Donna Ferrato, a documentary photographer internationally acclaimed for her work to end family violence, on Friday, September 12, will debut the first gallery exhibition in her series that focuses on women who have left their abusers. I Am Unbeatable––Documenting and Celebrating Stories of Empowerment will be on display at Vanderbilt Fine Arts Gallery in Cohen Hall through December 4. A reception will be held in honor of the photographer on Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. in the atrium of Cohen Hall.
In conjunction with the opening reception, Ferrato will address Looking for Positive Change in a Climate of Fear at 6 p.m. in Cohen 203. A short film on Ferrato’s subjects, Sarah (a survivor of domestic violence) and her children, whose experiences are the focus of much of this exhibition, will premiere at the opening and be shown continuously thereafter in the gallery.
Ferrato’s groundbreaking documentary project, “Living with the Enemy,” serves as a context for framing her new campaign against domestic violence, “I Am Unbeatable,” which takes her social activism to a new level by focusing on survivors of domestic abuse. Through a storytelling partnership with acclaimed American journalist Alex Chadwick, best known for his work on National Public Radio, and Claudia Glenn Dowling, award-winning journalist for such publications as Life, Time, and others, “I Am Unbeatable” is an exhibition, a grass-roots effort to support women who have escaped violent relationships, and a means to speak directly to young women and girls who have yet to declare themselves “unbeatable.”
For more than a decade, Ferrato traveled with police, lived in battered women’s shelters, camped out in emergency rooms, and stayed in maximum security prisons with women who were serving life sentences for killing their abusers in self-defense. “Shocked that love could go so wrong, I became obsessed with documenting domestic violence,” said Ferrato. “Driven to do something about it, I found that a camera was my best weapon.”
Her photographs on this subject were published in Life, The New York Times Magazine, Time, USA Today, U.S. News and World Report, and the Los Angeles Times, among other publications, and were aired on the television programs Dateline and Eye on America. The culmination of Ferrato’s domestic violence project came in 1991 with the publication of her book, Living with the Enemy, and the founding of the Domestic Abuse Awareness Project, which produces photographic exhibitions on domestic violence to raise money for women’s shelters.
This exhibition is presented in collaboration with the Class of 2018 Commons Reading, Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward. I Am Unbeatable—Documenting and Celebrating Stories of Empowerment—Photographs by Donna Ferrato, a project organized by the Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery and curated by Joseph S. Mella, director, is brought to Vanderbilt by The Ingram Commons, the College of Arts and Science, the Project Safe Center, and the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities. Additional support has been provided by an Innovation Grant from the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise & Public Policy, and by a generous gift from Leslie Cecil and Creighton Michael, MA ’76.
The exhibition is free and open to the public. The Fine Arts Gallery is located in Cohen Memorial Hall, 1220 21st Avenue South on the Peabody campus. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and weekends from 1 to 5 p.m. The gallery will be closed October 16 through 19 for fall break and November 22 through 30 for Thanksgiving break.
For more information on the exhibition, visit the gallery’s website or call 615-322-0605.
American, born 1949
Sarah Augusta, 26, Finally Free from Abuse, 2012
Archival pigment print, digital 35 mm
© Donna Ferrato
Sarah’s New World, 2012
Archival pigment print, Sony, digital
© Donna Ferrato