My work is an exploration of the relationship between women and the various spaces they occupy in their daily lives.
I created this body of work in the hopes that my audience could glimpse into the lives of women and either relate to our daily frustrations or become more aware of the reality we live in. I thought about my commute to work and how it is routine for me to cross the street at a specific corner where a group of men stand outside the same deli and often harass me. I thought about my experiences as a female server at a restaurant and how unsettling comments from male customers are a common experience in the industry due to our service being the main factor of how well we are paid. The way in which many men feel entitled to space is evident in the dreaded “manspreading” on subway trains. Women constantly receive messages online that constitute harassment and often, a threat. These common incidents that happen almost daily lead me to question whether home is truly the only place we have power.
I used 35mm film to photograph these scenes of experiences that many women and I go through on a daily basis. My subjects in the photos are friends and coworkers. I photographed myself with my boyfriend in our home to show the contrast between how I am able to take up space within my home in the presence of a male versus in public. All of these photos are staged by me and contain people that consented to these photos, with the exception of the photo of the men catcalling the woman on the street and the photos of the messages from men. This photo of the catcalling is particularly important to me because this is the exact spot where groups of men harass me on my way to work, unless I cross the street to avoid them (which I always do). The female in this photo is a friend who also feels strongly about these issues and agreed to have her street harassment experience documented. When she walked by them, as expected, this group of men called out various remarks to her. It was a terrifying, yet incredibly satisfying experience to actually document this with my camera. The photos of the phone screens are real messages from men that were sent to women I know. When I asked women to send me any screenshots they had of men harassing them over the internet, I received such an overwhelming amount of these kinds of photos that I realized this kind of harassment on social media and dating apps is far more common than many people think. It can become easy and convenient to become numb to these messages, but the ability of men to be able to invade even our most sacred spaces by means of digital communication is the equivalent to being catcalled in our own homes, and should not be tolerated.
My influence comes from feminist photographers such as Mickalene Thomas and LaToya Ruby Frazier, who photograph women in environments such as the home to explore issues that women face in relation to their race, gender, and spaces. Using her art to create visibility for women of color by creating powerful portraits of them, Thomas influenced me to think about issues I face and to use my camera to make these issues visible to those that are unaware. Frazier uses her camera as a weapon to tackle issues by photographing portraits of friends and family in examples of social injustice, which is what I aimed to do in my work.
The commonality between these situations is the idea that they all have to do with misogynistic behaviors that have become far too familiar for all women, yet seem to be normalized by society. I believe that these behaviors will only change if people have these conversations and become more aware of the extent to which women experience these daily encounters.