Rachel Wisniewski

2017 - Ongoing

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

Memento is a diptych portrait series inspired by the #MeToo movement that I have been working on since October 2017. I wanted specifically to focus on the millions of stories of sexual misconduct that go unreported and unnoticed by the media, educating viewers as a result.

I started my project Memento in October 2017 when the hashtag “Me Too” first lit up social media. While I was sad to see my female friends, family, and colleagues posting their own accounts of harassment and assault, I was not shocked. Just as the Harvey Weinstein accusations were viewed by Hollywood as an “open secret,” so too seemed the fact that most women have been harassed and assaulted. What I didn’t realize, however, was that the men in my life didn’t seem to be in on this secret. I found their reactions of shock and surprise to be a problem that needed solving, which is why I first began this project.

In effort to educate men on the prevalence of harassment and assault and allow women to share their stories, I created a series of diptychs. The first photograph in each diptych is a portrait of a survivor of harassment or assault. The second photograph is that same survivor holding a picture of themselves at the age they can first remember being harassed or assaulted. Underneath each diptych is a caption stating the age of that person at the time of their first memory, their general location, and their relationship to the perpetrator.

With this combination of imagery, I hope to show several things.

One: that women are never asking for this. This isn’t caused by what we were wearing or how much we were drinking. This has literally been happening to us for as long as we can remember.

Two: that women should be believed. I didn’t want to include more details of their stories because I didn’t want to give viewers more opportunities to poke holes in the survivors’ accounts. The details do not matter. What matters is that she says it happened, and I wanted the audience to give as much trust to the survivor as each survivor gave to me in posing and sharing their stories.

Three: that harassment and assault are happening as a result of trusted friends and role models, not strangers in dark alleys. This is happening because of soccer coaches, English teachers, uncles, and boyfriends. By framing these relationships in a general but familiar way, I’m hoping that men might disassociate harassment and assault from known criminals and start to question their own actions and associations with women in their lives.

And four: that celebrities are not the only ones who should be spearheading this conversation. Everyone’s voice deserves to be heard.

Education must precede action, and I hope that my project might be a creative educational tool to increase the awareness of, and decrease the incidence of, harassment and assault. Up until this point, the project has existed solely in diptychs of still photography. Looking towards the future, I would love to increase the impact of the series by making it more of a collaborative effort between me and the project’s participants by including audio interviews, video clips, and personal artifacts.

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