complex-post-traumatic state due to pervasive abuse in developmental stages. This state of
departure permanently affects Girl, Departed’s photographic subjectivity and sensibilities.
Therefore, her photography is emblematic of her reality, or her “own real conditions of
I am positing that when a victim of prolonged abuse has the ability to turn the
camera’s gaze on herself (the space of disjuncture of “me and not me”), as well as her
surroundings (the space of disjuncture of mine and not mine), she is able to see these images and
access an expanded consideration of her humanity.
She is able to “negotiate and contest images
of [her] badness and the impossibility of being good”: a narrative that has been instilled in her
Photography gives her the ability to reclaim the visuality of her life and therefore
expand what her life’s possibilities are. She has been stripped of such humanity in order to
survive and is left with a narrow definition of what it means to be her; her abuse has left her
identity under a shroud of despair and shame. Audre Lorde states “I have found that battling
despair… means, for me, recognizing the enemy outside and the enemy within,” and Judith
Butler, in the context of the Abu Ghraib torture pictures, asserts that when the torture is “done for
the camera” it is “to show the ability to effect a nearly complete degradation of the putative
By considering these ideas of the enemy in tandem, and in relation to Girl, Departed’s
images, I aim to highlight and acknowledge the necessary violence of transformation that she has
enacted on herself (the complete degradation of the enemy within) in order to survive in the face
of the enemy outside (her abusers and high-culture institution). There is no survival in despair,
Lorde, Audre. “Introduction.” The Cancer Journals (1980), 1-10.
Butler, Judith. "Torture and the Ethics of Photography." Environment and Planning: Society and Space, Vol. 25, (2007),