la pensee du Semaine: Steve McCurry, Sex work, Economics and Migrations

Steve McCurry in Paris: the human faces of our history

4 min readJan 23, 2022

Visited Musée Maillol last week; I didn’t notice it was so close to Sciences Po campus. The museum was hidden in a quiet street, with classical Haussmann architecture. Stepped into the exposition, the light was dimmed to the minimum level, and people in the portraits seemed to be standing in front of me, vividly. That’s one of the reasons why I love to go to photograph expos (like the previous ones I did with Vivian Maier and Sebastiao Salgado), it creates a universe where you could dialogue with the works. The gallery presented the photos in a multi-dimensional way, so that people can relate with the photographers, they will resonate so much that they will press the camera bottom by themselves too.

Interestingly, for artists, the most famous work is not always their best work. I couldn’t move my eyes for the photos he took in a random street in India. People was just living their lives unintentionally, and Steve happened to catch those moments. The serenity, harmony, and tranquillity touched me like Someone touched a harp string in a quiet Palais.

Like Sebastiao, Steve was also there during some catastrophes of humanity. He took this one in Kuwait in 1991, a man was burned to death on the ground. The fire was still going on, like hell’s gate was opened, and people can never shut it down anymore.

Sex work matter: feminism propositions in the research of sex industry

I guess in any country (maybe not Netherlands) sex work is still taboo, it do exist, but no one talks about it, pretends it never happens, which are countless sex workers living in this world. Because of ignorance and demonization, sex workers’ rights are not guaranteed, and they suffer not only because of their occupation but also because of social stigma.

This chapter started with a question: can sex work be a chosen labor, or it is inherently a kind of violence against women? Some feminist reseachers argued: sometimes people think they chose to become a prostitute, but it was not them who made a choice, it was the society forced them to think in that way.

When a woman chooses her career, will she think, “what should I choose, a musician, a teacher, or a prostitute?”

While others will argue that sex work is sexual liberation, commodified sex can be considered labor instead of objectifying women’s bodies.

It’s necessary to research the topic and make clear distinctions so that it’s possible to understand sex workers’ working conditions better and protect their rights. Comparing sex workers as other laborers helps examine what factors influence the working and living conditions of prostitutes.

After reading this chapter, you will release that some risks and violence are not only for sex workers. It’s common for all female workers. To be clear about the truth uncovered the real situation of female working conditions.

I think it’s necessary to research topics usually impacted by morality and self-rightness. Human beings tend to be sentimentalists, but we can’t only react on our feelings and thoughts; there should be solid evidence to support our decisions.

Immigration and the supply-demand theory for the labor market

Living in Europe, the topic of immigration has never faded behind the spotlights. Politicians love to brag about their immigration policies to win people’s support: it either meet with the self-rightness or the ultimate concern: whith migrants flowing in, Will they take away the jobs that initially belonged to native workers? Will they assimilate, or will they change the European culture?

The book <Good Economics for Hard Times> reveals the truth about immigration.

The first and most important fact is that the supply-demand theory doesn’t apply to the labor market. People’s common concern is that there is a limited number of employment opportunities (especially for low-skilled levels). If many migrants dash in, they will compete with native workers, which is not wanted.

People have this concern because they believe the famous supply-demand theory also applies for the labor market, and this book proved it was wrong. Here are the reasons:

  • The immigrants’ influx also generates new opportunities, which will help to undo the impact on the wages. The newcomers spend money, creating jobs and most jobs for other low-skilled people.
  • Low-skilled migration might push up the demand for labor because it slows down the process of mechanization.
  • With new workers moving in, employers may want to reorganize the production to make effective use of the new workers, creating new roles for the native low-skilled population.
  • Migrants complete rather than compete with native labor because they are willing to perform tasks natives are reluctant to carry out, so when there are more migrants, the price of those services tends to go down, which helps the native workers and free them to take on other jobs.

But not everyone is willing to calm down and read the facts; most of them are still dominated by the fear that migrants bring chaos, competition, social turmoil. And our leaders are doing no good to ease the anxiety and tell the truth. Marine Le Pen in the 2017 presidential election, said 95% of immigrants who settled in France were “taken care of by the nation” because they wouldn’t work in France (in reality, 55% of migrants in France were in the labor force). The same with Trump.

If national leaders are abusing the facts and fueling the separation, then who should we trust for the truth? It also makes me realize democracy does not always mean that people have more chances to make rational/ independent choices, and they can still be multiplied based on politicians’ interests.