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Iron Heels

Documented by Sergi Llanas @sergillanas


In gratitude to: Susana, for her friendship and hospitality. To Xiomara, for her love, affection and trust. To Sofía, for giving meaning to this project. And to Claudia, for her stories.

Thank you for your rebelliousness, solidarity and affection.

                                                                      - Sergi -

Tacones de hierro takes place in Paris, although the journey began in Barcelona, my hometown, about five years ago.
It was then that I met Susana, of Chilean origin, who migrated to Spain in 2002. She has a degree in Fine Arts from the University of Valparaíso. 
Sex work was one of her sources of income during her transition, but she is no longer active. Thanks to her, the concept of monetising sex began to gain momentum. It has been years of contacts, of attending demonstrations by the Putas Indignadas collective in Barcelona and of dealing with the role of capital on corporality.

The following photographs are simply the messages that Susana, Xiomara, Sofía and Claudia intend to convey through the camera lens. What began as an observation, as a third-person project, has ended in a certain personal involvement. The friendships that have emerged from Tacones de hierro are inherently the greatest strength of this work.



Although the oppressive forces of the system try to hide it, sex work is, in the end, work. For many years, associations such as Putas Indignadas in Barcelona, or Acceptess-T in Paris, have been trying to make European society understand that there is a difference between sex work and human trafficking. In their definition, trafficking refers to the illegal movement of human beings for the purposes of labour, mental or reproductive slavery, sexual exploitation, forced labour or organ trafficking against their will. However, sex work is the monetary exchange of sexual services.

Abolitionist policies tend to associate prostitution with violence, which justifies repressive measures against transgender migrant sex work communities.

Taking over their discourse is a mechanism for institutions to make them vulnerable to a system that wants them excluded. Prohibitionism and abolitionism, far from protecting their rights, relegates their activity to the underground.

The Civility Ordinances and the (*)Gag Law in Spain are policies that respond to the most voracious urban hygienism that denies the autonomy and safety of sex workers. The Raval neighbourhood, or the Parisian area of Bois de Boulogne, are two of the epicentres where the institutional violence of nativist social-democracies and extreme right-wing populism is exercised with the greatest intensity through indiscriminate sanctions against sex workers. But any violence generates resistance, and that is what the photographs that make up this documentary project aim to reflect.

Tacones de hierro is a portrait of the resistance that sex workers exercise in the face of institutional, xenophobic and transphobic violence in the big European cities that masquerade as democracy. Thus, this project is a visual journey through the realities of the protagonists that has no greater raison d'être than to show something that is there, that exists, and that deserves to be told by the owners of the message.

(*)The Organic Law 4/2015, of 30 March, for the protection of Spanish citizen security makes it extremely difficult for sex workers to develop their profession. On 28 February 2023, Spain also passed Law 4/2023 of 28 February for the real and effective equality of trans people and for the guarantee of the rights of LGTBI people, although this law has not managed to incorporate non-binary or immigrant realities. 

In France, since 2016, sex work is reflected as illegal in the Penal Code.

Full Gallery - Double click to see the images

About the author:

Sergi Llanas Paez (Barcelona, 1998) is a journalist specialising in audiovisual media at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (2021). The aim of his
his work is to transcend the frontiers of consciousness through images. He started as a photojournalist and decided to move to Paris to undertake long-term projects telling hidden stories around the world with Spéos International Photography School and Magnum Photos. He identifies himself as a nomadic photographer. His main projects involve themes of migration, gender and ethnic conflicts.

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