Aside from writing, photography is the best method I have for expressing any truth that is weighing on my soul. Photography is my art.
This week I was given an assignment to create a “Photography as Fiction” portfolio for one of my classes. The term “fiction” in this case referring to a manipulated photograph, not something journalistic and right off the street.
I decided to have some fun with makeup and create images of different women in our society. At first I was just going to imitate characters like “The Artist” or “The Teacher,” but then I wondered, “What’s the point of that?”
So I changed my project.
I realized that perhaps this idea of using photography to bring attention to harsh or overlooked truths was more important than a simple class project. So instead of becoming well-known characters, I decided to try and go a little deeper.
Here are the four different women I chose to become.
The Silent Woman shows a contrast between the woman (represented by the left side of the face) who endures physical abuse and the woman (represented by the right side) who shows the world a brave and collected face. She’s the woman whose suffering goes completely unseen and unheard.
The Used Woman is the one who has been judged on her physical appearance only. She’s the woman who has learned that she must play a certain role in order to get what she wants. My hope is that the title would make the viewer stop for a moment and consider why she has become this way.
The Forgotten Woman could be any woman in almost any situation, and her image sheds some light on the stereotypical female response, “I’m fine.” Her image shows the raw heartbreak that she wishes she could express without being considered weak. It is the pain that is normally masked with a pretty smile and perfect makeup.
The Real Woman is the one with a bare face and no reservations about who she is. She’s the woman who is defying what she has been taught to believe. The woman who is ignoring the belief that something about her must be altered in order for her to be beautiful.
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My intention while I was taking these pictures was to completely change who I was with each one. I wanted to be able to say that these were about “someone else” and have no personal connection to them, but now as I look over the photos, I see more of myself than just my face in each one.
While I have never been physically abused, I do understand the feeling of being silenced. While I don’t believe I’ve used my sexuality to get what I want out of others, I know the feeling of desperation that could drive you to do anything you have to do in order to be known. I know all too well the heartbreak and pain that seems like it would appear weak or foolish if it were seen from the outside. And finally, I am slowly beginning to understand what it means to show up just as I am with no modifications or excuses.
I would love to hear your thoughts on these, because this is me simply reminding anyone who will listen that these women exist. These “characters” are my way of joining all the other women who have already shown up and said, “You haven’t seen me before, but I’m here now. “