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Focus on Domestic Violence - The PhotoVoice Project

As part of Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month we talk to Ann Alcock from PhotoVoice Australia about her reflections on the role photography can play in breaking the silence on domestic violence... 

PhotoVoice is a process which enables people to document their own lives and to educate others about issues that affect them. Photography, when used in this way, enables people to tell their stories - it is easier than speaking about difficult topics. Photography is inexpensive and accessible and provides participants with a safe place to tell their story, meet others with the same experiences, and help them to feel understood. 

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In 2014, six women who were survivors of domestic and family violence used PhotoVoice to tell their stories. The project was a collaboration between the Toowoomba Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Service and PhotoVoice Australia. Soroptimist International (Toowoomba) donated the cameras and the Queensland Government funded the project as part of Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month.

Participants were trained in photography techniques and invited to take photographs on the following topics: what has helped me to survive, the challenges we face, things I would change and countering the myths of domestic violence.  It was a difficult process for the women and it took a great deal of courage to share their experiences.

Following the initial opening of the 36-image exhibition at The GRID in Toowoomba, Soroptimist International of South Brisbane have continued to tour the exhibition to several locations including the Queensland College of Art

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Participants have reported a sense of pride and achievement when the images were exhibited in a public gallery. Lee Town, one of the project participants said, "It has been life changing. It gave me a voice, opened doors and gave me the courage to speak publicly about my experience." Others discovered they were not alone and it allowed one participant to rekindle her love of photography, a passion denied by her former partner.

As with all art, this work is important for its impact on viewers. An audience member confided that after hearing Lee speak, she had changed her mind about returning to her abusive partner. Another woman who came almost every day to see the exhibition brought her mother on the final day and said,

"This is what is happening to me. I need your help.

The PhotoVoice – Focus on Domestic Violence Exhibition is currently displayed at the Brisbane Square Library, 226 George Street, Brisbane. 

If you need to talk to someone please call the Lifeline 24 hour crisis support line (13 11 14).

Ann AlcockAnn Alcock is a freelance photographer and feature writer who works for newspapers and magazines and also undertakes documentary photography projects. Other PhotoVoice projects include: Life as it is With Asperger's, One Decade On - African Settlement on the Downs, Flashes of Brilliance with people who have mental illness and Working as One with Foster Carers and children in care. Arts Queensland RADF grants have supported Frocks, Country Halls and Deb Balls with Nicki Laws and Phyll Hobart Haute Couture - 1984 - 1995 with Julie Ramsay.