Shane And Maggie FotoVisura I've been a photojournalist for several years, and currently am in my first year of graduate school at Ohio University. My first semester at Ohio University has been one of the single most challenging periods of my career, and I can safely say I have worked harder than I have ever worked in my... http://sm.fotovisura.com/77248.medium.jpg I've been a photojournalist for several years, and currently am in my first year of graduate school at Ohio University. My first semester at Ohio University has been one of the single most challenging periods of my career, and I can safely say I have worked harder than I have ever worked in my life. One of my biggest challenges came in November, when a story I had been documenting for several months took a very dark turn. I had been photographing a couple, Shane and Maggie, since September. I had originally intended the story to focus on the difficulties felons face once being released from incarceration. My intention was to paint a portrait of the catch-22 many individuals find themselves in upon release, the metaphorical prison of a stigma they can never seem to escape. The story changed dramatically when one night, Shane and Maggie got into a fight. Shane began to physically abuse Maggie, slamming her up against walls and choking her in front of her two-year-old daughter, Memphis. He had possession of our cellular phones, so I reached into his pocket and steal my phone back when he was distracted. I handed my phone to another adult who was in the house,and instructed them to call the police. I then continued to document the abuse. In that moment, my instincts as a photojournalist kicked in. I knew I had to stay with the story and document it in all of its ugly truth. I have continued to follow Maggie since the abuse, and am producing a multimedia piece as well as a still series. I plan on applying for several grants to continue working on this project and broadening its scope. I've also begun working closely with Donna Ferrato, who will be including my piece in Unbeatable, a project that spans her three-decade career documenting domestic violence.  The biggest part of this whole upsetting situation that has made the difference has truly been Maggie. Her courage through this whole ordeal, especially considering her age, is extraordinary. She has asked me to move forward with this project and to tell her story, because she feels that the photographs could potentially help someone escape from the same type of situation she was in. "Women need to understand this can happen to them. I never thought it could happen to me, but it could," she told me. "Shane was like a fast car. When you're driving it, you think 'I might get pulled over and get a ticket.' You never think that you're going to crash."  While this story is, in part, about domestic violence, it is not a reportage on a domestic dispute—it is not a news event. It seeks to take a deeper, unflinching look into the circumstances that transform a relationship into a crucible, and what happens before, during, immediately proceeding and long after an episode of violence takes place. With this story, it is my goal to examine the effects of this type of violence on the couple, the absued, the abuser, and the children who serve as witnesses to the abuse. We typically only see victims of abuse in the hours or days after having been abused. I have been able to spend time with Maggie and her children before, during, and after the assault. My next step is to travel to Alaska, where Maggie currently resides with her husband and the father of her children, and examine the long-term effects of this incident on her current relationship, on her children, and on her own sense of self.   

I've been a photojournalist for several years, and currently am in my first year of graduate school at Ohio University. My first semester at Ohio University has been one of the single most challenging periods of my career, and I can safely say I have worked harder than I have ever worked in my life. One of my biggest challenges came in November, when a story I had been documenting for several months took a very dark turn.

I had been photographing a couple, Shane and Maggie, since September. I had originally intended the story to focus on the difficulties felons face once being released from incarceration. My intention was to paint a portrait of the catch-22 many individuals find themselves in upon release, the metaphorical prison of a stigma they can never seem to escape. The story changed dramatically when one night, Shane and Maggie got into a fight. Shane began to physically abuse Maggie, slamming her up against walls and choking her in front of her two-year-old daughter, Memphis. He had possession of our cellular phones, so I reached into his pocket and steal my phone back when he was distracted. I handed my phone to another adult who was in the house,and instructed them to call the police. I then continued to document the abuse.

In that moment, my instincts as a photojournalist kicked in. I knew I had to stay with the story and document it in all of its ugly truth. I have continued to follow Maggie since the abuse, and am producing a multimedia piece as well as a still series. I plan on applying for several grants to continue working on this project and broadening its scope. I've also begun working closely with Donna Ferrato, who will be including my piece in Unbeatable, a project that spans her three-decade career documenting domestic violence. 

The biggest part of this whole upsetting situation that has made the difference has truly been Maggie. Her courage through this whole ordeal, especially considering her age, is extraordinary. She has asked me to move forward with this project and to tell her story, because she feels that the photographs could potentially help someone escape from the same type of situation she was in. "Women need to understand this can happen to them. I never thought it could happen to me, but it could," she told me. "Shane was like a fast car. When you're driving it, you think 'I might get pulled over and get a ticket.' You never think that you're going to crash." 

While this story is, in part, about domestic violence, it is not a reportage on a domestic dispute—it is not a news event. It seeks to take a deeper, unflinching look into the circumstances that transform a relationship into a crucible, and what happens before, during, immediately proceeding and long after an episode of violence takes place. With this story, it is my goal to examine the effects of this type of violence on the couple, the absued, the abuser, and the children who serve as witnesses to the abuse. We typically only see victims of abuse in the hours or days after having been abused. I have been able to spend time with Maggie and her children before, during, and after the assault. My next step is to travel to Alaska, where Maggie currently resides with her husband and the father of her children, and examine the long-term effects of this incident on her current relationship, on her children, and on her own sense of self. 



 

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  • Listen to a radio interview with Sara Naomi Lewkowicz on APM's The Story with Dick Gordon: www.thestory.org/stories/2013-07/documenting-domestic-violence

    By: FotoVisura 07/12/13


  • Sara, like gbl, I also signed up for an account just to thank you for this story. I think that you and Maggie are both incredibly brave to share this story, and I wish that we lived in a society where the perpetrators of abuse were the only ones who received the blame for their actions, not their victims or the people who document those actions.

    By: novema 04/01/13


  • Thank you for this story Sara. People need to see what domestic violence is like, and this is a textbook story. I hope that Maggie will be able to find resources to support her and her kids. I will use this in teaching my university courses. For those who are offended by you documenting reality, I hope they will read Lundy Bancroft's book Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men.

    By: MD 03/15/13


  • Sara, if you are able to follow Maggie to Alaska, I'd love to be a resource to you. I've lived here for most of my life, I work in the field of domestic and sexual violence prevention and services, am a art photographer, and am married to a professional photographer. I support what you are doing in showing the world how DV escalates, how entrapment and isolation work, how the blame and words are so essential to trapping the victim, how it affects children, why it might be hard to leave. I would like to support you in continuing your work to show (and support Maggie in) healing. Please message me on this or Linked In or facebook or something if you would like a contact in the field here.

    By: lauritadianita 03/04/13


  • Sara: I signed up for an account just to post a comment supporting you and your actions. It sounds like you were a great support to Maggie both during and after the assault, and it seems as though you did a heck of a lot more than the "friends" who were also there. These photographs are so difficult to view, but they will go a long way toward making sure Shane is held accountable for his actions -- as well as serving to put faces on domestic violence and as evidence for legislation and policy on a larger scale. You put yourself in a dangerous situation to document what happened on this night, and if Maggie gave her permission for these photographs to be published, then she (who was actually there, HendersonPhoto, which you certainly were not) must certainly feel that you did what you could for her, and that you are a friend with pure intentions. There's only one person to blame, here, and his skin aptly reads "TRASH."

    By: gbl 03/04/13


  • This are powerful. We need to see more projects like this, so people can understand how bad domestic violence is and that it affects everybody in a family. I cried when I saw that little girl trying to protect her mother, the fear and confusion a child feels when they see such acts is horrible. To see the person that is supposed to take care of you and protect you doing something so bad is one of the worst things that can happen to a child.

    By: staria 03/04/13


  • This is incredible work, and Sara is a gifted, brave and unflinching warrior with a camera. If we never see images of things that are profoundly unsettling, then we never admit to ourselves that they exist. There is a bold, raw, horrific truth being told here and we aren't meant to feel good, or comfortable with these images. We are meant to think about so many things -- about this couple, about the ways in which poverty reduces people, about the ways in which gender still exerts incredible force and pressure on all of us. Maggie is incredibly brace for being able to press charges, as is the tiny Memphis, whose sleeping smile in the car is an amazing testament to her little-girl wisdom, and to Sara's brilliance as a photographer. I wish that by now people could stop having the same old conversation about the ethics of photojournalism. It's old. It's tired. It's facile. And it is ultimately a tool of distraction that forces us away from what is truly horrible here.

    By: casey 03/02/13


  • Re: I'm sorry, but as a photojournalist there is a...

    "Obviously this project has been shared to shock (sorry, I just don't believe the education angle)." Really? Seriously? It strikes me as odd that when presented with this very real, raw, powerful set of images obviously made by someone who wasn't just a casual or superficial voyeur, that the reaction would be to question her intent or judge her actions in this particular situation. I think that maybe posed as a a series of questions, such as, "What was going through your mind at the time?" or leading in to a general discussion about ethics in photojournalism is valid; however, in HendersonPhoto's sanctimonious outcry, I sense envy and most likely an attempt to reconcile cognitive dissonance when confronted with his own mediocrity.

    By: Monkeypoint 01/12/13


  • Re: I'm sorry, but as a photojournalist there is a...

    Your contribution has been noted. Thanks for taking the time to respond.

    By: Saranaomiphoto 01/11/13


  • Re: I'm sorry, but as a photojournalist there is a...

    If you ask me Sara has balls of steel. She not only facilitated the intervention of first responders in a crisis, she ALSO fulfilled her obligations as a journalists. She made legally and morally correct split decisions during an escalating violent situation. Undoubtedly no one ever hopes to be in a situation like the one Sara was in, and I am willing to bet few of us would have handled ourselves the way she had. We journalists often do such mental gymnastics trying to convince ourselves that our job is a higher calling than being a human being to others first. Sara balanced her responsibilities to her job, the public right to know, and most importantly to humanity. By not intervening, less people were hurt that night, and now there is proof of a crime, and a journalist that we can all hold up as a shining example.

    By: jbcook2006 01/11/13


  • Re: I'm sorry, but as a photojournalist there is a...

    You are in no way entitled to judge this photojournalist, because you were not present for the situation. Frankly, she provided a huge service to the investigation by documenting the situation while instructing another adult in the house to notify police. She then provided evidence to the police which will be exactly what it takes to successfully prosecute this suspect for domestic violence. I'm glad you feel confident enough to attempt to over power a suspect while in the midst of a fit of rage. She obviously felt her correct course of action was to do exactly what she did. Kudos to Sara for keeping a calm head, taking control of the situation by assigning someone to call 911 and then accurately document the events. Now prosecutors can utilize your images as evidence and maybe this will be the end of domestic violence for Maggie rather than something more drastic and permanent for she and her children. J.R. Hutchinson (LEO)

    By: JR 01/11/13


  • Re: I'm sorry, but as a photojournalist there is a...

    I completely agree with HendersonPhoto. Obviously this project has been shared to shock (sorry, I just don't believe the education angle). It is so upsetting that your contribution/assistance was to make these images. Gave someone my phone, rubbed her back, slept on the couch, blah blah ... you were a party to what happened that evening. How are your (in)actions on that night any different from a passerby filming someone kicking and beating a homeless man on the streets? Um, they aren't. Actually, yes ... it's worse. Because she (and her children) knew you and trusted you. The reality of photojournalism is that one's work and oneself (one's actions) are open to judgment. And from my perspective, you were in the wrong. You may have had good intentions, but I'm telling you that from this audience view, your disconnect from the violence she endured is appalling.

    By: friskim 01/11/13


  • Re: I'm sorry, but as a photojournalist there is a...

    .

    By: friskim 01/11/13


  • Re: I'm sorry, but as a photojournalist there is a...

    I understand your feelings, and I understand why you may feel upset seeing the photographs. Allow me to clarify. I am a 5'2" woman. I am not physically equipped to do what you are suggesting. There were two other adults there who were much larger than I am, and both individuals were too scared to do anything. It was my phone that called 911, I had to steal it back from him in order to do so. In putting my hand in his pocket, I already risked being attacked. Thankfully, I wasn't. It will be my photographs that are used to put Shane in jail (and I have my own mixed feelings about that fact, as well.) Intervening physically would have not only put me in danger, but potentially endangered Maggie and her daughter as well, as it would have made Shane angrier. To say I should have clocked him over the head with my camera also doesn't make sense, as I probably would have been charged with assault. According to the law, I am only allowed to attack someone if they are committing a life-threatening act of violence against another person, and I would have had to be the one proving that. This is why we call the police in a crisis situation, rather than trying to handle it ourselves. I made sure the police were called, I stayed with them and didn't let Shane get Maggie alone with him, I surrendered my photos after being subpoenaed, I rubbed Maggie's back while she was throwing up after the attack, and I drove her to her best friend's house after the assault and slept on the couch in the same room as her and held her as she was crying. I'm sorry you feel this wasn't enough, but frankly, you sound very self-righteous. I have no regrets about how I handled that situation. Incidentally, I googled "Henderson Photo", and was only able to find a website featuring portrait photography of families and children. Unless this is not you (and it's hard to say, as you, for whatever reason, didn't leave your full name and contact information), I suspect that frankly sir, you don't know what you are talking about. I also have a hard time believing that you "put your camera down and helped' the police, as you are not, as far as I can discern, a professional cop/firefighter/EMT, and the police typically wouldn't need YOUR help in doing their jobs. If you would like to reply directly, I would welcome you to contact me privately via e-mail, and give me a little more information on your background (in case you aren't this guy http://hendersonphoto.com/) I'd also appreciate it if you took a less argumentative tone. But I imagine, seeing as you didn't leave your full name in the first place, I won't ever get to experience the pleasure of corresponding with you. Until then, I would welcome you to eat a slice of humble pie, and climb on off your high horse. I'd invite you to take a few other courses of action, but decorum prevents me from listing them here. Regards, Sara Lewkowicz

    By: Saranaomiphoto 01/11/13


  • I'm sorry, but as a photojournalist there is a point when you put down the camera and help. I'm disturbed that this photographer continued to photograph during an abusive episode. The photographer should have clocked him over the head with her camera. There is no excuse for inaction and trying to stand on some "photojournalist" exuse is absolute bullshit. There is nothing brave about standing by and watching someone get beat up or abused. You do whatever you can to stop the violence. The police don't need you to "document the scene." The woman being hurt needs you to stop the violence. I know this from experience. I have spent the last six years covering the 4PM-3AM police/fire beat and have from time to time put my camera down and helped. There are times in which we are human and times in which we are photojournalists. Standing by photographing a 2-year-old watch her mother get beaten by her father is just sick and giving this photographer any kind of posative publicity is disgusting.

    By: HendersonPhoto 01/11/13