Friday, April 18, 2014

From Inside

All of the following photos were taken today, looking out of a window. I spent a lot of time inside on this sunny day, partly at work, partly in the car, partly in the grocery store. While inside, I searched for beauty on the outside. Here's what I found:

Extra Reading: 
Rainbow Collections: Rainbow Collections is a zine where each issue focuses on a specific color. This month's color is red. The photographs do not have any other guidelines other than showcasing the month's color, which inspires an interesting combination of photographs in the final publication.
Diana Markosian: Markosian's project, My Father, The Stranger is what first drew me to her work. When Markosian was seven years old, she and her mother were separated from her father. As an adult, Markosian travels halfway around the world to meet her father once again, for the first time since she was a child. Her photographs are evidence of what she finds in her meeting with her father. 

Movement of Compassion

Many of you who know me know about the work I have done with registered sex offenders. Last summer I did a photographic project with a wonderful organization called Young Photographers Alliance (YPA). I decided to focus my work on the lives of registered sex offenders; as a childhood sexual abuse victim, I was and am interested in the other side of the story: a sex offender's story. For the show I participated in with YPA, I presented photographs of a man named Tom Madison, a registered sex offender who is also an activist in politics and sex offenders' rights. You can view images from this project here.

My artist statement is an important element to this project, and it is as follows:

One thing I have never fully been able to escape is my memory of being sexually abused. The state of terror and shame that I experienced as a little girl is still inside me, even after countless hours of therapy.

The man who molested me died suddenly after I admitted to my mother what he had done. Since then I have wondered what it would be like to be a registered sex offender, rather than the person who had been molested. I noticed that many well-meaning people in my life did not want to talk about the issue of sexual abuse, much less hear what a convicted sex offender would have to say. Still, I could not forget about the man who had abused me, who had been my stepfather. I loved him very much. I wanted to know why he would do such a thing to me if he cared for me, too.

In my search for answers, I interviewed one man who will be on the sex offender registry forever. When I listened to his story, I realized that he struggled to escape his past just as much as I did. And like me, he could not escape it, and that pained him just as much as it pains me. I therefore paired portraits of him and I together, our pasts intertwined into one, something neither of us can escape. It does not matter that we have had different experiences with sexual abuse; both of our experiences are filled with instances of happiness, euphoria, depression, rage, and terror.

I present you with these images, knowing some of you will look away, offended that I would visually attach my story to that of a registered sex offender. That reaction is itself an escape, and the cycle continues.

Though I did not show images of her in my YPA exhibition, I also photographed a woman named Patricia Bowen, who has been a registered sex offender for several decades. I personally believe that Patricia was wrongfully accused (a rare case, but people can be wrongfully accused of sexual abuse).

When I first met Patricia, she refused to let me inside of her home. The privacy Patricia has in her home is the only safe haven she has left. However, when I called her back to ask if we could get together again, she very graciously offered to let me into her space. I did not take her offer lightly, and I hope the images I captured today rightfully show the compassion I feel toward this woman.

I also hope this post inspires you to be a more compassionate human being. It is not right for someone to sexually abuse someone else, but it is counterproductive to dehumanize registered sex offenders. Once we begin to dehumanize and isolate groups of people, we have lost progress. In order for sexual abuse to stop, I believe we must find a way to have compassion with all parties involved, even with those we believe have done something terribly wrong.

Extra Reading:
Johannes Stötter: This Italian painter creates absolutely amazing body paintings. So many of his pieces have inspired me. Stötter creates a lot of paintings that blend in with nature, and some are so realistic, you will not be able to tell which part is a human body and which part is the nature behind it.

Thank you so much for keeping up.