It began with two college students, a car named Brusan and a 10,000-mile road trip. It became a beautiful artistic venture and brilliant, impactful way to raise awareness about an important issue.
The following is an interview with Emma Redden and Jeffrey From about their project Peace Bound: Portraits for Nonviolence.
(Side note: Emma Redden and I have the same last name because she is my darling older sister. Jeffrey From is not my brother, although I would not object to a late-in-life adoption.)
Can you tell me about the project you two have been working on for the last year?
A year ago we received the Davis Foundation 100 Projects for peace grant to fund a summer project we call Peacebound: Portraits for Nonviolence.
We traveled 10,000 miles around the United States asking people to stand in solidarity with victims of domestic violence. The project largely consisted of photographing strangers as well as employees at domestic violence service centers and asking them to answer the question: "Why is it important to support victims of domestic violence?"
We then overlaid their answers onto their photographs to create a total of over 100 portraits. As we traveled, we uploaded the completed portraits to our website (peacebound.wordpress.com). Since the end of our journey, we have spent the last four months creating and publishing a project book.
How did Peace Bound begin?
The project was born out of the confluence of three things: our interest in the issue of domestic violence, our love and belief in the power of art, and our desire to have an adventure.
When we learned about the Davis Foundation 100 Projects for Peace grant, we designed a project that addressed the issue of abuse within an artistic framework.
We decided to travel by car because it allowed us to reach very different parts of the country. This diversity was crucial to the conception of the project because it enforced the idea of intersectional solidarity and support.
Now that you have given us a good sense of your project, I would like to back up a bit and talk more about domestic violence. To begin, what is domestic violence?
Domestic violence is the dynamic within an intimate partnership in which one person engages in patterns of physical, emotional, psychological, financial or sexual abuse towards the other to maintain power and control. Domestic violence can happen to anyone across spectrums of age, gender identity, class, creed, race and ethnicity.
It is not a women’s issue, a family issue or a private issue kept within the four walls of a home -- it is a human issue. It is a social epidemic of violence and dominance that endangers the health and public safety of entire communities and societies of people.
What did you discover as you met people and talked about domestic violence?
We discovered a few ubiquitous truths: domestic violence effects people’s lives across geographical, racial and socio-economic divides; there are wonderful and thoughtful people in all parts of this country who dedicate their lives to helping empower survivors; and lastly, there are people everywhere who believe in the possibility of changing the injustices in our society.
Our personal exposure to the prevalence of the issue was illuminated on one of the very first days when we walked up to two random women in a flea market in Virginia and they both shared with us that they were survivors. Complementary to that, however, was the encouragement of our interactions with the public. While there were people who did not want to engage with us at all, there were many strangers who took time out of their day to show support for something they may, or may not necessarily be effected by.
These interactions were a positive reassurance that despite all of the messages in our culture that promote and reinforce abuse, there are people who understand the implications and dangers, and are willing to stand against them.
Can you tell me more about the book?
The book is a collection of photography as well as an informational resource for victims of domestic abuse, and their families and friends.
The first two-thirds consist of about 100 portraits and numerous quotes from different interviews with employees at domestic violence service centers. The last third consists of power and control "wheels" that describe different kinds of abuse for different populations of people, hotline phone numbers, information about anti-domestic violence coalitions in every state, tips about safety planning, ideas about how to be a empowering ally to victims, and thoughts and charts about healthy relationships.
The book just became available for purchase on amazon.com. As well as selling the book online, we plan to distribute it to domestic violence service centers, libraries, hospitals and other programs that provide social services across our country.
I know you both identify as feminists. In what ways is challenging DV a feminist issue?
Although men and women are both victims of abuse, the majority of abusers are men. While it is crucial to acknowledge that men can be victims and women can be perpetrators, intimate partner abuse is a gendered issue that exists in a culture that supports, and even promotes, men’s oppression of women.
Abusive men are creations of masculine identities formed around violence, power and control.
Challenging domestic violence means challenging men’s positions in society, the standards in which we hold men accountable and the way men and society value women -- all of which are at the heart of the feminist movement.
Many people think of DV as a "women’s issue." Why is it important to correct that misconception?
Treating domestic violence as a women’s issue turns the attention away from men. While the majority of victims of domestic violence are women, this is an issue about men. Treating this as a women’s issue suggests that women are the only one’s that feel the effects.
Abuse is not only harmful and corrosive to women but their children, loved ones and their entire community as a whole.
If someone can take away one thing from your photographs what would it be?
No one is alone. Victims aren’t alone because unfortunately, despite devastating feelings of isolation, violence is something suffered by an enormous number of people. There are people across the United States who know exactly what it means to be a survivor.
Additionally, for survivors and survivor advocates alike, there are people around the country who care deeply and passionately about this issue and are very committed to reconstructing our society into a place where violence is not tolerated.
That’s all for today. Until next time ...
Alana Redden is a senior at Leland & Gray. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.