one thousand words is a collection of photographs, commissioned by Scottish Women’s Aid and Zero Tolerance, to realistically depict domestic abuse and coercive control. Read about the campaign here.

In line with the ground-breaking Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill, Scottish Women’s Aid and Zero Tolerance asked me to create new photographs to change the media representation of domestic abuse and go beyond the cliched images of a black eye and a fist. I interviewed four women to learn how domestic abuse and coercive control looks and feels. Their testimony uniquely shaped every aspect of the art direction and their powerful and moving stories will be presented alongside the images in exhibition. In essence, they are art directors of these photographs. Models of different ages and ethnicities were selected to represent the reality that a woman from any walk of life can experience abuse.

Please could news outlets interested in images to use when reporting on domestic abuse and violence against women contact Scottish Women’s Aid and Zero Tolerance. The images are free to use with a copyright notice. 

“When we first set out to create one thousand words we knew it would not be an easy task, but still there were challenges we did not anticipate. Laura worked creatively, flexibly and innovatively throughout the process to capture the stories from victim-survivors of domestic abuse and turn these into incredible photographs that have resulted in a successful campaign to challenge and change media representations of domestic abuse. Depicting domestic abuse without showing physical violence requires a huge amount of skill, which Laura demonstrated beautifully. We are thrilled with one thousand words and its success.” –  Scottish Women’s Aid and Zero Tolerance

Some words from our art directors / survivors of domestic abuse:

“I would like to see photographs that show constantly living in fear, because in reality it’s like being on a knife-edge.”

“In stock photographs the victims are all younger than me. I felt like this shouldn’t happen at my age, but abuse can happen regardless of age. In real life, whether you are young or old, you can be a victim.”

“Bruises are the standard thing in photos of domestic abuse. There’s a theme that it looks like the man is getting angry and losing control, but often the abuser is very much in control. Abuse is also emotional, financial, verbal and being isolated. If photographs always show hitting or bruises it means that men who don’t hit absolve themselves of the label abuser because they don’t leave bruises. Also it makes people think that if a woman doesn’t have bruises she must be OK.”

“I would like to be able to help change perceptions of domestic abuse. None of the stock photographs of domestic abuse I have seen represent any part of my life. I didn’t experience violence, it was financial and emotional control.” 

“There were small but definite acts of resistance. I would like to see the new photographs showing the woman defiant even while she is being abused and is unhappy. You can still be a strong woman in an abusive situation. In a way you fight it every day of your life when you are in it.”

“He withheld money. I had no money to even buy a coat in the winter. Sometimes he wouldn’t give me money for the bus fare to church or to buy a coffee. I had a good friend who helped me sometimes. It’s your friends who build you up.”

“You can still be a strong woman in an abusive situation. In a way you fight it every day of your life when you are in it.”

“The women are always young, beautiful and white, like they are the only ones who are vulnerable. Women over 40 are invisible. I think it’s about time that women became more visible. The photographs of domestic abuse you see in the papers do not represent real life situations and the underlying trauma of it.”

“Sometimes in photos the child is shown off to the side, but most of the time the mother would go up to the child and protect and comfort them no matter what.”