Archive for December, 2014

350MC: Project Unbreakable

Project Unbreakable is a project by photography student Grace Brown. It was started in 2011 when she was 19 years old.

Speaking to Huffington Post in 2012, she said,

‘I created Project Unbreakable as a way of spreading awareness to an issue that isn’t talked about anywhere near as much as it should be,’
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The Photographs with the combination of words and image shed light on issues victims of sexual assault face, both During and after the crime.

This can include:

  • what the abuser said
  • how it made them feel
  • unsupportive/ disbelieving family, friends and/ or authorities

Grace Brown has photographed over 600 survivors ( while also include an online submission option that allows survivors to send in their own photos to the project. This has extended its reach worldwide, with the tumblr having a 3-5 month backlog of photo submissions.

Project Unbreakable acts as a platform for victims to have a voice regarding their own experiences.

It raises awareness while also garnering support.

This could be considered a better way to move the public to understanding and acting against rape, rather than showing real rape images, because it puts a face to the experience, while also showing the strength of the victims for surviving. It breaks down the ingrained social barriers surrounded around talking about rape, that push survivors to remain quiet out of fear of judgement.

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I believe the combination of works and photos is what makes the project so powerful. When you use photographs you make it harder for the viewer to disassociate themselves from the subject. It makes it more real/ emotive when you show it is real people who have been through it.

I want to include Project Unbreakable as I believe it is breaking down barriers in regards to society and talking about rape.

I also believe it is a high note to end the presentation on, showing a positive way photography can be used to help victims and let them have control over their own representation.


It lasted for hours. The pictures circulated online show the unconscious teenage girl hung like a shot steer between two laughing young men, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, who were convicted this week of driving her from party to party, raping her, assaulting her, and filming themselves doing so. Videos from the night include an extended tape of a friend of the attackers in drunken spasms of joy about just how ‘dead’ the girl looked as she was handed around. “She’s deader than OJ’s wife!” he giggles to himself as his mates film him. It was sadistic young men like this with whom the mainstream media expressed immediate sympathy following the guilty verdict.


On August 11th, 2012, a young girl was repeatedly raped in Steubenville while unconscious. The picture above was actually posted by the perpetrators, showing her off in a manner not dissimilar to how hunters hold a kill.

This case showed a lot of problems with the ingrained rape culture in society, with CNN’s coverage focusing on how awful it was for the two boys found guilty to have their lives ruined by being convicted of rape.

Real rape photos are rare, they don’t appear often, making the Steubenville case unusual.

Laurie Penny compared the Steubenville rape case to the Abu Ghraib torture photos, saying,

‘Steubenville is rape culture’s Abu Ghraib moment. It’s the moment when America and the world are being forced, despite ourselves, to confront the real human horror of the rapes and sexual assaults that take place in their thousands every day in our communities.’

‘Here we have incontrovertible evidence of happy young people not only hurting and humiliating others, but taking pleasure in it, posing with their victims. The Abu Ghraib torture pictures were trophies. The Steubenville rape photos are trophies. They’re mementoes of what must have felt, at the time, like everyone was having the sort of fun they’d want to remember, the sort of fun they’d want to prove to themselves and others later. The Steubenville rapists had fun, and they broadcast that fun to the world. They were confident that nothing could touch them, so baffled by the idea of punishment that they wept like children in court.’

The comparison between Steubenville and Abu Ghraib is interesting, as the Abu Ghraib photos were much more circulated, and are still spoken about in much more detail.

Lynndie-England-Abu-Ghraib pic

This can be put down to the Abu Ghraib incident being a larger incident, but it can also be argued that this is due to the ingrained social stigma about talking about rape, and the rape myths that still perpetrate a culture of victim blaming.

This is supported by people defending the rapists online, and feeling sympathy for the ruins of their future careers. It was pretty widely accepted that what happened to the prisoners at Abu Ghraib was unacceptable, but the ingrained rape culture within society saw people arguing that the girl could given consent, even though she was unconscious, and that she was to blame for what happened because she willingly got in a car with them and drank alcohol.

The discrepancies in society with how people condemn violence but excuse rape shows an ingrained misunderstanding of the trauma of sexual violence.

The picture shown here shows the true horror of rape that is unseen in the advertisements that glamourise sexual violence. If images like this were more widely circulated, would it combat the perpetration of rape culture caused by normalising and sexualising advertising imagery?

Why are images like this not widely circulated, while violent images of murder and torture are?

Is it sexual element of rape that stops society from talking about it?

Also, with the potential for desensitisation to shocking imagery, would showing these kinds of photographs be positive or negative on society and it’s opinions/ understanding of rape?

350MC: Raj Shetye

In December 2012, a woman was gang raped on a bus in New Delhi, her ordeal so horrific that she subsequently died two weeks later from her injuries.
The woman, a physiotherapy student, boarded a private bus that a group of men, who the police said had been drinking, were also riding. She was on her way home from a movie with a male friend, and the men assaulted both, knocking the man unconscious and raping the woman in the back of the bus, sometimes using a metal rod. The two were dumped from the bus, naked and bleeding, and the woman died two weeks after from her injuries.

Despite the horrific nature of this attack, and the affect is has had on India as a whole (drawing light to the endemic rape problems. Rape Cases doubling after the attack Raj Shetye decided to create a fashion photo-shoot based on the incident.


The photographs caused widespread outcry, and were subsequently removed from his website.

However, he has not apologised for the images, instead trying to defend them, and himself.

‘He’s got a host of explanations: that he’s putting a spotlight on the issue of violence against women; that he’s criticizing India’s caste system; the list goes on. But as he’s learning, once it’s out in the world, art — if we can call it that — kind of has to speak for itself. And these pictures are saying all the wrong things.’

JR Thorpe explains that the message these photographs are giving is completely counterproductive to society. They sexualise rape, make it easy to look at and even attractive.

The Men and Woman in these photographs a societal concepts of the perfect man and woman, they conform to the standard ideals we see in fashion everyday.

That’s intensely violating for the victim’s family, and it’s also violating and upsetting forevery victim of sexual assault and every person who’s known one. Your experience is for our use, this shoot says. You weren’t in control of your body, and now you’re not in control of your trauma either.

That’s the horrific part of this shoot: It trivializes rape, homogenizes it, even fetishizes it. Taking a series of brutal sexual assaults and making them a display of a model’s assets — transforming a situation where a group of men raped and murdered a woman into a performance for the male gaze — is grotesque. And the male models are part of the issue. ‘Cleaning up’ rapists to make them glamorous fashionistas changes the focus from their crime to their clothing and good looks, and that’s unacceptable.

This isn’t the first time Rape has been used as an aesthetic in photography, but the obvious reference to real life gang rape that led to the horrific death of a young girl is a disgusting display of rape culture and the complete disregard for victims that it perpetrates.

Phonar started out as an opportunity for me to experiment with new media and narrative in a well documented space with useful feedback. I created my Sensory Mashup piece on a whim, to experiment with a different creative method and a new way to articulate a story and concept outside of my comfort zone of photography.
I received a lot of positive feedback regarding the experimentation which kickstarted my confidence and desire to push myself further.
The Spoken Narrative task, half way through the module, was not something I expected to have such a drastic impact on me and my work. My decision was based on the, as previously mentioned, desire to experiment with the narrative forms, and research based on different ways to produce, display and interpret information. My research of word poems had a large affect on how my Spoken Narrative took shape, based on what I felt was effective in their delivery and combining those aspects with what I felt comfortable creating.
I pushed myself further than I ever had before with this, but the feedback I got and the way it has shaped my work, and confidence on a whole, has made that vulnerability and fear entirely worth it, and extremely liberating.
Sara Davidmann’s interview has largely affected my thought processes and development of work. I was inspired and moved by her projects, and have so much respect for how she works with the participants in her photography.
Her interview and the others we listened to made me critically analyse why I felt my work was important, how it impacted and affected others and what it meant for me to use it as a platform for my voice and potentially the voice of others.
The final piece I have created for Phonar has involved a lot of critical analysis of my ideas and my technical development throughout. I have analysed what I felt was effective and what I think failed. Doing so has made me confident that even if this work is not 100% what I want it to be right now, I have the ability and it has the potential to become something with the impact I want it to have. I also feel that any technical failings I have made in this work are less of a concern to me than the narrative I have created, and the fact I have given myself a platform and voice I never had before. Bleasdale said that what you put behind and in the photograph is primary, and the photograph is secondary, and for me personally that truly does apply here.

Overall, I am proud of what I have achieved during my Phonar module. I adore my Sensory Mash-up and Spoken Narrative tasks, as evidence of my ability to work with multiple different medias, on a range of subjects, to create something engaging.

If I could I would add more photographs to my Post Photographic Portrait creation, and I would include relevant statistics to create a more far reaching narrative with better context for the audience. With this in mind, I have the option to take this work forward to Final Exhibition, so that could be the perfect opportunity to critically analyse what worked and what didn’t to create something truly effective by the end of my final year.

Here is my video for the Post Photographic Portrait task, mixing music, words and photos to create a Narrative to engage viewers and hopefully give them an insight into an aspect of being a victim of rape.

Sara Davidmann discussed in her interview using a combination of words written by the participants and photos to create a strong narrative. I used this idea to convey what I wanted to voice.

There was also inspiration from photographer Paul Gaffney and his work ‘We make the path by walking’. During a talk last Tuesday he discussed how he wanted there to be no information to the images at first, to let people create there own interpretations. Then, towards the end, he added a simple poem to give what level of context he wanted.

I couldn’t give up control over the narrative of this piece, I wanted control over how people perceived it and what they felt. It’s difficult to relinquish control and I still feel vulnerable even now having posted it. It’s something I think is necessary to feel if you as a photographer expect others to do so for you. Empathy is a powerful tool in this world.

I wanted it to convey that objects that appear unimportant to someone can have significant meaning to another, and try to translate that into a viewable experience. I am not entirely sure if this has been wholly effective in that regard.

I am happy with the images, and my personal words from the Spoken Narrative task are still incredibly important to me and convey a lot of things I have never before spoken about openly. I am also happy with my cut up of the music to convey the change in tone throughout the piece.

However, I don’t know if I perhaps gave to much information to the audience by placing the words next to the photographs. Also, I am concerned the music makes this seem childish, though I am confused as to what I could of done differently to change this for me.

This was not intended as a completely polished piece of work, and the chance to experiment has given me a better idea for how to possibly continue with this narrative in the future. I think it would work better as a book than as a video, but the opportunity to work in collaboration with somebody else’s creation was not an opportunity I wanted to miss.
If I could change one thing about this work, I would of added to the range of photographs. There are a number of other objects I could still capture for this, and I will definitely track them down to continue this work. It would of made for a more interesting narrative for more objects and images, it would of also meant there was less of a reliance on words to shape the narrative I want.
I focused on my own personal narrative for this piece, but I do believe that it would of possibly been more effective, and placed my work in a more understandable frame of reference for the viewer, to have included statistics on sexual assaults. This is definitely something to consider and work on if I take this forward.

I think I have succeeded in giving myself as the subject a voice, but I don’t think I have succeeded in creating something with as much impact as I would like. It feels confusing in a way I don’t like, but that is possibly just down to my own personal attachment to the piece and the difficulty in conveying emotions that are incredibly complex and span nearly seven years of my life.

This is the Cello piece created by Jill Jarman and performed by Laura Ritchie.

It has such an amazing culmination of notes that I really wanted to draw on the emotions that can be elicited from a listener with different sounds. I wanted a combination of jarring and uncomfortable noises with calming tones that draw the viewer into an almost false sense of security.

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After increasing the volume of the piece Adobe Audition, I began picking parts that I thought would be effective at different point in the video, and connecting them to the images I was creating. Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 02.50.38
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I quickly added a beginning ‘page’ to my video, with simply the name of the task and #Phonar.

For the Images, I had always intended to have a mixture of words and photographs, and considering how well received my Spoken Narrative had been, I thought it was appropriate to quote that piece for this one.

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I went for a minimalist addition of words, as I wanted to keep things simple and not draw away attention from one thing specifically. It’s a difficult balance to maintain but I think I succeeded.

These images appear in the video to a much harsher part of the musical piece, after a more soothing part with the photographs not accompanied by words.
My intention is for the viewer to see the images as aesthetically pleasing, without knowledge of what they refer to. I then repeat the images with the additional information, to much more aggressive, jarring notes.

I was only able to create four images, so I decided to continue the video with words only after this point. The music begins to soothe here as well, bringing the viewers out the other side to a ‘happy ending’ of sorts.

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I wanted the positive elements I had added to my Spoken Narrative to be here in the Post Photographic Portrait. It’s a truthful representation of my personal narrative through the past seven years.

After this moment, I have included the Spoken Narrative and the creation of this work into my personal story, to give people an impression the impact this work has had on my personally by giving my a voice.

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The below quote is from my blog post regarding my Spoken Narrative, and was quoted by Jonathan Worth in his post regarding it.
I think it creates a full stop to the Narrative while making it clear that this is not a completely done and dusted event. It will be with me all my life, and countless others go through the same. But this doesn’t make this a unhappy ending, it’s just a realistic one, with hope of using a bad experience to make change instead of allowing it to continue.

We have to be active, not reactive photographers. I want to do that with this. I am reacting to an experience, but I am acting in the hope of stopping others feeling the similar emotions I felt of isolation and blame, while also informing viewers in a way that hopefully creates a chance for them to understand a small amount of the complex and wide reaching effects this kind of trauma has on someone.
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I have included a link to the Phonar website, my blog and my Spoken Narrative for reference. I think it’s appropriate to give people the ability to research further if they wish to, and I wouldn’t be creating this if it wasn’t for the Phonar module.

These are the photographs I have edited for the Post Photographic Portrait task.

I decided to crop them to a square image as I thought that created a more interesting image than the usual portrait or landscape rectangles. This also means I have a bit more freedom with sizes to add text to the photos for the video I wish to create.

Once again, I have drawn over the images to map out my thought process and help me progress in my decision making.


Phonar Photo Edits-1


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Overall, I think the second, third, fifth and eighth are the best photographs to take forward for the set.
Though aesthetically I prefer some of the other images for the angles or colours, those images work well ‘together’, while the others work better as individual photographs.
I want them as part of a set in a video, so some consistency of composition and aesthetic is, for me personally, necessary to create a flowing narrative.

There are some technical problems for me, relating to the quality of some these photographs, but overall I am happy with them and am happy to take them forward in the editing process to create a video using the cello piece.

These are the photographs I have taken for the Post Photographic Portrait task, the final task for Phonar.
It took a while to locate a high vis jacket, but I was quite set on having that as one of the photographs.

The objects were chosen based on different things they remind me of the situation, thought it was necessary for the narrative to choose things that seem so simple and ordinary to others, but have a much more significant meaning to me personally. In doing so, I hope to lead people into a false sense of security, and then add the informing element that will hopefully shock and make them feel a level of empathy and understanding for the situation:

High Vis Jacket – He always wore one, I once saw somebody in one with mildly similar hair and I panicked because I instantly thought it was him.

Cigarette – pretty basic, he always smoked, stole money from me once to buy tobacco. Certain smells used to remind me of him and give me flash backs.

Rosary Beads – he stole them from me, it took me so long to get them back. He would mock me about him having them.

Butterfly Necklace – Nathan’s first year anniversary present to me, I am never not wearing it. It’s the best thing to represent things improving for me.

I could not find all the objects I wanted to work with, but I can choose to take it forward for my final exhibition if I want, at which point I can locate the objects necessary to make this idea the best I think I could be.

I have written on my contact sheet to help me decide what images to move forward with.

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