My Childhood Experience Is Merely My Doorway In.
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 and toxic relationships. 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 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. We must recognise coercive control as a crime too. All of this darkness is hidden inside the home and transcends gender, social class or ethnicity. It is an epidemic. The UN calls it the shadow pandemic.
We ask all of the wrong questions, "Why didn't she leave instead of why did they not stop?" We perpetuate and tolerate toxic masculinity, we raise men who cannot express their emotions and children who think that violent play is natural. 91% of domestic violence crimes that cause injuries are against women and 93% of perpetrators who abused women survivors are male. (figs. Women's Aid/SafeLives 2019). You will also witness domestic abuse in same sex and trans relationships. In 2021 it was finally recognised in law that children are victims of domestic abuse in the home not merely bystanders.
Below: an old family photograph of my mother, I grew up with domestic abuse. This became a photography project that has lasted over two years and will exhibit. This also became a personal journey for me. In December 2019 my father died and I began to look at my childhood home, the violent arguments where I sat at the top of the stairs too scared to sleep. Looking at my parents I discovered that the line between a perpetrator and victim may be clear cut or blurred.
The survivors I photographed made me face my fears. In the end I too understood that I needed to forgive, or at least learn how to let go of my pain and anger. I began to explore how, I began to find some relief. I found new growth, for many of us here have post traumatic growth, the people who risk all to begin again. They may lose a home, family, a social standing, a job. They walk out on their beliefs and values. There is often a breakdown. They rise. The unlucky fall back into old patterns and the comfort of old habits. Some though attain a healing after trauma. Many speak of the work they put into transition, I am drawn to these people, the alchemists who speak of a journey but see no ending just a work in progress. A few feel trapped and unable to move on though they long to. We chose different destinations. When a person knows desolation and suffering they have an opportunity to learn compassion.
Even when we heal and transform, the shadows stay hidden in our bodies. The body keeps the score, the heart may be torn, the shoulder burdened. Once we have known fear we can never unknow it. I seek the light to carry the darkness with ease.
My images are a showcase of moments, life and emotion distilled into one frame. Each image expresses many things, each has a surface story yet is also open and ambiguous, to be read differently by each viewer. To depict a person's breakages and make something wonderful from fracture. Honouring transitions and allowing change and growth to exist in the frame. Breakage and repair are part of the history of a person, rather than something to disguise. The repair is literally illuminated. A visual record of mends and seams, a photograph celebrating repair or rebirth.
I want my tribe to challenge the viewer, create discomfort. This is the female gaze. To refuse to be objectified and to take agency. To confront the viewer, demand space, consideration and take a brave warrior stance.
This work is our 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 SICK! Festival and SafeLives, the national domestic abuse charity, and their Pioneers, (women bringing the voice, expertise and power of lived experience to create change for everyone), my childhood experience is merely my doorway in.
If you need help or to talk:
Domestic abuse and toxic relationships
- Physical violence
- Sexual abuse.
- Psychological or emotional abuse.
- Financial or material abuse.
- Modern slavery, Honour based crime and FGM.
Laura Noble painted the oil on canvas backdrops.
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 Kathryn, a Pioneer from SafeLives.
Michelle Phillips at SafeLives who has mentored me during my residency.
Many women are in too much danger to show their faces but have worked with me behind the scenes.