I Am...define yourself.
Scroll down for information about the portrait sittings.
I'm compelled to make work about social injustice, patriarchy, study transformations and to seek beauty. There is not one narrative arc when we explore domestic crimes. Each person asks me to bear witness to their truth. It is a complex and hidden crime, and this visual narrative gives many people the space to reclaim their face or body. They ask us to confront their face and gaze, to pay attention to their trauma and survival, to note their resilience and vulnerability. A face opens the conversation, it is powerful. Some people are in places of transition and growth, we are all on a journey without a fixed destination, transitions are multi layered.
The work is political for we challenge the values of a society that tolerates violence and turns a blind eye. This is a crime that happens to your friends and in your street. Behind closed doors we call it "domestic abuse" to minimise it, yet if it happened outside of the home we would call it rape, assault, murder. We must recognise coercive control as a crime too. All of this darkness is hidden inside the home and transcends social class or ethnicity. It is an epidemic.
My timeframe is up to two years photographing the participants.
Below: old family photograph of my mother, I grew up with domestic abuse.
This work is not just my story, the aim is to look at an issue and promote debate and social change through art. I like to be embedded in a project and I work with people who are also survivors of trauma. Trauma is generational, at some point it must stop. In partnership with SafeLives, the national domestic abuse charity, and their Pioneers, (women bringing the voice, expertise and power of lived experience to create change for everyone), I have a large team and mentors to shape the narrative, my childhood experience is merely my doorway in.
Each subject will be asked to collaborate in the telling of her story, to bring an "endowment object" that is meaningful to her/him. Behind them will be backdrops that are painted by artist Laura Noble of L.A. Noble Gallery, London. Other cloths will be multi layered with the narrative is woven into it using traditionally women's crafts - from Agnes Richter to Tracy Emin, artists have used fabric, embroidery and colour to subvert.
Celia Peachy is a writer and activist. Her mother was murdered and she also turned to Eastern philosophy to seek healing. She is mentored by writer and critic Dominic Walsh, who worked with me on "You Brought Your Own Light".
Gaynor Stoddard brings the skills to sew the backdrops together and embroider them with the words of a Pioneer from SafeLives.
Many women are in too much danger to show their faces but have worked with me behind the scenes.
For many the first part of the photographic portrait sitting involves me listening to which part of your story is important to you. Then we photograph this. Your story is held within your face and body, your eyes are the window to your soul and this makes the portrait powerful. You may choose a space to be captured in, a place meaningful to you. You choose what to wear and if you wish to include any symbolic objects within the frame. You have probably never had a portrait sitting before, I guide you through the process. An artist is the conduit who empowers you.
We will use your home or a private space you choose. This is the scene of many crimes or the space you created afterwards. Perhaps you have not made it special yet, maybe this not important to you at all. I have fabric embroidered backdrops and hand painted ones. They were all created especially for this project by women who are talented and who share this story.
We will only see the room in shadow and all I need is a window with a curtain or blind and daylight. This is your safe space. We usually begin with me finding the light I want whilst you put the kettle on. When I'm happy with my set we sit and have a chat. Some people are very nervous or emotional, that's normal and fine with me.
You maybe thinking of the trauma, or your healing, transformation and growth. This is a journey but not a linear one. How we live after abuse is complex. Some of you will ask to sit for political reasons - to speak for the women murdered during lockdown or to challenge the government to offer more support to this sector.
You are sitting for a portrait to be visible and authentic. I will ask you to sign a model release and later I will show you some of the images and check if you are happy for the work to be public. I win awards, make books and hang in galleries. This series is about changing how the world views domestic crime.
Some people like to write a part of their story - to have their say. Maybe you feel strongly about:
- the trauma
- the healing, transformation and personal growth that may come after you left the violent partnership
- the lack of funding to shelters or other political issues within this area
- the recent issue of covid creating a situation of 5 deaths a week from domestic abuse
- coercive and economic control as it is not always physical violence.
I'm using the covid guidelines of my professional body. I may enter your home to work and I carry a mask, hand gel and my own cup. Do excuse me if I avoid touch points!
I will be with you for up to an hour. This is not a rushed "hit and run" way of working and I care about you having time to process the shoot. If you wish to wear make up please do, but avoid a party look. I want the real you. Clothing wise - lets stay simple. I love a vest top or T shirt. Though sometimes I get kind of obsessed with a colour! No logos and no writing. When you choose a backdrop we will find something that complements it. Together we can style this to create art.
We are collaborating in this work, it's my vision and your story.
Make sure we can work privately for an hour.
The Endowment Object
Choose something that symbolises you. I chose my earring as it had moonstones in. I have loved them for years and in yoga I am drawn to the moon sequence. It is powerful and feminine and it is me. I also love the warrior sequence so another day maybe I will choose something to symbolise that.