Nieves Mingueza conceptualises violence against women and girls in her new mixed media project

Sensitive Content – the following article contains references to sensitive topics, which some readers may find upsetting.

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All images © Nieves Mingueza.

One in Three Women seeks to raise awareness of the ubiquity of gender-based violence as one of the most pertinent and largely unreported issues affecting women and girls worldwide

Gender-based violence can be nuanced and insidious. Often, it plays out in private spaces, and is acted out in many different ways. It’s not always easy to recognise, talk about, or name. That invisibility is the very thing that helps gender-based violence – violence directed at a person because of their gender – thrive.

“In March 2021, Sarah Everard was a victim of femicide – the invisible pandemic – and that case shook the UK,” says Spanish-British artist Nieves Mingueza, speaking of the young woman kidnapped and murdered in London last year. “Misogyny, violence, the male gaze…all of this became illuminated in the media at that moment. However, according to the United Nations report of 2021, violence against women and girls (VAWG) is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in the world. Today, it remains largely unreported and unseen due to the impunity, silence and shame surrounding it.” These devastating facts form the basis of Mingueza’s latest project, One in Three Women.

“I was shocked to discover how many people had experienced or witnessed gender-based violence and intimidation. And, how many of these experiences had occurred in domestic spaces.” 

Blending found vernacular photographs with archival material and fragments of writing, One in Three Women assembles image and text to interrogate gender-based violence from a conceptual perspective. The project has a clear line of sequencing, with many of the first images showing mundane scenes of sofas, kitchen tables and beds in black and white. Explaining the focus on home interiors, Mingueza says, “speaking with friends and family when starting this work, I was shocked to discover how many had experienced or witnessed gender-based violence and intimidation. And, how many of these experiences had occurred in domestic spaces.” One some images, Mingueza adds small annotations, such as numbering household objects, or marking certain spots with an ‘x’. The spaces depicted are rooms in houses of unknown owners, but by adding these illustrations, she “transform[s] them into crime scenes, just as violence transforms homes.”

Elsewhere, the physical interventions continue. “The opening image is a collage that was made with a female group portrait found in a 1950s high school yearbook,” she explains. “A third of the women’s faces are [cut out and] replaced with fragments of red vernacular images, reflecting the fact that one in three women globally are subjected to violence.” The faces of the remaining portraits are removed too, emphasising that the issue is structural and worldwide, and not about the individuals in the photographs. The cuts she makes in the images are rough and jagged, “expressing my sheer rage about these facts,” she adds. 

Mingueza trawled the 2021 UN Women report for important facts and figures, and hand wrote them on the backs of the found photographs she used in the series. It is the part of pictures we never normally see, further highlighting the theme of invisibility. 

Based between London and Cordoba, Mingueza recently completed an MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at UAL, where One in Three Women was exhibited as part of her final project. In sharing this work, she hopes to encourage awareness of gender-based violence, and show how unconventional narratives can be used to explore the issue in an impactful way, without sensationalising the subject or re-victimising victims. In the end, a story told in a damaging way can be worse than telling no story at all.

nievesmingueza.com

For more information on VAWG and the statistics that informed this work, please visit: https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/facts-and-figures

Helplines 

If you have been affected by any of the topics discussed in this article or if you are experiencing domestic abuse, you can seek help and advice from the following organisations:

Domestic Abuse Helpline (in the UK). Freephone, 24-hour helpline: 0808 2000 247.

National Domestic Violence Hotline (in the US). Helpline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

Hot Peach Pages. International abuse information in over 115 languages.

Joanna Cresswell

Joanna L. Cresswell is a writer and editor based in Brighton. She has written on photography and culture for over 40 international magazines and journals, and held positions as editor for organisations including The Photographers' Gallery, Unseen Amsterdam and Self Publish, Be Happy. She recently completed an MA in comparative literature and criticism at Goldsmiths College, University of London