“All the Women I Know” began when I had to tell my middle schooler that Trump won the election. The project began when I had to tell my eight-year-old daughter what “grab her by the pussy” means. It began a couple weeks later when I sent a survey to friends who are mothers about how we might prepare our daughters to survive patriarchy. It began when I tried to write a collective letter to my daughter from my friends’ responses. Turn your back to me, look at a point in the distance, and they all agreed. During my first Take Back the Night march, in college, when I remembered the common trauma of being sexually assaulted by my grandfather, something I had forgotten, something I had been encouraged to believe never happened. This project began because twice this week I replayed the memory reel of my father smothering me. This project began when my great aunt refused to marry. This project began when the Supreme Court killed Roe v. Wade. This project began every time a woman is incarcerated for killing her abuser, every time a woman is paid less than a man for the same work, every time she gets interrupted by a man. This project began when we met twenty years ago and again when we realized what we were asking one another: what heritage of resilience did we carry with us, what tools had we cultivated in our fight against subjugation and how might we use them in this very moment?
“All the Women I Know” is the political and poetic ground where text and photograph conspire against intransigent models of representation. We are interested in nonfiction engagements that aren’t confined to traditional modes of “objective” witness. Our experimental documentary approach exploits collisions and misalignments between text and image to address how power and pain move through the body and the body politic. These collaborative portraits assert heterogeneous identities while suggesting a through line of intersectional experience. On a more technical level, the text grammatically mirrors the portraits of women, captured turning away, a visual representation of the words “no” and “no woman.” While the project’s title reads like the beginning of a sentence that begs completion (what can be said about “all the women I know?”), the text reverses the equation (what can be said of “no woman I know?”) to critically reflect on erasure and hypervisibility, as well as vulnerability and autonomy. Anaphoric and homophonic repetition emphasizes “no” as a means of knowing, as a route to knowledge via paradox. The photographs hold open a moment of resistance that allows us to enter into both the figurative and the literal turning away. By avoiding naturalized literary forms, we hope to recover strangeness, affect, and queered angles as we challenge conventional ideas of selfhood, narrative, and time.
CHRISTINE HUME’s collection of essays on sex offenders and women’s bodies, Everything I Never Wanted to Know,is forthcoming from Ohio State University Press (21st Century Essays Series) in 2023. She is also the author of a lyric portrait of girlhood, Saturation Project (Solid Objects, 2021), which The New York Times says, “arrives…with the force of a hurricane,” as well as several books of poetry. Since 2001, she has been faculty in the creative writing program at Eastern Michigan University. Find her on Instagram @christinehume210.
LAURA LARSON is a photographer and writer based in Columbus, Ohio. She’s exhibited her work extensively, at such venues as Art in General, Bronx Museum of the Arts, Centre Pompidou, Columbus Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, SFCamerawork, and Wexner Center for the Arts. Her exhibitions have been reviewed in Artforum, Hyperallergic, The New York Times, The New Yorker, and Time Out New York. Her work is held in the collections of Allen Memorial Art Museum, Deutsche Bank, Margulies Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Microsoft, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, New York Public Library, and Whitney Museum of American Art. Hidden Mother (Saint Lucy Books, 2017), her first book, was shortlisted for the Aperture-Paris Photo First Photo Book Prize. Her work is represented by Contemporary Art Matters in Columbus, Ohio. Larson’s second book, City of Incurable Women, was published this year by Saint Lucy Books. Find Laura on Instagram @laura_larson_studio.