Photographer Camilla de Maffei’s series Smoking Women provides a poignant glimpse into the lives of aging sex workers and former sex workers. In her native Barcelona, sex work is still considered taboo. The work may be lifelong, or it might be a short while; either way, de Maffei says, “being a prostitute leaves a permanent mark.”
Because of societal pressures, many sex workers stay hidden within their private homes for fear of scrutiny and judgment. Smoking Women is an archive of individual lives, but it also serves as a broader examination of womanhood. De Maffei’s subjects seem to exist behind a veil of dim lighting; when shown, we see only the backs of their heads, meticulously styled hair, or a pair of wide chocolate-brown eyes. Here, we are disallowed from becoming voyeurs, instead becoming witnesses to subtle and ordinary moments.