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Donna Ferrato, A Photographer Who Fights for Female Rights

By: Amy Li

Donna Ferrato is known for photographing and documenting domestic violence. As a feminist activist, she has handwritten captions underneath her photographs in the book “Holy,” which was timed with the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Some captions explained the scenes depicting abortion clinics that were later hobbled by government facilities and sinks with hygiene supplies that belonged to an abortion hospital. Pictures on touchy subjects. Pictures that dared. Pictures that exposed some people and helped others.

One of her most well-known pieces is “Rita,” in which the woman-in-question was beaten up by her husband in the presence of her children. The New York Times mentioned in an article that Rita later divorced her husband and pressed legal charges against him, her picture on the headlines smiling faintly. “Her portrait is a study in perseverance,” the article said. “Not victimhood,”

In 1982, Ferrato was present again in a scene of domestic violence. In the captured scene, the shattered glass reflected a New Jersey couple, the husband slapping his wife because he couldn’t find his stash of cocaine. In the corner crouched Ferrato, who stopped him after the first blow. The article described her as a war photographer —“ Documenting, not intervening.” The pictures often cause legal scrutiny towards the ones performing the act of domestic violence.

Her pictures hold power. One of Ferrato’s most famous pieces, “Diamond, Minneapolis, MN,” depicts some police holding a man, and his eight-year-old son screaming at him, “I hate you for hitting my mother. Don’t come back to this house.” It is often captures like this that scream of injustice, even without verbal explanation. The scream lingers there for a long time. Maybe one day people as powerful as Ferrato can stop the last of this type of unjust. Mute the scream.


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