Lauren Simpson is a photographer who is all too familiar with stories of sexual harassment, unsolicited advances and unwanted behaviours. As a runner, she is someone who has experienced various degrees of assault throughout her competitive running carrier - causing her the urge to run as fast and as far away from these moments; feelings of guilt and shame coursing through her, much like many other women who experience similar or more serious forms of assault. Lauren uses her photography to provide a podium for these women; she engages her audience in a discussion around who these women are and who they could be.
This series features images that have been superimposed onto one another to give a double exposure effect. The overlaid image in the foreground, slightly transparent; a bright orange ‘X’ covering the mouths of these women. This is deeply symbolic, speaking to an inability to be forthcoming about abuse or not being permitted to discuss the acts of violence they may be experiencing;
“feelings of guilt and shame placed on the shoulders of a femme-identified person from a male influence are all too familiar, and in most cases, the survival mode includes two things: keep quiet and act like it's not happening. The victim is too afraid or ashamed to speak up.” Lauren explains.
This is also true for the semi-transparent quality these overlaid images have. They are a shadow of the women happily smiling in the background of these images; discussing the need to camouflage themselves and that initial appearances can be misleading.
The colours, tones and textures featured in the photos perpetuate a malevolent narrative; the monochromatic photographs communicating the serious intonation this series conveys. The images are dark and feel almost hidden, discussing how instances of abuse are often buried in the dark. The women appear isolated, with a single spotlight on their faces. The textures on the wall providing a heavy atmosphere, similar to that of a cave, suggesting this feeling of confinement; a metaphor for how these women may feel.
When discussing her series, Lauren says:
“For me, this project is a cry for both men and women to look around, ask better questions, and be more intentional with our care for one another. The smile you see on the outside may not be the full story. Violence against women should not be the norm and it's time we all step up to protect one another.”