If a picture is worth the proverbial thousand words, then what value would be put upon the power of the voice? Images may have the potential power to incite change and action, but a singular voice, speaking directly to a singular listener, creates a very specific kind of intimacy that can linger and haunt in a peculiarly felt way.
Honey Lazar is in the discovery phase of pairing the two, as she photographs, interviews and records the voices and stories of those living in the aftermath of sexual abuse for her most recent body of work Seen+Heard. From her artist’s statement:
Until #MeToo, people who were molested, raped, assaulted, or harassed were rarely seen and less frequently heard. News cycles change, and I wanted to keep the conversation visible and loud. I sent emails to friends asking for participants willing to be photographed in my studio telling of their experience and making a short audio giving voice to the feelings kept secret for too long. Recordings made it possible for those living outside of Cleveland to take part in this project.
Eye contact was difficult for some. Sessions often began with nervous laughter, and tears streaked faces when the mask of secret keeping was removed. Details of being molested by a family member, awakened in the night to rape, sexually harassed in the workplace, and molested during summer camp filled the studio. I felt angry, sad, numb, speechless, and ashamed that I hadn’t done more sooner. I listen to the audio, revisiting the images feeling both protective and a profound responsibility for the trust given to me.
The #MeToo movement has gained traction and validation by flooding our news feeds with millions of stories telling of shared trauma and survivorship by celebrities and regular people alike, bringing home the point that statistically, someone you know and are close to has suffered as a victim of sexual trauma and has a story that you may or may not be aware of. Seen+Heard aims for a similar amplification by drawing the viewer in with both a face and a voice attached to each individual story. Below are the voices and stories of five of the participants from Seen+Heard.
The first time I was sexually assaulted I was 12. I was babysitting for the man who lived down the street. We were playing Tickle Monster when the dad came home, and he said, “I wonder if the babysitter is ticklish,” and he pinned me down, ground himself into me.
Being molested at any age is tough, but I’ve come to believe that keeping the silence, and not sharing the burden of my story with anyone — that has been more soul crushing then what had happened.
It fucking sucks, and no one can offer you that time or that grief back, you don’t get it back, you just learn how to weave it into your life. For me it became the foundation and the jumping off point of my own growth, my sense of self and in my own ability to orient myself with my truth.
I had six months of work in, and I was just about to use the information, the data from my report, when the president of the company sent a message to me through the marketing director; he wanted to know how badly I wanted my thesis.
…if you tell, no one will ever love you, and your parents will throw you out on the street.
Honey Lazar has been awarded the 12th annual Julia Margaret Cameron Award in the Editorial category for this series. Seen+Heard is a body of work that is exhibition ready and looking for spaces around the country to be shown in. It will be exhibited at the Society for Photographic Education’s gallery during the organization’s annual conference. The 2019 conference, The Myths of Photography and the American Dream, will hosted in the city of Cleveland, Ohio, on March 7th — 10th. Seen+Heard is an ongoing body of work that is continually looking for those willing to share their stories. If you have a story to share, and would like to be Seen+Heard, contact Honey at this e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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The above essay has been brought to you by the Society for Photographic Education, as an article published within Exposure, its flagship publication. SPE is a nonprofit membership-based organization that seeks to promote a broader understanding of the medium in all of its forms through teaching and learning, scholarship, conversation and criticism. SPE has Affiliated Chapters with events and conferences in every part of the continental US, with Chapters developing internationally, and has been instrumental in fostering community and career growth among photographers, lens-based artists, educators, students, and the broader community of image makers.
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