CATEGORY: Portrait

CLIENT: WEST ST CENTRE, WOLLONGONG

BRIEF: The NSW State Government decided to close the West Street Centre in Wollongong.

The Centre provides counselling for child sexual assault and organises self-help groups for survivors of child sexual assault.

My response to the centre being closed was to volunteer my photographic services to the centre.

Before any photography took place, I  photographed the poet Peter Skryznecki and when I met with him amongst other things we talked about the centre. Peter has written a novel called Boys of Summer which is based on his own abuse by a priest. From the discussion with Peter came the idea that one reason that people come forward after suffering sexual abuse stems from the notion of self-sacrifice. In order to create a better future for their children by breaking the cycle, people speak out notwithstanding the personal repercussions such as the disintegration of the relationship with their parents/siblings/extended families. So I thought images with the maximum impact are the abused with their own children in the light as it were. This would take courage but I thought such images could have an impact unlike images of haunted survivors that have been seen before.

My image is posed, at least I’d organised the women to sit in a circle all linking hands. That idea came came about after I’d asked the Centre to choose photos they liked so I could get a better understanding of the type of imagery that appealed to them. They showed me a photo of Aboriginal teenagers sitting in a room with their arms linked. I added the child to reinforce the message that happy children are the result of the Centre’s work. Incidentally, the child isn’t that of the woman but was lent by another mum for the photo. I’ve also made sure the faces of the woman who weren’t comfortable about being identified are concealed.