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 firstname.lastname@example.org. And as always, thanks for accompanying me on my photographic journey; it’s been one heck of a ride so far!