In this article I would like to make an update on the progress of my project as well as mention some important influences.
Starting the project in June 2021, I had to adapt quickly within the new style and work fast in order to successfully complete it. Given the project’s topic, I chose rather a serious tone for the photographs than an artistic one. The photographs are very documentary and neutral in order to fulfil the informative purpose and eliminate any gimmick that could be potentially evoked by making the photographs more artistic. All photographs are in colour in order to keep as many details of the subjects and places as possible. I also thought that making them black&white would not suit the style of the project – it would go down more the artistic way.
I photographed and interviewed 10 women including myself. I recorded all the interviews which eventually took a written form. This is the main reason why I’ve cometo a conclusion that the best outcome of the project is a book because the text is as important as the images. I would like the viewers to immerse in the stories, through the images and words.
The last few weeks I spent on polishing the design of the book. I discussed the book design with a couple of professionals who helped me shape the visual quality. I aimed for a contemporary look as I believed it would go well with the topic. The suggestions to achieve it were: use of Sans Serif font for titles, use of negative space as design, add extra pages so the photos and text are not ‘cluttered’ and the photos have more room to breathe, choose a story layout and based on that create two variations of it to avoid repetitiveness. In terms of the book cover, I was looking for something bold that would quickly convey the theme. I decided to go with a red colour in combination of bold Sans Serif font for the title.
Fig. 1-6: Screenshots from I Didn't Ask For It, 2021
I’m not finished yet with finalising the design, but it’s finally in a stage when it’s presentable enough to start sending it to professionals for their feedback. Some of the people I would like to contact are photographers revolved around violence against women. Others are professionals in the field of gender and media studies. I’m also planning on contacting local newspapers/journalists in order to get feedback on my work as well as get help with publicity.
The artists I would like to contact were a source of inspiration for my work. Therefore I would like to mention their projects here as well as the reasons why they influenced me.
Project Unbreakable by Grace Brown documents survivors of rape holding up a board displaying a phrase of what was said to them by the attacker before, during or after the assault. The images are raw and direct and in combination with those phrases there is a shock element to them.
Fig. 7-8: Project Unbreakable Cheer Up Luv by Eliza Hatch documents victims of sexual harassment in public spaces. The women are captured in locations that are reflective of their experience. Each location acts as a stage that allows them to speak out about their incidents. I like the visual quality of this project; the women are placed in the middle of the image so you focus directly on them, and the use of a wide lens gives more details about the location.
Fig. 9-10: Cheer Up Luv The subjects of both projects look serious but neutral. I considered these visual qualities of Cheer Up Luv when photographing my project. I framed my subjects in the centre of the images but used a long lens in order to get a shallow depth of field that created a visually pleasing blurry background. For the locations I used a wide lens in order to get a clear picture of the places and make them recognisable. Similar to Cheer Up Luv, I photographed the women at the location of the incident to reclaim that space. Taking a note from Project Unbreakable and Cheer Up Luv I also considered the women’s face expression and poses in the photographs. I asked them to look serious, but neutral and stand upright in order to look confident but casual. By choosing these neutral poses I wanted to present them as strong women with dignity as well as minimise the chance of them being judged by the viewers.
Only recently I’ve discovered the chilling project Intended Consequences by Jonathan Torgovnik who focuses on photographing Rwandan mothers with their children born of rape during the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Turgovnik also gives voice to his subjects by interviewing them and publishing their testimonies alongside with the photographs. He explains that the experience involves both looking and reading.
Fig. 11-12: Intended Consequences Another striking project I came across on the topic of sexual violence and victim blaming is the Is It My Fault? exhibition organised by the prevention service of Molenbeek in Brussel. The exhibition features replicated clothes similar to those worn by real rape victims the moment they had been attacked. The items exhibited are horrifically striking for their ordinary nature and are ranging from tracksuit, baggy t-shirts and other casual clothing items as well as a child’s dress. The exhibition’s purpose is to dispel the notion that provocative clothing is the cause of rape.
Similar to Is It My Fault? exhibition, the women I worked with turned out to had been wearing very ordinary clothes that could be hardly seen as provocative. I hope this will emphasise that the fault never lies in the victims, it is always the perpetrator who is responsible
Fig. 13: Is It My Fault? The professionals that I would like to contact produced great material in the field of sociology and feminism, which I drew from during my studies. These people are:
- Anita Sarkeesian, a founder of Feminist Frequency. She produces videos critically examining pop culture from a feminist perspective and commenting on prevalent harmful stereotypes commonly used in video games and other media.
- Gail Dines, a professor of sociology and women's studies, specialised in the study of pornography.
- Jackson Katz, an educator, filmmaker and author. He focuses on topics such as violence, masculinity and representation of men and women in media.
- Michael Kimmel, a sociologist specialising in gender studies. He is the founder of the academic journal Men and Masculinities, which is an academic journal covering men’s studies.
- Jean Kilbourne, an activist best known for her work on the image of women in advertisement. Figures: Fig. 1-6: Nechanicka, L. 2021, I Didn't Ask For It
Fig. 7-8: Brown, G. n.d. Project Unbreakable, Fig. 9-10: Hatch, E. n.d. Cheer Up Luv Fig. 11-12: Turgovnik. J. n.d. Intended Consequences Fig. 13: 2019, Is It My Fault?