We’re excited to be hosting a pop-up photo studio during Saturday and Sunday of the festival, as part of a special project by our Artist-in-Residence Johanna Ward. Sign up to participate and take a visual stand against sexual violence and abuse! Hear Johanna explain her project ’The Watchful Eyes’ in her own words:
Have you ever felt someone’s eyes upon you when your back was turned? We use our eyes to communicate many of our emotions and the effect can be powerful, before we’ve even spoken a word. Eyes can attract, they can repel and they can strike fear purely through the power of our gaze. But imagine a story told with a cropped frame, with only the eyes of a person peering out, acting alone as characters in a story – could as powerful a story be told?
Over the course of the 1st and 2nd August I’m running a pop-up photo studio in the hope of encouraging people – you – to garner your feelings on the deeply emotive subject of sexual violence, and present these emotions to the camera. If you feel fury, I want you to show this. If you feel sadness, embrace it and show it. Whatever your emotion, if you’re willing to engage in this visual experiment, I ask you to make your statement and become a part of ‘The Watchful Eyes.’
In the book Ways of Seeing, John Berger said ‘men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at.’ But in the context of the subject of this festival, I don’t believe it’s that straightforward. If neither person in the exchange of looking is threatened, perhaps the tropes learned through cinema and advertising may be true. But where one is threatened, that person does not welcome the passivity Berger ascribes to the woman. The issues that arise when considering how to visually interpret a complex subject such as this inevitably drew me to our widest known storytelling media: cinema. Film affects how we perceive our sex, our identity, our sense of self and can have positive and negative affects. But even in 2015, mainstream media continues to push at the same gender clichés that have influenced society for decades.
I have also drawn further inspiration from a psychology article I once read in relation to experiments that used pictures of eyes to deter littering and theft. These subjects may be far removed from the subject of sexual violence, but the experiments are still fascinating. Psychologists placed pictures of “staring eyes,” sometimes with text and sometimes just the eyes themselves in areas afflicted by crime or laziness (people not clearing away their rubbish in a communal area) and in both cases, the presence of eyes positively reduced the number of items stolen, or left lying around. I found this fascinating and somehow the article stuck and revealed itself when I was approached to participate in this festival. I wondered how this could be applied if these guardian eyes were placed in dark alleyways, in bus shelters, or lonely streets. Could it deter sexual crime? Could it deter someone attempting to attack another?
By focusing on the dynamic between art and science, I want to address the imbalance between the supposed active (male) and passive (female) and perhaps challenge these gender stereotypes in imagery. This series of images will become the next chapter of my project, The Fear, currently a work in progress that explores the darker relationship between men and women through photography.
Pop-up photo studio, 1st and 2nd of August
Please sign up for a 10-20 minute session on either the 1st and 2nd August where it’ll just be you and me in a small studio. We can talk about your feelings on this subject, or if you prefer, you can stay silent — and along the way, I’ll be photographing your eyes. Signing up is easy and can be done by clicking on this link: