“It hurt to look at herself hurt, a frisson of pain shivered through her, she cringed at the unsightly appearance before her. She peeled a patch that lied across her left eye, it seared, spreading a throbbing numbness across the side of her face. Everywhere ached, her jaw swollen and neck still wrung with red, it prickled as she cracked it side to side. Looking more closely, she could hardly recognize herself. Not from the bruising, nor from the scrapes and cuts. Underneath, behind her bangs revealed the fierce eyes of a lion. They glinted with a calm rage. Something just shy of a smile crept from the corner of her cracked mouth. A short breath followed by a deep sigh elapsed from her as if finally allowing herself to relax.” - Kageaki Smith
Kageaki Smith was born on the remote isle of Bermuda, later relocating to Tokyo, Japan - where he feels constantly challenged to work beyond his comfort zone, allowing him to further develop his unique style. He has an aptitude for film, choosing to shoot much of his personal work with this medium, and is particularly fond of Fujifilm Film. For this Focused initiative, Kageaki has contributed a series of powerful and thought provoking images to help promote awareness around the UNiTE campaign to End Violence against Women and Girls. Kageaki states: “The world needs more education. People need to be more educated from a young age. Violence is a weakness, it is acted by those who lack control.”
He approaches this series creating and capturing private moments of internal struggle, unveiling a subtle narrative and introducing us to the sometimes unseen consequences of violence experienced by women. He discusses the solitary journey many of these women must take in order to comprehend what has happened and ultimately regain their confidence. Kageaki’s series slowly builds from an apprehensive, shy and hidden place, to an ultimate moment of triumph and self empowerment; transporting us to a place of freedom and rebirth.
In many of the images the woman appears hidden from the viewer, camouflaged and consumed by her surroundings. In the first image, she is wrapped in a blanket and covered by the red leaves of a tree, the colours are warm and passionate; the shadows dramatically cast across her face. The colours contradict the somber exchange between the viewer and the image, producing a conflicting narrative; her gaze is toward the ground, she looks sad. She comforts herself with the soft, soothing and protective covering, almost veiling herself, further obstructing her from the gaze of the audience. The next image using cooler tones that feel truer to her feelings of struggle and unease, almost lost in direction. The following images perpetuate the mournful tone the first image has, as she becomes enveloped in the shroud. It feels almost like an internal monologue, a silent cry for help that no one hears.
From this, we feel the woman take an apprehensive first step toward liberation and freedom. She takes this journey alone. We slowly begin to see more and more of her face, gaining confidence within each frame. She begins to confront the viewer by looking at them, almost asking for help, but remains at a distance, peering at us through the branches, through her hair or over her shoulder, as though they offer some layer of protection - testing us with her gaze. There is a mixture of emotion on her face, we see moments of anger, fear, sorrow, emptiness, accumulating to a need to just be done; to let go.
We approach moments in the series where the photographs display a more muted colour palette, feeling more vintage and slightly removed from the series. The images are placed beside images in full colour, again speaking to an internal struggle; coming to grips or processing what this woman may have gone through.
In the final image, she stands tall, facing the audience almost gazing directly through us and beyond. She has slowly grown through this series, removing the layers she had used to hide herself with. She unveils herself, confident.