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When American photographer Malerie Marder was a student at Yale, Phillip Lorca diCorcia —who was one of her professors—worked with her on her first monograph, Carnal Knowledge. Her projects have dealt with the relationship between voyeurism and intimacy ever since. For her new series, Anatomy , Marder spent six years working with prostitutes in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, coming up with compositions that bring to mind the works of painters like Magritte, Toulouse-Lautrec, or Courbet.
I called her up for a chat. VICE: Is it true you had to pay the women for their time? A friend of mine, who is a collector, helped me financially but also worked as my assistant. He was my angel, my patron saint; without him none of this would have been possible. Did you face any problems with convincing people to pose for you?
The real problem was not being able to photograph everyone who wanted me to. I'm a small presence in the studio—I shoot with a view camera that is slow and use an HMI light, which is like a warm sun. It's a very small set up. I incorporated flash at the end but even that was just an additional light. I didn't overtake the space so I think the women often forgot about me. How come you decided to reproduce those famous works of art?
I used to look for rational reasons why I was making a certain kind of work, but I often end up in places out of instinct and wonder. On museum place cards you can read about Toulouse-Lautrec's paintings of prostitutes and how their bodies were depicted in a manner that seemed comfortable.
I found myself similarly mesmerized by the idea of how one person's survival could also be their art. There's a long history of courtesans being the muses of male painters, so it seemed natural that my pictures should reference painting.