Tracey Olkus: Behind The Scenes

 

Text by Tony Ward, Copyright 2024

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Tracey Olkus:Behind The Scenes

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Tracey Olkus and I have known each other for decades.  Philly is a small town amongst creatives.  We worked together on shoots over the years as she is one of the best hair stylists in Philly, but I never had a chance to photograph her as a subject, for years I only worked with her like any other colleague in the Arts. Tracey always had this allure but shy in a way or so it seemed. Last year I invited her up to my new studio in Elkins Park to assist on a shoot and I also invited her to attend a party at my house during the summer. That’s when it finally clicked that I wanted to photograph her for The Vixens Series.  The time was ripe.

After several back and forth communications, she agreed and noted that she had never been photographed by a professional photographer before.  I felt honored and I think she cherished the moment. So the process began.  I asked Tracey to put some fashion together from her wardrobe and explained the process of how I work with creative director, KVaughn. They too have known each other for decades so communicating  by Zoom was easy and so began our team’s creative journey.  There would be four to five changes within a two hour shoot schedule.  My lighting assistant, Anthony Colagreco was working the lights. Fortunately for us, Tracey had lots of interesting costumes that KVaughn curated and molded into the style in which the series has become known. KV especially knows I have a thing for hats. Tracey is also a headdress maker. A creative match made in heaven and the pictures are always the result.

Tracey indicated on the eve of her sitting that she was a little nervous.  That to me usually indicates the person that I am photographing is fully immersed in the creative outcome, which through my experience tends to lead to a positive result.  I simply assured her she was in good hands.

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To be cast for The Vixen Series contact: Tony@TonyWard.com.

To access The Vixens Series gallery link herehttps://tonyward.com/the-vixens-series/

Lileet_Miriam: Work is Work Isn’t It?

 

Text by Lileet_Miriam, Copyright 2024

Photography by Tony Ward,Copyright 2024

Styling by KVaughn

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Work is Work, Isn’t It?

The concept, by design, is meant to be transactional. An even exchange. You provide “x” set of skills for a particular field so therefore you should be paid “y” in return, right? The good ole “employer/employee relationship.” But, what happens when you are both the employer/employee that must rely upon a third party (cash app, social media platform, or even a reputable banking institution) that is designed, let alone meant to provide you with the steady income you worked for only to be told in return, sometimes without warning, “no, we can’t provide you with your hard earned money because THESE set of skills you possess, we actually frown upon.” Welcome to the constant struggle of the current sex worker.

As The New York Times reported in November of 2023, “workers in sex-related industries – whether creating online content, or working in a strip club or even a legal brothel, – often risk their safety and face social and employment discrimination. But a lesser-known struggle is that it’s often difficult to maintain a basic bank account and other financial relationships that most people take for granted.” The ability to maintain a business bank account, a line of credit, or to generally use the financial services of banking institutions or service providers like Zelle or Venmo, are essential to commercial undertaking. In the life of a small business operator, that quickly bleeds into one’s personal life and ability to perform basic economic functions like use a checking account, obtain a mortgage, or even keep a credit card. Unfortunately, for many sex workers, who are disproportionally women, these basic rights are denied, forcing them into a continuous cycle of financial instability and hardship. 

Whether driven by moral condemnation or financial risk assessment, too often women involved in sexually explicit work find their access to banking institutions and financial service providers denied. According to a May 2023 report from the Free Speech Coalition, nearly 40% of workers in the adult sex industry have experienced account closures and denials of service in this past year alone. 

Some of the dangers are clear. The inability to access financial services and banking causes significant financial instability and prevents the creation of new businesses and wealth. This cycle in turn forces workers in the adult sex industry to depend on less reliable third parties or operate through the use of far less secure payment methods like cash and cryptocurrency. The negative impact far transcends the business end of the operation for most small business operators. Lack of credit and easily documented income can quickly have a negative impact on one’s personal credit, impacting the very basic needs of modern life. 

Work is work, except for when a bank decides that it is not the type of work that one should be doing. Then work becomes an arduous journey to secure a glimpse of financial security. For many women, who comprise a significant sector of modern adult sex work, this has become a reality which often compromises their ability to work for a living. 

 

Antoinette. AKA Scorpiana: You Cannot Pour From an Empty Cup

Beautiful tall black woman models a KVaughn couture jacket photographed by Tony Ward Copyright 2024
Antoinette. AKA Scorpiana. Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2024

Text by Antoinette, AKA Scorpiana

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You Cannot Pour From an Empty Cup

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You cannot pour from an empty cup. 

This was the single best piece of parenting and life advice I have ever received and my continuous reminder to take care of myself. Navigating multiple polyamorous partnerships requires a lot of time and effort but those relationships continuously fill my cup. It was thru one of those relationships that I was introduced to rope bondage, and with it a whole new world in the BDSM community.

Chinese woman hanging upside down in bondage in her bedroom
Savanna. Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2024. Rope Work by Scorpiana.

Rope spoke to me in a way nothing had previously. The artistry, the physical challenge, the emotional connection it can foster. Being restrained was the first time in my life I could turn my brain off and just be in the moment, in my body. Learning to tie others was the most fantastic puzzle that continues to challenge me physically and mentally years later. It is a rare situation where I have never gotten bored, and boredom is ever present in my life as a human with ADHD. Balancing my kink life with my vanilla life as a working mother of two kids has me literally and figuratively pulled in multiple directions every day. Yet it is thru rope that I keep my cup full for the rest of the things in my life. Rope bondage has provided a unique emotionally connective experience with friends and partners alike. It is an expression of my creativity and an artistic outlet unlike any other.

closeup bondage photo of woman's butt
 Tony Ward for KVaughn Scarves, Copyright 2024. 

Sculpture with the human body, a transient dynamic living piece of art. Expanding access to rope bondage for those who are traditionally not included due to body size and ability is this intersection between my professional life as a physical therapist and my personal life as a rigger that allows me to share my love of learning and teaching with other marginalized groups. Tying others, and being tied, has been a source of joy that has kept me happy and grounded and better able to show up in all other aspects of my life; as a parent, as a partner, and as a physical therapist. 

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Beautiful tall black woman models a KVaughn couture coat photographed by Tony Ward Copyright 2024
Antoinette. AKA Scorpiana. Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2024

Mikala Mikrut: A Vixen From Vegas


Text by Mikala Mikrut, Copyright 2023

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A Vixen From Vegas

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Photography, Tony Ward, Copyright 2023

Creative Director: KVaughn

Lighting Assistant: Anthony Colagreco

Hair & Makeup: Octavia Monroe

Behind The Scenes: Resyn Thomas

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What does it mean to be a vixen? At first glance, the term is simple: “a female fox.” It’s the literal definition, a word often associated with Trixie from The Fox and the Hound, perhaps chosen for its closeness to “vixen.” Yet, there’s another layer to this word, one that carries a nuanced weight. It refers to a spirited or fierce woman, one often seen as sexually attractive.

When Tony Ward approached me to be a part of his latest collection, which he aptly named The Vixen Series, I couldn’t help but question its significance. My initial association with the term was not particularly flattering, conjuring images of a manipulative seductress, taking advantage of others without remorse. However, Tony’s perspective on the term shifted my perception. A vixen, as he sees it, is not someone who exploits but someone who accepts the affection and adoration that others willingly offer. It’s a recognition of one’s own allure and power, a celebration of the capacity to evoke desire.

For me, being included in Tony Ward’s The Vixen Series wasn’t just an acknowledgment of my physical presence; it was a testament to the strength, intelligence, and heroism that define the diverse women he seeks to portray. To find myself considered in the same context as such inspiring figures was deeply humbling. Often, I grapple with feelings of inadequacy, wondering if I’m doing enough to justify my existence in this world. Tony’s invitation was a reassurance that my presence and contributions matter, a gentle nudge towards embracing my worth.

The journey with Tony and his team has been nothing short of enlightening. They have taught me to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us and to recognize the potential within myself. I am grateful for their friendship and guidance, and I only wish I could have extended my stay to absorb more of their wisdom.

The truth is, every one of us harbors a vixen within. It’s not just about being attractive or alluring; it’s about embracing the multifaceted qualities that make us uniquely powerful. Our inner vixen can be bold, perceptive, empathetic, or any blend of positive feminine traits. It’s about owning our strengths, sharing our wisdom, and empowering those around us. This experience has led me to ponder how others perceive me and how I might inspire them in turn. I believe we should all unapologetically embrace our inner vixens, radiating confidence and spreading empowerment wherever we go.

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To access more pictures from The Vixens Series link herehttps://tonyward.com/new-work-the-vixens-series/

Exhibition Announcement: Artist Statement

Portrait of dominatrix and sub wearing gas mask. She's holding a wip.
Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2023

Text by Tony Ward, Copyright 2023

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Artist Statement

Thirty years ago in 1993. I embarked on a new body of work that explored our rights in America to freedom of expression. My subjects were from all walks of life, from various races, religious backgrounds  and sexual persuasions. This melting pot that stubbornly defines America  formed the palette of a series of black and white photographs that defined an era.  What was that era?  It was the time in which sexual freedom and multiculturalism was on the rise. 

Unfortunately, in these times there are certain bigoted elements of our society that continue to attempt to roll back the hands of time. Sadly, Facisim in America is on the rise. Obsessions as a body of work reminds us of what we once were and still are, a free and open society in which each individual American is free to choose and be who they are.

To find out more about the exhibition, link here: https://tonyward.com/obsessions-vintage-prints-1993-1998/