Dig Boston Cover Story, 1/26/17: "Photo Feature: Invisible Fractures" by Rachel Tine

January 26, 2017 By RACHEL TINE Leave a Comment

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A new exhibit reveals nonphysical bruises in healing light

 

PHOTOS AND INTERVIEWS BY RACHEL TINE

 

Not all scars are visible on the surface. But as Boston-area photographer Rachel Tine reminds us, “many  domestic violence shelters require that a victim has sustained physical injuries in order to receive assistance.” Even though “emotional abuse has been shown to be equally if not more damaging to victims in the long term.”

 

Partnering with the Dorchester-based nonprofit Casa Myrna, which provides help to emotional abuse victims (as well as physical and sexual abuse victims) to raise money and awareness for their organization, Tine photographed nearly two dozen individuals for her latest series, “Invisible Fractures: The Enduring Trauma of Emotional Abuse,” which opens at the Piano Craft Gallery on Feb 3.

“All of the series participants are deeply impacted by the emotional abuse to this day,” Tine says. “But by sharing their history through this series, participants have been able to utilize their own suffering to benefit others, which has helped to empower survivors who were previously nervous about coming forward with their experiences. It’s been really moving to see how transformative participation in this series has been for people.”

 

In one case, the photographer says there has been impact even before the opening reception.

 

“One woman actually left her emotionally abusive relationship when she read one of my posts about the series and realized that she was being emotionally abused,” Tine says. “She knew she would end up suffering like the participants in my series if she didn’t get out.”

 

Below we have included excerpts from the difficult and moving interviews that Tine did with her subjects, along with photographs (please note that pictures do not correspond to specific quotations). Those who have suffered from relationship abuse may want to consider the troubling nature of the experiences described herein before reading further.  

 

THE PAIN

 

What, if anything, made you fearful, sad, question your own self-worth or intuition, etc.?

My relationship made me fear for the life of my family. Often while trying to escape this relationship, [he] would threaten to go to my house and hurt my family. He swore time and time again that if I left him, when I was married with my own family in the future, that he would find me and first kill my child, then my husband, all in front of me. As a teen, nothing was more scary than this. I questioned my self-worth every time I went back … Every time I found myself on my knees begging for him to stop what he was doing to me.

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Can you succinctly describe some of the most damaging things that were said or done to you over the course of the relationship?

 

He would tell me he loved me more than anything or anyone in the world; he even drunkenly proposed to me one night. But the next day would be completely different—he said that he’d never really felt anything for me, that he was just confused and now he understood how little I really meant, that he didn’t want to see me anymore. This happened several times. In the course of our relationship, he broke up with me three times, and each time it devastated me. We’d end up getting back together because he’d come back to me and apologize with that cliche “you don’t know what you have ’till it’s gone” line. The emotional yo-yoing really damaged my self-worth.

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What, if anything, made you fearful, sad, question your own self-worth or intuition, etc.?

 

I was subjected to brutal debates on any topic, and, over time, began to live in terror, afraid to say anything that might provoke him. He argued to win no matter what and said that it was “fun” even when these “fun” and “friendly” arguments would reduce me to tears, and sometimes would continue even when I pleaded with him to stop. This occurred fairly often, but was unpredictable, so I felt on edge most of the time. He derived tremendous pleasure from dominating me and crushing any attempt at disagreement.

 

GETTING FREE

 

How does the image of you in this series represent your experience in an emotionally abusive relationship?

 

Because of how painful life was for me when he wasn’t getting exactly what he wanted, it became ingrained in me to, without realizing it, second guess every word and action before they came out of me, always aware that I would be punished in some way, big or small, if I didn’t behave in exactly the “right” way. For this image, I chose to be photographed with my tongue taped down, because my abuser cleverly manipulated my ability to ever feel safe to speak freely.

What was the “last straw” that allowed you to leave for good?

 

He used to work some nights over night, and one night he went out to work and then I decided to go with some friends to a party, and then I got back and there he was. I’m pretty sure he set me up because he thought I was going to go out, and I came home and there he was on the couch and it was dark and he was looking crazy and then he pulled out a gun on me and pointed it right at my face, and then he was acting like he was going to shoot me. And I don’t know how I kept my cool, but I was like “do it, go for it,” but in my head I was losing it, and then he just popped out the clip and just emptied the clip of bullets right in my face, like flicked them at me. And I stayed. I think the last straw for me . . . was I threatened to leave and then he threatened to hurt my dog and then sleep around with a bunch of my friends, and that’s what made me leave. But then I got mad at myself later, I realized I got more upset that he threatened to hurt my dog and sleep with my friends than shoot me with a gun. I think that’s when I realized it wasn’t a normal relationship at all.

 

LASTING IMPACT

 

How does the abuse still affect you today?

 

Every time someone raises their voice near me, there’s a part of me that shuts down immediately, and I can do nothing but cry and hold myself until the feeling passes. In relationships following … my significant others have often felt offended that I could ever fear them or think they would belittle me in the way he did. They have gotten angry at times for immediately assuming the worst to happen.

How does the abuse still affect you today?

 

I have lost all of my self-confidence and hope for the future. For the first time in my life I am really insecure about my appearance. I have nightmares. I am too fragile to form new relationships. I am plagued by all of the physical symptoms of PTSD. But mostly, I struggle still with cognitive dissonance—after years of being told that my essential basic human needs for intimacy, security, fairness, respect, were invalid, were due to my “wrong thinking,” because I am inherently flawed. In time, I came to believe it. As a result of years of gaslighting, I lost my sense of agency and came to accept the reality that was manufactured for me; I began to doubt my own mind. This persists even when I know now, empirically, that I was emotionally abused.

Check out the Invisible Fractures opening reception at the Piano Craft Gallery on Fri 2.3 from 7–10pm. After-party to follow at Hojoko. For more information visit casamyrna.org/racheltine

Hiring the Right (Digital) Photographer by Rachel Tine

Before-and-after, with hours of retouching in between

Before-and-after, with hours of retouching in between

As a follow up to my "Lighting Liberation" blog post, I want to provide a little more background into what goes into creating gorgeous photographs. With the proliferation of high quality consumer cameras and even cell phones, many people are questioning why they should bother to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for a photographer. But the photographer's job begins well before we start shooting and lasts for many hours (usually days) afterward. When you hire a photographer, you are not only making use of their expensive cameras, lenses, lights, etc., but you are also utilizing their (hopefully) exceptional understanding of composition, lighting, retouching, etc. You are also hiring their unique style and personality, so be sure that you have seen a wide variety of a photographer's work, dig their style, and read lots of glowing reviews before you book your shoot! Also, if you love a photographer's style but don't think they shoot your subject matter, ask! I primarily have art portraits on my site, but bring my same unique style to product, wedding, family, event, etc. photography. :) Just don't forget to ask for multiple examples!

When I'm on a shoot, I'm relaxed, personable, fun, empathetic and professional. I always work within the comfort level of my client(s) and believe strongly in helping the client to be as comfortable as possible (does anyone look their best when they're stiff and feeling awkward?). To this end, there's typically a lot of dancing and laughing at my shoots. :) In addition to setting the right mood, though, you want a photographer who's intuitive enough to capture the best shots and to direct you effectively (if necessary) to maximize the potential for awesome images where you look your absolute best. Again, read online reviews, and don't be afraid to ask for references. Also, if you're interested in hiring a professional hair/makeup artist for the shoot, don't hesitate to ask your photographer for recommendations; the right team can really make a shoot!

As you can see in the above before-and-after, even when you begin with a beautiful model and great hair and makeup artists, retouching is an invaluable part of the process. Before hiring a photographer, verify that you will be receiving retouched photos, and clarify what the selection process will be for deciding which images will be retouched. If a photographer is offering to send you all of the images from your shoot, it's a good indication that you will simply be receiving the images "straight out of camera", like the "before" image above. It's also important to determine how you will receive your images; will you receive image files and if so, will you have the right to print the photos and post them to social media (only high resolution files are appropriate for printing), and does the photographer offer printing services if need be? Will the image files be watermarked with the photographer's logo, will the photographer retain all files and require that you purchase all prints through them, etc.? I tend to show my clients the unretouched photos from our shoot and let them choose the images they would like for me to retouch, and then I deliver the non-watermarked, high resolution, retouched image files with the right to print and post the images for personal use, and I also offer to print the images professionally (at an additional cost). Feel free, too, to ask when you should expect to receive the images; receiving holiday portraits in January won't be very useful!

Regardless of your photographic needs, choosing the right professional photographer will be worth far more than whatever the upfront cost may be. Whether you need professional headshots that stand out from the crowd, enticing and eye-catching product shots, or simply want stunning images to treasure forever, hiring the right photographer for you is always the right move. :) 

My First SOLO Gallery Show by Rachel Tine

Ever since I was little, I've always wanted to help people. When I was younger, this desire took the form of carrying a medicine bag with me everywhere to help anyone in pain, being listed as the class or bunk "psychiatrist" in multiple yearbooks, etc. By the age of 9, I was determined to be a child psychologist, and although I went on to earn a degree in psychology, I realized soon afterward that I wanted to help enact social change on a larger scale than my degree would readily facilitate. I had recently gotten back into photography after nearly a decade away, and although I was thrilled as one of my biggest passions soon became my career, I felt that something was missing. I spent the better part of three years trying to figure out the best way to use my photography as a tool for positive social change.

Although I had many powerful ideas for photo series addressing various social justice issues, I have always had trouble with art that capitalizes on an issue without helping to ameliorate said issue in a meaningful way. I was thrilled when I finally came up with a framework for photographic series that give back: photographing people impacted by an issue, using their input to help shape how they and the issue are portrayed, and utilizing partnerships with related organizations in conjunction with gallery openings, media features, etc., to raise money and awareness to help combat the issue.

For my first photo series utilizing this framework, I decided to address a topic that I am all too familiar with: Emotionally abusive romantic relationships. For nearly all of my life, I have been in emotionally abusive relationships with family members, romantic partners, and even occasionally friends. Of course I never thought that I was entering into yet another toxic relationship; one of the hallmarks of emotional abusers is that they are almost always extremely loving and promise you the world when they're trying to win your love, and then start putting you down and threatening to rescind their love once they see that they've gained your trust, adoration, and have managed to control you in some way, which is all part of a power play that temporarily shores up their low self-confidence. The cycle continues, with extreme highs and lows of overwhelming love and cruelty, until you feel your grip on reality slipping, and you start believing the bad things that are being said to/about you, you fear your abuser and also fear losing the person who convinces you that you would be lost without them, and you believe your abuser when they say that the way they treat you and any failings in your relationship are entirely your fault. Although emotional abuse doesn't leave physical scars, its deep, transformational, and lasting emotional scars silently impact an immeasurable number of people every day; this series is for them.

The goals of this series are to give closure and a voice to victims of emotional abuse, to offer hope and help to people currently in emotionally abusive relationships, to raise awareness about emotional abuse, and to raise money for organization(s) dedicated to assisting victims of emotional abuse. Although there has been a huge outpouring of support and excitement as people have heard about the series, I spent months writing to hundreds of galleries, many of which didn't even respond to my emails. I started to think that there wasn't currently a place in the art world for this kind of exhibit, but because I feel indebted to the series' participants and dedicated to helping as many people as possible with this series (and because I can be quite stubborn when I'm passionate about something), I decided to write to a few more galleries (after which I was planning on applying for grants and just building a temporary space myself).

When the Piano Craft Gallery expressed interest and arranged a meeting to discuss a potential exhibition, I was so used to hearing "no" or nothing at all that I wasn't expecting much. However, within a few minutes of walking through the door, Pares Mallis (the gallery manager at Piano Craft) said that she'd be thrilled to host my exhibition, and we spent the next two hours discussing exciting possibilities for the show. (As a side note, it is very fitting for the Piano Craft Gallery to be the home of my first official solo gallery show, as the adjacent Piano Craft Guild was the home of my first photo gig of note, back when I was 16 years old and photographing the Dresden Dolls).

Since my goal for this project is for it to reach as many people as possible, hopefully ending up in multiple cities (and possibly countries),  I am aiming to pack the 2/3/17 opening (which might stretch into a second night) with lots of good people. Thankfully Lord Hobo Brewing Company and Emma's Pizza (which has been my home to my favorite pizzas in the world since I was 16) have agreed to sponsor the event with their delicious wares, which I'm sure won't hurt attendance. :)

I received yet more amazing sponsorship news yesterday: Casa Myrna, Boston’s largest provider of shelter and supportive services to survivors of domestic violence (including emotional abuse) has enthusiastically agreed to sponsor this exhibition! Casa Myrna will be celebrating their 40th anniversary next year, and as their organization was founded by an artist/abuse victim, this partnership couldn't be more fitting. There will be multiple opportunities at the gallery opening to donate to Casa Myrna in order to provide real assistance to victims of emotional abuse (and other kinds of domestic violence). I am super stoked about this partnership and all of the awesome ideas that we already have in store for the opening!

Now that I'm officially partnered with an anti-domestic violence organization and food and drink are covered, it's time to focus on filling the massive, beautiful walls of the Piano Craft Gallery by February! I already have many images and audio recordings of emotional abuse survivors for this series, but I'm aiming to create many, many more, and I'd especially like to include men, trans people, and middle-aged and elderly individuals (if you don't fit into one of these categories but have been in an emotionally abusive relationship, please still contact me!!). If you're interested in being a part of this empowering project, please be sure to shoot me a message at racheltine@gmail.com, and know that identifying features and voices can be masked and names will never be used unless adamantly requested by you.

I hope that you'll join me on 2/3/17 at the Piano Craft Gallery for an emotional, charitable, and tasty evening; don't forget to mark your calendar!

Much Love,

Rachel

Lighting Liberation by Rachel Tine

My first beauty editorial, featured in Gilded Magazine

My first beauty editorial, featured in Gilded Magazine

In the winter of 2014, I wanted to try my hand at shooting a beauty editorial. With an awesome team of hair and makeup artists assembled, I decided to go big, and asked 6 killer models to be a part of the shoot. Once I was at the shoot location, with three hairstylists, two makeup artists, and six models, I began to feel a bit of pressure (it was my first beauty shoot, after all).

Without a ton of lighting experience, I was a bit nervous about getting everything just right, and I had decided that I would get the lighting perfect on one model and just keep the setup for the other five. I had the lighting near perfect when I adjusted the position of one light, completely messing up my previous setup. I couldn't get the lighting back to where it had been, and I started to have a bit of an internal freak out. The model that had been sitting for my lighting tests soon moved to the makeup chair, and when another model took her place for the light tests, I saw that the previous lighting looked completely different on her due to her different height, hair and skin color, etc.

This was my moment of liberation.

Instead of trying to achieve some kind of perfection for the whole shoot, I realized that no such thing existed, and that I would just trust my own instincts and understanding of light to make each model look awesome. From that point on, the shoot was a blast, with singing, dancing, laughing, etc. Everyone was having a great time, and I'm thrilled with how the images turned out (this was also my first time retouching photos for an editorial, so I'm especially happy with how the final edits turned out). The next step was submitting the editorial for publication, which is usually a bit nerve wracking, but we got lucky and were picked up by Gilded Magazine almost immediately, with a gorgeous spread commemorating our wild, beautiful shoot.

 

 

Models: Jess Akara, Bloom, Larosey, Anne Sherlock, Midnight Starr, Zara
Hair: Nathan Prescott, Jen Belknap, Joe Barry
Makeup: Doe Darling, Elicia Hostetter-Soltesz
Location: Trephin Salon
Published in: Gilded Magazine

Artistic Portraiture and Self Doubt by Rachel Tine

My photo of MIT Professor Jeremy England, for OZY Media

My photo of MIT Professor Jeremy England, for OZY Media

Over the course of approximately 5 minutes one night last January, I received a voicemail message, a direct email, and an email through my website, all from a Silicone Valley media company wanting to book me for an artistic photoshoot with an MIT professor. Feeling a bit discouraged by the photography world at the time, I thought the request must be a joke, but after a few emails and a phone call, it became clear that the request was legit. When I asked the director of photography what he was looking for in the shoot, he replied "I'm hiring you for you; whatever you think looks good, I'm sure I'll love". At the time, this sentence was flattering, freeing, and terrifying all at the same time.

With only two days to plan the shoot, I immediately began to research the professor, Jeremy England. After watching videos of Professor England's lectures and reading articles about his theories, my mind was flooded with great ideas for our photoshoot. However, due to construction, weather, timing, etc., all of my original concepts had to be scrapped, and I went back to the drawing board.

Entropy was one of the concepts that kept arising in Professor England's work, especially in its relation to the formation of life, and I became determined to create a visual representation of entropy for this shoot. I had recently become acquainted with a local company, N-E-R-V-O-U-S System, that was creating one-of-a-kind 3D printed lights inspired by the way plants grow from seeds and that cast disorganized and seemingly random shadows.

Professor England was a great sport. I showed up at his office with 4 or 5 odd lamps and ushered him into the darkest room in the lab, closing the door and leaving us temporarily in complete darkness. I plugged the lamps in one by one and had him hold the lights while telling me about his theories, beliefs, etc. When I had taken a sufficient number of photos with the unique lamps, Professor England was kind enough to let me take some more basic shots of him, too, just in case.

When I was editing the photos, I became concerned as I realized how unorthodox the images were, but because the director of photography had hired me instead of the many Boston photographers who he had worked with previously, specifically due to the strength of my unique artistic portraiture, I submitted my shadow portraits.

As days passed without a response, my concern began to grow. When I did receive a response, I was afraid to read it, expecting negative feedback. It turned out, though, that everyone on the staff loved the photos, and they hired me for two other shoots that year, and also ran a piece on my abandonment work. I'm glad that I was able to at least partially trust my artistic instinct in the face of self doubt, and I am very thankful for the director of photography, Eustacio Humphrey, who recognized my unique artistic gifts and gave me an excuse to get out of a funk and follow my own lead.

My First Photo Series (and first blog post!) by Rachel Tine

I love photography. I am fortunate to be passionate about and good at what I do. However, I have felt for a while now that something was missing, that I was craving more purpose for my art than simply hanging on a wall or passing through a social media feed.

After shooting down many of my own ideas for how I could potentially help others through photography, I began to turn inward for inspiration. Having spent most of my life in abusive relationships of one variety or another, I decided to give a voice to victims of one of the least discussed and most insidious forms of abuse that I have experienced: emotional abuse.

In emotionally abusive relationships, the perpetrator of abuse maintains their power in the relationship through various means, such as isolation, possessiveness, controlling money and resources, intense criticism, threats, invalidating feelings, etc. In the absence of any physical proof of abuse, and with frequent insistence by the abuser that the victim is inferior and/or is to blame, emotional abuse creates a vicious cycle of eroding the victim's self-worth and causing the victim to question if they aren't somehow imagining or causing the abuse, which frequently results in staying in an abusive relationship out of a flawed belief of not being worthy of better treatment and frequently causes the victim to end up in future relationships with people who will further take advantage of low self-esteem and a heavily skewed power dynamic. Abusers, who frequently feel powerless or inferior internally and thus subconsciously seek to control their romantic partners in some way, also frequently couple their abusive words and actions with bouts of intense love and affection, leading their victims to feel committed to their abusers and to doubt their own assessments of the situation (“he really does love me”, “he needs me”, "maybe it really is all my fault"). 

Many victims of various forms of relationship abuse, myself included, feel that emotional abuse is the most destructive form of abuse that they have experienced, with the resulting mental scars running very deep and lasting for a very long time. However, just as victims of emotional abuse tend to discount their own experiences, society is largely unaware of the significant damage done by emotionally abusive relationships, and even shelters for victims of domestic abuse frequently won’t accept anyone who hasn’t suffered some form of physical abuse. It is frequently much easier for a victim of emotional abuse to try to see the good in their partner and to question the validity of their own experiences rather than to receive the outside support that could validate the victim’s experiences and help them to escape an extremely toxic situation.

The goals of this series are threefold:

·         To provide catharsis and an outlet to people who have experienced severely emotionally abusive romantic relationships.

·         To generate awareness and dialogue, and ideally problem solving, in regards to the prevalence and intensely destructive force of emotionally abusive relationships.

·         To help people who are currently in emotionally abusive relationships by validating their experiences, providing them with hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and by donating any proceeds from the series to organizations dedicated to helping victims of abuse.

The response to this series has been profound. I have photographed and heard the disturbing and powerful stories of many victims, and I look forward to collaborating with many more individuals on this project. I have some really exciting ideas for how to create an especially powerful and beneficial exhibition of this series, and look forward to sharing the images and final concept with you once I decide on the best venue. I hope to eventually take this exhibition on the road, so if you know of any gallery spaces that would be interested in participating or any people with a history of emotional abuse who would be interested in being photographed, please have them shoot me an email at racheltine@gmail.com. And as always, thanks for accompanying me on my photographic journey; it’s been one heck of a ride so far!

Much love,

Rachel