Red Light

These streets leave you with the ghosts of memory. Hang a right from Sims Avenue, a left on Paya Lebar Road, and there you are: Geylang Road in Singapore, a messy urban sprawl with old shophouses flanking both sides. But, as everyone knows, the real action isn’t out here in the great wide open but on the side streets, those little lorongs (lanes) with the “short-time” hotels, where nubile nymphs from Thailand can be appraised aquarium-style from Plexiglas windows in licensed cathouses, and women from mainland China ply their trade more brazenly on the bare sidewalks. They can do the selling because someone’s always doing the buying. The men who buy their time usually don’t speak any Thai or Chinese at all, but here in Geylang there is a language that transcends our earthly bounds and actually enables some to escape the surly bonds of human misery, at least for the customer. If you have a wallet fat enough to engage her attention, you both have everything you need to fulfill some mutually acceptable level of satisfaction. And it is this strange dance of desire that ultimately offers the single unifying strand that ties up all the loose ends. There is pathos to poverty that can make a girl choose the gilded cage, because the alternatives are too horrible to fathom. The fulfillment of fantasy is the name of the game, yet at what price is this exacted?

 – Gerrie Lim

See a selection of my ‘Red Light’ series that were selected for exhibition at the Arles Photography Open Salon exhibition, ‘An Eye For An Ear’.