THRESHOLD OF HUMAN TOUCH 2008
The photographs in this series are milagro tokens to carry with us across the many bridges between accountability and compassion.
The work was first sparked by a vision. I imagined a tightly cropped photograph of myself holding hands with the man who repeatedly raped and abused my best friend throughout her adolescence. The vision was haunting and beautiful. It humanized a man I otherwise saw solely as a monster. It offered an alternative to the fear and devastation of abusive behavior, regardless whether that behavior is directed at someone else or towards oneself.
In 2007 I started working with men convicted of intimate partner abuse in order to create versions of the imagined photograph. I used Polaroid Type 55 film, giving each participant the Polaroid image at the end of our session, while keeping the negative for printing. The film type allowed us to metaphorically and literally peel the positive from the negative.
The photographs are not meant to condone abusive behavior. They are offered in support of our capacity to heal the part within each of us that is capable of hurting ourselves and others.
Additionally the work is inspired by:
- Experiences with unhealthy addictions, my own and those of the people I love.
- My colleague & friend, Don Chapin, director of Crossroads Community Nonviolence Program, who has worked with abusive men for over 30 years as part of the movement to stop violence against women and children, particularly in Native communities.
- The Truth & Reconciliation Commission of South Africa, notably psychiatrist and writer, Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela's work with apartheid's commanding officer of state-sanctioned death squads, Eugene de Kock.
Gobodo-Madikizela writes: "But for all the horrific singularity of his acts, de Kock was a desperate soul, seeking to affirm to himself that he was still part of the human universe."
The photographs are featured in Gates of Reconciliation: Literature and the Ethical Imagination, edited by Barry Lopez & Frank Stuart, University of Hawaii, Summer 2008.