Australian artist Jesse Willesee has lifted the lid on how young people are making thousands of dollars a month selling explicit photos and videos on Snapchat.
The 29-year-old, known for his outrageous stunts, says setting up a premium nudes service on the app means “easy money, any time, anywhere, via your phone”.
Yet the simplicity with which teens can create an account and take payments in exchange for graphic content is also reason for concern following this week’s revelations about the Australian porn ring publishing non-consensual nudes of schoolgirls online.
The Aussie, who moved to Los Angeles from Sydney last year, has made an eight-part Instagram documentary, Premium, about his girlfriend Hannah Weiiss’s lucrative foray into posting sexual content on the app.
“People don’t realise how much of an opportunity it is to make money,” he told news.com.au.
Hannah describes Snapchat Premium as “like a normal account but it’s private and people pay me to view it”.
The 19-year-old student from Long Beach, California, began charging people to see her racy photos after losing her part-time job at a Chinese restaurant, and went from making $13 an hour to around $130 an hour.
She had been receiving messages from men on Snapchat asking if she had a premium account. Days later she had set up an account, taking payments through Paypal, Google Wallet and in-app payment service Snapcash, which is not yet available in Australia.
Now, she can make around $2,000 in one month.
“I could absolutely pay for college and rent with Snapcash,” she says in Jesse’s documentary.
The Australian conceptual artist, son of prominent journalist Terry, said that while Snapcash is promoted as being for group purchases with friends and family, “the majority of people use it for paying to see nudes”.
As for why people would pay girls to post content when there is so much free porn available online, he says: “I think the idea is it’s a lot more personal, you never meet in real life but you have a virtual interaction.”
Hannah agrees “it seems like people who are a bit lonely”, with many requesting personal photos, videos and conversation via private message, for an extra fee.
The Snapchat star says she gets sent around 40 “dick pics” a day, but if anyone crosses the line or makes her feel uncomfortable, she blocks them.
Jesse stresses that this is very different to non-consensual sharing of underage nudes online.
“This is grown consenting adults posting for other adults,” he said. “Snapchat has rules, you can only go so far. You really can't post porn, namely, people having sex. Anything by yourself flies under the radar.”
But he admits there is nothing stopping minors posting photos or accessing photos, or others posting images without consent.
“Snapchat has the same problem as the rest of the internet. Underage kids can look at anything.”
He and Hannah believe it is “empowering” and say it’s only society that judges sharing nudes as “morally wrong”.
Jesse has previously made headlines in Australia for an art project in which he took photos of his own penis to show other men how “gross” unsolicited photos are, as well as a live installation on the sex cam industry.
The marijuana activist is also known for staging weed-smoking protests outside Sydney Town Hall and Parliament House calling for the legalisation of cannabis.
This article originally appeared on News.com.au.