A picture tells a thousand words, and PhotograpHER, Shasta-Lee S. Smith knows this very well. Smith has been using pictures to tell stories for more than four years now.
And with the spiral of domestic violence cases that have ended tragically in recent months, the 28-year-old photographer felt duty-bound to tell the stories of women who are victims of domestic abuse.
Women, who often cannot speak a word in their defence.
She enlisted the help of content creator and model Davianne Tucker, and together, with the skilful makeup of makeup artist, Dominique Mitchell, the two have created powerful images that they hoped would awaken people to the plight of these victims.
BUZZ caught up with the two creatives to explore how they have used these pictures to advocate against domestic violence.
BUZZ: Explain the concept, and process behind the photoshoot?
Shasta-Lee Smith: The shoot is based on the continuous unfortunate circumstance in our society of women experiencing various forms of abuse and specifically the recurring stories of women being killed in domestic situations.
As a woman, I rooted the concept in telling plainly and clearly through images what women are facing to stand as a voice for those who are afraid to speak out.
Davianne Tucker: As the model in this project, my process was to quiet my mind and not simply try to understand what they felt but make space to feel it, for all of the women who’ve suffered this heinous treatment and give my best to expressing that through my body. I will never know what those experiences are like, I could only do my best to honour what I’ve seen and heard.
BUZZ: What has the response to the images been like?
Shasta-Lee Smith: The responses have been stories of truth, gratitude for the work done, personal acceptance and healing for some and for specific persons a reminder that community stands behind them in support as victims of verbal, emotional, mental, physical and sexual abuse.
I’ve received suggestions for ways to further the conundrum on women being targeted and even questions of where we go from here; what else can we do?
In paradox, it is joyfully while painfully overwhelming.
Davianne Tucker: Very emotional, very real. People actively got involved, many calling for the violence to stop. They consistently shared the posts, expressed their own feelings and really important to mention is that some women who’ve experienced Domestic Abuse/Violence came forward to share their own stories publicly and privately in my messages—they felt honoured and for that I am extremely grateful.
BUZZ: Have you been a victim of domestic abuse or know anyone who has?
Shasta-Lee Smith: Yes I’ve had close relatives and friends who have gone through such ordeals. I have held some of their hands through it all and while I can’t tell exactly express how they’ve felt being the victims; I can empathize and sympathize with them.
Davianne Tucker: I have never been a victim but I know people who have. From my childhood, I have a memory of being in the middle of an incident of violence. I remember my little body being thrust into the bathroom with an adult female seemingly fighting back above me—just blurry chaos.
BUZZ: What else do you think can be done to raise awareness?
Using social media to bring awareness
Shasta-Lee Smith: In addition to what is being done already; if we can get men on board as a strong support for the movement especially those who have already established public platforms, it would be very impactful.
And more importantly, getting men involved in counselling and lessons in how to deal with emotions and psychological issues in relationships instead of resorting to abuse.
Davianne Tucker: A curriculum change at both the primary and high school levels to incorporate proper mental hygiene, critical thinking and peaceful problem-solving skills would be great because that’s where the trauma (root cause) starts to build.
An increased input from agencies of government not only when incidents occur and are popularized. Consistent support is needed by NGOs who do this work because they’re efforts are very limited by the little they have.
In addition, each individual should take responsibility for their purpose and place in this world, doing their part in their spaces to help and being unafraid to step up and speak out.