What do you mean by ‘a portrait of domestic violence?’
Why would you make a portrait of it?
Why are you not intervening?
Why are you not making it stop?
It’s possible that photographer Sara Naomi Lewkowicz faced a barrage of criticism for not intervening while taking the pictures that make up her 2012 series ‘Shane and Maggie’. What initially started out as a project following felons who have been released from prison and are readjusting to life outside (Shane in this case), Lewkowicz’s reportage took a different turn when one night Shane and his girlfriend Maggie got into a serious physical fight that ended in Shane getting arrested.
“Shane was like a fast car. When you’re driving it, you think ‘I might get pulled over and get a ticket.’ You never think that you’re going to crash.”
The series then goes on to show how Maggie picks up the pieces of her life and moves back in with the husband she has separated from who is also the father of Kayden and Memphis.
As Lewkowicz rationalises,’While this story is, in part, about domestic violence, it is not a reportage on a domestic dispute—it is not a news event. It seeks to take a deeper, unflinching look into the circumstances that transform a relationship into a crucible, and what happens before, during, immediately proceeding and long after an episode of violence takes place. With this story, it is my goal to examine the effects of this type of violence on the couple, the absued, the abuser, and the children who serve as witnesses to the abuse.’
This series is one of the most hard hitting series we’ve shared on this site. And though it made us sad and uncomfortable to be even in the presence of these images (the photographs are currently on display at Somerset House as part of the 2014 Sony World Photography Awards), there is something in knowing that it is photographs like these that take the conversation forward, that reduce the discomfort and example that Maggie is, that make us more amenable to talking and looking at a problem. This is not the pretty esoteric art that we’re usually looking at, but a reality that we need to face.
Sara Naomi Lewkowicz has been awarded the L’Iris d’Or/Sony World Photography Awards Photographer of the Year for this series, winning the award from among 140,000 photographers from 166 countries.