On the 20th May 1873, Jacob Davis and Levis Strauss were granted a patent on the process of riveting pants by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on May 20, and with that Blue Jeans were born. Davis, a tailor in Reno, Nevada had approached Levi Strauss and sought his financial help in patenting a process he devised in his workshop to prevent trousers from ripping at the seams by the insertion of metal rivets at the edge of each pocket. The pants, made fro 9 oz. XX blue denim were called “waist overalls” – with one back pocket with the Arcuate stitching design, a watch pocket, a cinch, suspender buttons and a rivet in the crotch. Sometime around 1890, the overalls stitched at Levis San Francisco factory were assigned the lot number 501. However they continued to be referred to as overalls until 1960 when the name was changed to jeans for an advertising campaign.
You may have been wondering why there has been so many nature photographs on Funkshot recently. Well, we haven’t departed from doing photo shoots, on the contrary we have been doing the groundwork for Rhapsody which is going into production soon. Doing photo shoots is of course a labour of love, it involves finding the right locations, the right photographers, models, production assistants and above all themes. Often this involves hours of work and test shots to find the best way in which to express an idea.
With principal photographer Brian Cregan working on his solo exhibition ‘The Glass Garden’ for the last couple of months, and Joseph Carr also working on a project, the producer took the available time to scout fifteen locations in and around Dublin for this very dramatic project. We won’t say very much more about it, because now the real work begins the actual production itself which involves putting the team together, setting the dates and above all ensuring the storyboards are ready before principal photography can actually begin. When it comes to Funkshot its all about location, location, location. Whether it’s photographing in the Grand Masonic Lodge (Isis) on the roof of the Prime Minister’s Office or indeed on the roof of The Four Courts – its all about photography as an art form.
Like all major cities, Dublin has its sleazy underside. The bars and the clubs are often staging points for something else including trade in prostitution and drugs. It is a well established universal that organised crime cannot exist without conventional support from corrupt elements in banking, policing and government. One only need think of Chicago during prohibition to get the point across – whenever there is an activity for which there is demand, if it is made illegal a premium market is created. This applies whether it is alcohol (prohibition) gambling, drugs, firearms or prostitution. Now let’s start with an observation, major and minor criminals are persistent offenders – persistent minor offenders graduate (or at least the smart ones do) – to more serious crime. When these graduates were minor offenders they became known to the police, especially in a small town or city. The persistent offender appears regularly in the courts, serving time as a youth offender and latterly as full-blown criminal sent to prison. Very few give up the game.
Now individual crime really doesn’t pay, for the big prize money is found in drug dealing. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the only route is up. The police know this better than anyone and so does the government. Periodically, governments clamp down (usually when public opinion demands it) but largely organised crime goes on and the rackets remain largely unmolested even though the major perpetrators are known. Why? – well the answer is fairly obvious ‘co-existence’ – remember organised crime cannot exist without a support mechanism and ‘protection’ is the main means of support. Protection is money, which is used to pay others turn a blind eye or to keep localised persistent minor offenders in line (they’re not good for business)
One area of criminal activity that has received a lot of attention recently is prostitution. A public debate is underway at the moment about whether Ireland should adopt the Swedish model. Sweden passed the Sex Purchase Act on June 4, 1998 and it became law on January 1, 1999. The law made the purchasing of prostitution a crime but not the selling. The rationale is simple, the seller (prostitute) is the weaker party and quite often is forced into this lifestyle as a result of human trafficking, drug addiction or threats of violence. The legal provision passed in 1999 is now enshrined under Section 6 of the Swedish Criminal Code.
6.11 A person who, otherwise than as previously provided in this Chapter [on Sexual Crimes], obtains a casual sexual relation in return for payment, shall be sentenced for purchase of a sexual service to a fine or imprisonment for at most six months.
The provision of the first paragraph also applies if the payment was promised or given by another person.
The theory behind the Swedish model is that it reduces prostitution. Detractors would argue that it merely drives the market underground and off the streets. The provisions dealing with prostitution under Irish criminal law are contained within Sections 7-11 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993. Prostitution is not of itself a crime. Instead, the law adopts various strategies to prevent prostitutes from soliciting in public places and to suppress brothels. The Act does not provide a definition of “prostitute”. The accepted English definition (R. v. de Munck  1 K.B. 635) provides that prostitution is proved “if it be shown that a woman offers her body commonly for lewdness for payment in return” Payment is not defined, and theoretically can be money or other benefits in kind (jewellery, holidays etc)
So as it stands, prostitution between consenting adults is legal, but the Turn Off the Red Light campaign, created by the Immigrant Council of Ireland, wants to change this by criminalising people who buy sex. This is a change from the current penalisation of those prostitutes who solicit or importune for the purpose of selling sex. But will it work?
Being the ‘oldest profession’ there always has been and there will continue to be a market for the sale of sex. No law either penalising the prostitute or the punter is going to change that fact. So if prostitution is not illegal per se but the selling of it is – is it not better to regulate it in a fashion where organised crime is cleared out – rather than penalising either the prostitute or the purchaser. Either side of that debate, Dublin has a long history of prostitution.
Dublin’s Historic Red Light District
Until 1925, Dublin had Europe’s largest red light district. It’s existence was well documented, known and frequented. James Joyce in Ulysses referred to it as Nighttown – but mainly it is remembered by its nickname ‘The Monto’. The Monto took its name from Montgomery Street now Foley Street (see map above) which was the epicentre of the district, however ‘The Monto’ actually covered a wider area incorporating Lower Gardiner Street, Railway Street and onto what is now Sean McDermott Street (Gloucester Street until 1933) It is estimated, though the figures are not exact that there were approximately 1200 women working as prostitutes in ‘The Monto’ around the time of the Great Lock out in 1913.
The Monto was largely though not exclusively frequented by the soldiers of the large garrison stationed in and around the city of Dublin. Of course, it is largely forgotten that these soldiers of the British army were predominantly Irishmen. The Monto was also conveniently located close to Amien’s Street Station (renamed Connolly) which was the hub of the Great Northern Railway which serviced Belfast. Indeed many of the landlords of the properties in The Monto were in fact protestant clergymen from the north of Ireland!
The Monto went into decline in the 1920′s with the withdrawal of the garrison however it continued to function until it was raided by the Gardai on the 12th March 1925 with the assistance of the Legion of Mary. By 1926 the brothels of The Monto had been closed down.
Interestingly, its sometimes forgotten that The Monto (ironically) provided more than a few safe houses for the IRA during the war of independence and the civil war, a fact that was not lost on the Cosgrave Government when it was shut down in 1925, for it remained ‘a hotbed’ of anti-treaty radicalism.
In 1941, Dublin Corporation bought Gloucester Place Upper and Lower, as well as surrounding tracts of land that included parts of Gardiner Street, Sean Macdermott Street and Summerhill, by means of Compulsory Purchase Order. Rather controversially in 1978 the area enclosed by Marlborough Street to west, Summerhill to the north, Foley Street to the south, and Rutland Street to the east were designated ‘redevelopment areas’, which correspond almost exactly to the area formerly known as Monto. The 1978 plan sparked controversy because it called for the demolition of tenement dwellings, but did not guarantee that families would be rehoused in the area after being moved out. A considerable number of families were moved en masse to other parts of the city such as Tallaght, places which these descendants of The Monto had no connection with. Altogether between four and five hundred families(6000 people) were moved between 1978 and 1981- which amounted to the largest mass movement of people in the history of the state.
On Foley Street, there are no existing houses which date from the glory days of The Monto, although several still exist in the general area which was once housed some of the worst slums in Europe whose characters inspired Sean O’Casey.
Of course prostitution in the city didn’t die off, it just moved to Benburb Street closer to Collins Barracks and other locations in the city. Until the mid 1990′s the streetwalkers could regularly be seen in and around Fitzwilliam Square and Leeson street. With the arrival of the internet, prostitution moved online (after a brief foray being advertised in magazines) Several in-depth television programmes have been done on human trafficking and prostitution by RTE’s Primetime and more recently by TV3. Quite recently, Rachel Moran a former Dublin prostitute released a book about her life entitled Paid For: My Journey Through Prostitution – a candid reflection on the less than glamorous side of a murky trade. Moran in an article with the Irish Times makes her views known that she is in favour of the Nordic model of prosecuting the punter. But will it work?
So long as organised crime is involved in the business it is unlikely to diminish, rather it will go underground even further. So wherein lies the solution? Prostitution is rife in Dublin – it varies from the ‘professional’ escorts who advertise (sometimes against their will) on websites hosted in England to ‘casual’ prostitution by women in their 20′s and 30′s to fund their lifestyles or merely to pay the bills. The vulnerable are the ones who have no choice, either they have been trafficked and are effectively sex slaves at the mercy of criminal gangs or they are dependent on feeding a drug habit.
Casual prostitution is just as seedy – arising in social groupings and certain ‘spheres’ where the ordinary person would least suspect it. Quite often, it is driven by drug addiction and alcohol dependence, where vulnerable women are targeted by pushers often posing as friends or society people who introduce these women to drugs and then keep them on a leash – finally pushing them into prostitution to pay for the drug habit. Prostitution of course is conceptually thought of as the exchange of sex for money, bur that is a limited definition as it is broad enough to include the exchange of sex for drugs or benefits in kind. Arguably one could say that a woman who is circular dating two, three or four men at a time, sleeping with them in exchange for gifts, holidays and indeed money is engaging in an abstract form of prostitution, although not a commonly recognised one.
The emergence of the Swedish model as a mechanism for controlling prostitution is interesting, but if there is a lesson from ‘the closure’ of The Monto in 1925 it didn’t end prostitution it merely shifted its location, in the same way that the 1993 legislation drove it from the streets and into apartment blocks around the city. The criminal element – the ones who always prosper from this are the ones who can be removed from the equation – but where is the political will? Prosecutions in this area remain historically low, even though numerous apartments and houses throughout the city are being used as brothels. Perhaps, the sensible solution, even though it may be unpalatable one, is to regulate (strictly) with the object of removing organised crime (and their support mechanisms) which might (never a given) at least reduce the trafficking of women which is the real objective of the Immigrant council’s campaign.
As for The Monto today, it is now a rather anonymous place, with offices and Dublin City’s purpose-built arts facility ‘The Lab’ – which sees drama of a different nature. Finally, The Monto has not entirely been forgotten, having been immortalised in the song written by George Desmond Hodnett (once a music critic for The Irish Times) who composed Monto (Take her up to Monto) in 1959. The song was popularised by The Dubliners in 1966.
Charles Baudelaire characterized the flâneur as a “gentleman stroller of city streets”. He saw the flâneur as having a key role in understanding, participating in and portraying the city. A participant-observer if you will. Today, in the great tradition of the Parisian flâneur I took a four hour walk around the city of Dublin starting in Sandymount and concluding there some four hours later. On this beautiful summer’s day, I encountered some very interesting people and I decided to document it in photography. The modern day flâneur is The Urbanist - and here are some of the interesting things I encountered on my stroll.