Project Unbreakable; Photography and Social Issues

Project Unbreakable; Photography and Social Issues

“Project Unbreakable” is a charity that helps victims of abuse and rape and was created by Grace Brown. Grace was only nineteen when she founded this project, with the intent of spreading awareness she now receives submissions from all over the world, whilst still taking her own photographs in the USA.

A project such as this shows how powerful a tool the camera can be. By taking photographs of people holding something they have written really brings the issue of rape and violence into perspective. By seeing the people who have survived such events is both inspirational and harrowing. I have refrained from referring to the subjects as victims as that undermines the whole project. These people were not photographed to be victimised or so they could receive personal attention, they did it for their own personal health and wellbeing. Some of them are even smiling, showing how freeing this process could be. Not only is the overall process freeing, but the fact that these people are given the chance to take the words that were used against them and transform them into a statement of their own survival is endearing. It is in this that photography becomes essential to the project as no other form of art could capture the aim of the artist so well. As the images combine both text and image, photography suits the purpose as in modern times photographs have become synonymous with captions; I am here referring to memes which use captions to portray a comic message. Photographs hold text well, whereas other forms of art such as painting look out of place if text is to be added. This is perhaps an example of how photography has become an emblem of the modern world, another reason as to why it fits the purpose so perfectly, as this project aims to change the future rather than observe the past. “Project Unbreakable” makes a stand against the taboo of speaking about rape and abuse and encourages all victims of these crimes to speak out. Even if they do not speak out in a court of law they are welcomed into the online society where they can find some peace there.

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This project first came to my attention through Facebook when it popped up on my newsfeed as an article against the song blurred lines[1]. I did not like the song to begin with but after watching the lyrics be paired with photographs from Project Unbreakable I couldn’t bear to be in a room if it was playing in the background. Whenever I heard it all I would see was the faces of these people; a reminder of the power that photography has in the modern age. Not only are these photographs brought into being through an intrinsic sequence of technology that escapes my understanding, they are then translated into codes and displayed on a screen for the purpose of being shared, liked and commented upon. Photography has assisted in transforming a society once obsessed with covering up into one which celebrates being exposed. This exposure is luxuriated by Project Unbreakable, not to promote a company, but to promote the human will of survival that emits from these photographs. Within the project this “will” can definitely be defined as a human will as people from all different backgrounds are photographed having been caught in the same situation. Giving an opportunity to show how the camera brings people together as it allows for them to share experiences and moments. Although when looking at the pictures I do not know any of the subjects, the tone of the photographs evokes the feeling that I am stood there with them, actively helping them in their journey. Looking at the photographs for the first time drew an immediate emotional response as I looked directly into the eyes of someone who had obviously undergone something terrible. I use the word obviously, as although the photo was framed around the piece of card in her hands, I could not stop looking at her eyes; eyes which now remind me Afghan Girl. I cannot even remember what the card said as I was too preoccupied looking at someone else. Projects like this highlight the power of photography in the way that the camera is incapable of knowing who you are, what you do or even what your name is. You become an image, a little window into a moment that does not exist anymore. The girl in the photograph is not a real person, she is a symbol of overcoming obstacles.


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The fact that some of the photographs do not contain any people only the words is also interesting as it shows the physical difficulty of facing these issues. These photographs still have a similar impact as the handwriting on the paper is a unique signifier of the author, a secret that connects them to their past. These are often the photographs that have been sent to Grace Brown and when looked at long enough you can identify little differences within each one that act as clues to the person’s identity but serve as details of their individuality. For example the paper will be different or you may be able to gain a slight glimpse at some furniture in the background. There are also then images that are sent to Grace Brown that are just print screens of some typed text. These most encapsulate the fear of speaking out as the individuals have been sure to keep their anonymity. Although these images show fear they also show resilience as the senders have decided to send them and be a part of the project instead of keeping quiet. The beauty in this project resides in how many of the quotes reference being silenced, but the subjects and Grace Brown have taken it upon themselves to expel this and use the exact same words to tell everyone who they are and what they have been through.





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