I began to look at photographers that have explored domestic abuse in their work to get inspiration for my own images. During my research I came across Donna Ferrato. She is a documentary photographer, photojournalist and activist. Born in 1949 in Waltham, Massachusetts, she grew up in Lorain, Ohio, and in 1979 she moved to New York. Ferraro has worked for the likes of Life, Time, People, the New York Times and Mother Jones, and she is a member of the executive board for the W.Eugene Smith Memorial Fund and she was the president and founder of the non-profit organisation Domestic Abuse Awareness. She is most well-known for her work documenting domestic abuse, and her 1982 image of a man hitting his wife, was announced as one of the 100 most influential photographs by Time Magazine. She didn’t also photograph domestic abuse though, it all started when she moved to New York in 1979, she began photographing sex clubs and nightclubs. She wanted to document nightclub culture and swingers clubs, she was being paid by New York Magazine to do this when Japanese Playboy noticed her work and commissioned her to document the lives of Garth and Lisa, two prominent swingers. She became a part of their life and moved into their mansion, she was there for all of there parties and there personal family moments. As time passed, and she got closer to the couple, it became clear to Ferrato that Garth wasn’t the loving devoted husband that he was thought to be. One night in particular sticks in the memory of Ferrato when she found Garth attacking his wife in the master bedroom, she found Lisa cowering in fear as Garth beat her mercilessly. From this night on Ferrato devoted her time to documenting domestic abuse and exposing what goes on behind closed doors. She would ride in police cars, stay the night in shelters and sleep in the houses of abusers and victims. She wanted to document the real life events that took place in these circumstances, and expose what domestic abuse is really like.
Using these image she created her series, ‘Living with the Enemy’. The New York Times wrote, “Living with the Enemy is both harrowing and moving. With their shocking immediacy, these photographs offer the kind of urgent call to action provided by all great documentary photographs.”He images were both shocking and heart breaking as we saw real pain and intimacy. Her work recalling helped raise awareness to the subject and out of it she went on to create 4 publications, along with exhibitions and lectures around the world and in 2011 she launched the ‘I am Unbeatable Campaign’ which aimed ‘to expose, document, and raise awareness of domestic violence by creating an archive of stories, photographs, and video narratives.’
Donna Ferrato’s work is heart breaking and you can see the authentic pain and desperation in the faces of the victims, as well as the joy when they are free and every emotion in-between. The anger inside the abusers also really comes out and just makes everything feel more real, it gives the audience even more empathy for the victims and raises much needed awareness of the severity of the issue. I also love how personal the images are, many of them are in the domestic environments or the attackers and victims. Being in the homes of the families brings a raw aspect to the images, the people in the images are from all walks of life and many different backgrounds, it makes them relatable and again increases awareness and sympathy, it easy to see yourself in at least one of the environments in the series.
Ferrets work has inspired me, and I want to recreates the way that she shoots in the domestic environments and the aspect of raising awareness. I love the raw way that she shoots and it has given my inspiration to create my own work in response to ‘Living with the Enemy.’