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Gender Violence Through the Eyes of a Fashion Photographer

Izabella Demavlys

















From the Eyeteeth blog:

A former fashion photographer now doing documentary work, Izabella Demavlys writes in her artist's statement that “to illustrate a deeper definition of female beauty, I photograph women whose pictorial beauty radiates from their accomplishment, character and personal struggles.” Her latest series, “Without a Face,” offers a direct and profoundly affecting kind of beauty: portraits of Pakistani women healing after attacks by men wielding kerosene oil or battery acid. One, 20-year-old Memona, was attacked by a boy on her way to school; she's undergone some 30 reconstructive surgeries. Saira was burned by her husband for refusing to move in with him. According to Demavlys, 400 women in Lahore alone are currently awaiting surgery from such attacks.

In an arresting interview with Paul Schmelzer, Demavlys explains her latest work:

I was going around in circles for many years making meaningless work. Meaningless and uninspiring for others and myself. When I saw a story about a young girl, an acid burn victim working as a beautician in Pakistan last year, I immediately thought, “This is a person I need to meet.” I thought this woman stood for everything I wanted to express with my work. I never went to Pakistan with a fear that I would reduce them by photographing them, but rather feared that I wouldn’t be able to enhance them enough, showing what a source of inspiration they really are to me and to be able to convey that to others. To not show these photographs to the world would be to deprive them of their courage for sitting down for a portrait and later telling me their stories.

Source: Eyeteeth

Image courtesy of Izabella Demavlys. 

6/15/2010 5:15:45 PM

I admire the story of these woman, and my heart goes out to them. I want to take a moment and also send my admiration to the author. What an inspiration, if everyone could turn their professional talents towards making the world a better place we could find a whole lot of solutions. Thanks for your work and example.

3/27/2010 3:41:09 PM

Sorry foultroy, but you are wrong. This is common and accepted social behavior toward women in the middle east to treat women this way. It is deffinitely a "gender attack". Though it might sound like uneducated American Feminism ideals, women in these regions really are fated to have unreasonable and oppressive lives. These countries are severely patriarchal, and this leads female genetalia mutilation, dowry killings, and all kinds of attrocities towards women. I think you are right though that the American government meddles and only makes things worse. That is because sadly our country had a bone head president that did not take in the cultural implications of interference and starting a war. He was too busy using his executive power to get control over oil reserves and make his papi proud.

3/26/2010 8:56:37 AM

"Change must come within their societies, not from without." I don't believe that "change" knows any such distinction. Cultures, more often than not, change as a result of exposure to other cultures, for better or worse. Without that exposure, most cultures would not change as evidenced by various rain forest tribes in South America. Change, in and of itself, isn't intrinsically good or bad. It just is. If you are referring to imposing change through force of arms, I would agree that this isn't good. Any culture that condones the use of such violence against women (or anyone else for that matter) NEEDS to change for the sake of creating a more humane world. This should not be construed as "westernizing" them, as much as it assumes that basic human rights should be available to everyone. That women in these cultures resist change shouldn't be all that surprising and I firmly believe that fear is at the root of that resistance.

3/24/2010 4:04:16 PM

As horrendous, sad and disheartening as these stories are, it is a misnomer to call them "gender attacks." They are definitely not. No one depicted in the article was attacked because of their gender, but rather the relationship she did or did not have with the perpetrator. By calling it a "gender attack," you buy into the American Feminist deceit that somehow being a woman is a liability and the reason for the attack was first and only the fact that she was a woman. I also take issue with the notion that the West somehow must "enlighten" these traditional societies with a more reasoned and compassioned perspective. Note the damage the West has done to Iraq with our good intentions and meddling. According to reports, Mideast women hate westernized feminists more than they do the military. We need to recognize that indigenous people do not all seek to become just like American and European women. Change must come within their societies, not from without.

3/24/2010 12:43:57 PM

The pain and loss that these women have faced, and their journey's are a true testament to the inner beauty and strength of spirit they possess. Please put these in a book, with their stories. If they are identified, will that jeopardize their safety - or has justice been served in a way that keeps them safe? Thank you for helping give voice.