Andy taking photos of his wife, Tash Hamilton. By Velvet Sky Photos
After years of photographing his escort wife, Andy Nguyen decided to quit law and focus on his true calling.
Andy was at a career cross roads. He wasn't enjoying his job in banking finance law, but the idea of quitting to focus on his passion, photography, felt like a gamble. Then his wife offered him a deal.
"My wife was like, 'If you want to take a break from working as a lawyer, I'll help you. I'll support you," says Andy, over the phone. "But if it's not working out, then you need to go find a law job.' So I decided personally to give myself six weeks for the business to take off."
By the end of those six weeks Andy's business, Sekushi Studios, had booked dozens of clients. His gamble had paid off and Andy had his wife to thank. After all, it was via her that he'd first started taking photos of sex workers-people who constantly need up-to-date profile shots for social media accounts, websites and online directories.
It all started when Andy was a young lawyer, and he'd begun regularly seeing an escort by the name of Tash Hamilton. Tash and Andy had struck up a conversation about photography, which he'd been passionate about since a teenager. He explained to her that he'd been using his dad's gear throughout high school to shoot friends and family, which led to some work as a wedding photographer while at law school.
Impressed, Tash asked whether Andy would shoot her, and it was in this way that the two became a couple. In 2015, Andy moved from Sydney to Melbourne where they moved in together and got married.
That same year Andy founded Sekushi Studios, which he initially ran on a part-time basis, eventually gaining enough clients to make the transition to full-time work possible.
"When I decided to quit my job, I made an announcement saying 'I'm now available full time as a photographer.' I think maybe that changed the perception about my business and made it look more serious or something."
He quickly found that he was able to apply much of what he learned as a lawyer in this new career setting. With much of his law work focused on debt and mortgage recoveries, he often found himself handling difficult phone calls with people facing eviction, where it was important to present as calm and empathic. This too, he says, is a vital on photo shoots.
"Just getting to the shoot is often stressful: there'll be traffic and you'll be getting your hair and makeup done. So it's always important to manage expectations on the day. I tell people, 'Leave your morning free and leave plenty of time to travel, so if you are running late, it's OK.' I'll even bring a pair of scissors with me to cut the tags off the outfits. Just little things like that, I think, give people the confidence that, 'Hey, this person knows exactly what they're doing. I'll let them guide me and direct me through the shoot and it'll be OK.'"
He's also found that clients are more comfortable when they bring along emotional support, in the form of a partner or friend.
Andy smiles at this second point and muses: "I actually like it when people bring their partners because I can put them to use."
Establishing solid relationships with clients is another skill Andy has carried over from the legal industry. Over the past few years, he and his wife have hosted Christmas parties for sex workers, which is a rare social opportunity in an industry built on sole traders .
"If your clients are happy, they're more willing to re-book and spend more money on your business," he says, highlighting the crossover between this and similar schmoozing in law. "As a lawyer, we would take our clients out and shout them drinks all night once a year. And it might cost 20, 30 grand, but the bank might then spend half a million dollars, a million dollars on legal fees for booking us."
Sekushi Studios now has 30K followers on Instagram and averages around two to three shoots a week, making for a yearly total of around 100. Most of Sekushi's clientele describe themselves as "full service" sex workers, although Andy says he's also noticed a "growing proportion of online content creators" (e.g. OnlyFans content producers) who also need his services.
Today, Andy and Tash have two children and two rabbits. He describes their lives as quite normal, although he admits they've navigated some challenges over the years as Tash continues to work in the sex industry. In particular, Andy said the industry comes with a unique sense of isolation that he didn't expect.
"So your friends might not know about the situation completely, because you just want to respect your partner's privacy and not tell them if she isn't open about it, which kind of leaves you a little bit alone."
Andy originally turned to Reddit for support, through which he found a non-for-profit organisation called Scarlett Academy that offers information and community for sex workers and their families. From there he realised there was a need for a local support group, which he founded in Melbourne.
He says the group convenes online, where they discuss anything and everything, although he's found that many partners of sex workers simply struggle with jealousy and personal insecurities.
"Every now and then it pops up that someone's gone on and read all the reviews [for their partner], and it might just be triggering for them. I think the trigger is mainly that they're insecure about their own relationship with their partner, and when they read about these fantasies that their partner's had with other people, it doesn't go down well. For me, I've been with my partner for six or seven years. I'm at a really good place in our relationship, and I understand her work and that it's just work. I don't feel threatened by her work or her clients. But that's something that has taken time."
Andy's work has also helped in making him more comfortable and open about his relationship. Though his parents' initial reaction to his wife's line of work led to a three-year gap in communication between them and Andy, they've since managed to restore relations.
"There's no shame, and there's no reason to hide or be mysterious or anything like that. We're very public, we're very open about being in our relationship as well. But not every worker is and can be. So I'm really fortunate that I'm in a situation where I can be so open about it."Words by Matthew Forbes. You can also follow Sekushi Studios on Instagram.
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