than a fashion photographer because he helps to bring my artsy ideas into an erotic realm.

He filters it through the eye of a sex work photographer. I worry that if I worked with a fashion photographer, the images would lose part of their sex appeal and wouldn’t sell anymore.

Us working together helps us reach both audiences. And we have so much fun. We go on these adventures together, like hiking up mountains- all sorts of weird things to get those images.

It’s also physically strenuous, he has to carry all of that equipment. We make a great team and he’s invaluable to me. 

 

It’s true that your photos have that fashion look, but they’re erotic- they’re not cold. The teamwork of two combined visions is visible in the result! 

Do you have a shoot you’d like to present and discuss a little? 

So the last shoot we’ve done has not been released yet but I do have  a few pictures from it. It’s one of the shoots I’m most proud of. 

 

 

circe: siren song, 2023
‘Siren Song’ (2023).

 

siren song, circe, 2023
‘Siren Song’ (2023).

 

I started thinking about this 3 or 4 months ago. This one sprung from the location first. It’s in Italy, a friend showed me it and I was immediately struck. So I called my photographer and said let’s go!

From my interior design background I’m used to creating mood boards, so I did that, thinking about the colours and the feeling we wanted to convey. We looked at some paintings, and decided we wanted to focus on muted tones.

 

 


Mood boards for ‘Siren Song’ (2023).

 

 

Then I had to think about how to made it commercial. I pitched some ideas to collaborate with a few lingerie brands, and I was lucky enough to collaborate with Atelier Bordelle. We used a lot of their stuff; I played more with styling that I’ve ever done before.

When it comes to the actual shoot, it’s really not as glamorous as it seems- it’s just me and Alan, he’s holding a mirror at me and there sticking pearls to my body in the mud and rain and asking him if it looks alright! 

 

 

Something I like about doing sex work is that it allows me and gives me reason to go on all these crazy adventures around the world.

 

 

That’s funny considering how well they turn out! How do you get in the mood to pose? 

A lot of practice. I’m also not squeamish, I can lay on dirt and I’m not scared of the cold. Although my body protests- I get rashes, I even ended up in A&E after one of the shoots.

I push myself to the limits-from this shoot I had 2nd degree burns because the rocks I’m laying on are scolding hot. But in the moment I live the fantasy. I just pretend I’m in a painting. 

I’m a quite a huge fan of Florence and the Machine, so I go into my ‘inner Florence state’ and start playing around with my hands and being dramatic. It doesn’t always work though- it’s about trial and error.

My photographer is very experienced too so he directs me. I love it. Something I like about doing sex work is that it allows me and gives me reason to go on all these crazy adventures around the world. 

 

 

 

Do you draw any inspiration from current figures?

Definitely Florence. Sometimes it’s really difficult not to replicate modern stuff because we have the same means. That’s why so I look more at people who use different mediums to me or people from a different era. 

 

 In the sex industry having control over your image is a privilege. Has combining your art with your sex work given you a feeling of agency? 

100%. Even FSSW is image driven, because everything is online now and that’s how we have to capture peoples attention. So having my experience in art was an advantage that gave me a leg up for sure.

 

I just want to say congratulations to you. The things that you’re doing are really cool. You’re clearly an accomplished business woman and an artist which is really cool. Thank you for taking the time to chat about this topic. 

I think a lot of people interview sex workers coming from a perverse curiosity and treat them and their work as a novelty. There’s enough of that out there already. Thanks for opening up the conversation!

Interview
erotica
Escort
Escorting
sensual photography
Sex Work
Iso

Iso

Author

Iso is a writer and filmmaker based in East London. She is passionate about all things erotic and leads a sexy, shame-free life in hope that she can inspire others to do the same. Originally from a Northern seaside town, she is naturally drawn to the best things in life: candyfloss, trashy karaoke bars and heart-shaped sunglasses.


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