Donna Ferrato’s book Living with the Enemy (1991) was dedicated to exposing the difficulties and the dangers of domestic abuse at a time when police and judges saw it as a family matter and wouldn’t get involved until someone was dead. However, through the book she also documents the change in how police deal with these cases as they began to get training on how to deal with them and notice signs of abuse.
She used her camera to document women suffering from the abuse and their husband or boyfriends, some more closely than others. At the beginning of the book Ferrato explained why she began to photograph domestic abuse. As it had never been a part of her childhood it wasn’t until she witnessed a man hit his wife whilst on an assignment that she realised how wrong love could go. Ferrato was so shocked by what she had seen that she became determined to help people affected by it “Driven to try to do something about it, I found that a camera was my best weapon. “ (Ferrato, 1991) the only way Ferrato knew how to try and force people to deal with the issue of domestic abuse was to show them what happens.
In the introduction to the book Ann Jones tells the reader how Ferrato got her images and gives more information on what a woman suffering from domestic abuse goes through. She states that Ferratos style is very casual “She’ll hang out for days at a hospital or a shelter or a police department or somebody’s house – she loves talking to people – and once in n a while she’ll squeeze off a picture with her funny-looking camera, like any casual observer snapping a souvenir photo on an Instamatic. “ (Jones, 1991) from what the subject matter of the photographs are of this is a very offhand way of describing her style, it takes away the seriousness of the kind of work Ferrato is doing. Jones also discusses the ethical issues of the kind of images Ferrato takes, especially the photographs she takes whilst in someone’s home “I’ve heard a photo editor complain that some of Ferrato’s photographs depict things too private to be photographed. Some things should not be imaged, the argument goes, and “domestic violence” is one of those things.” (Jones, 1991) she also talks about how closely this argument connects to “…the traditional excuse of the law and the church and the state for doing nothing to stop violence against women and children.” (Jones, 1991) although some of Ferratos images do show extremely private moments between husband and wife if we did not see the proof and the violence through them would we still believe how terrible it can be? Subjects such as this are easy to ignore and turn away from if they do not affect you personally. Ferrato found a way to force her audience to face the reality of what is going on behind closed doors.
I found Ferrato’s book very interesting when thinking of it in terms of ethics and wanted to explore other social issues rather than war in my essay as in terms of ethics this is dealt with a lot so I wanted to take it in a different direction.
Ferrato , D. (1991) Living with the enemy. New York: Aperture .