TIME for Look3 Festival, 2016: What do you look for in a photograph?
Silent Witness: Children of Abuse
Ferrato's "Activism Workshop: Living With The Enemy," 2011
"Conflict" documentary by Redfitz Films, 2015
Living With The Enemy is about the dark side of family life.
Domestic violence did not threaten my childhood. Nor did it intrude into my world until 1981, when, on assignment for a magazine, I saw a man hit his wife. I was unprepared for his violence—it shattered the belief I’d been raised with that home is a refuge from the chaos of life.
That experience changed my life as a photographer. Until then I had been trying to show the beauty of people in love. Shocked that love could go so wrong, I became obsessed with documenting domestic violence. Driven to try to do something about it, I found that a camera was my best weapon.
Much of Living With The Enemy was born out of frustration—first, because I felt powerless in the face of the violence I had seen, and second, because for a long time no magazine would publish the pictures. It was only when I received the Eugene Smith Award in 1986 that magazine editors began to take the project seriously. I felt that it was important to find ways to show as many aspects of the problem as I could because this problem has been concealed from public view for too long.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, I went to demonstrations and conferences, hung around courtrooms and hospital emergency rooms, rode with police, sat in on batterers’ therapy groups and women’s self-defense classes, and lived in women’s shelters and women’s prisons. I stayed in the violent homes of the very rich and the very poor—domestic violence knows no economic boundaries.
The text has been taken from my own interviews with battered women, violent men, and activists, and from interviews conducted by reporters with whom I worked on domestic-violence stories. The most daunting task was to find women and men who would agree to expose their lives. I was fortunate to find people who felt that it was vitally important for others to see the nature of the problem.
A few of the people I photographed asked not to be identified by their real names. In all cases they gave permission to tell their real stories and to use their pictures. The lives of many of the subjects in this book have changed. Some have solved their problems; others are still trying. But every one has contributed to my search for an end to violence.
If Living With The Enemy finds a way into your heart, I hope you will contemplate this: There are countless women in prison whose sole crime was to protect themselves and their children from murderous husbands or boyfriends. Many things are shocking about family violence, but none more so than the fact that women are behind bars for trying to save their own lives.
Learn more about Donna Ferrato: www.donnaferrato.com