Women’s voices spoke loud and clear in the midterm elections, and Outcry photographer Whitney Bradshaw’s ongoing series of monumental color portraits of women crying out, has documented their growing momentum since 2018.
Bradshaw created the Outcry collection to enable women to fight regressive far right rhetoric with “empowerment, community and intersectional empathy,” she told KALW’s Sarah Cahill in a July 25 interview. Sexism, racism, nationalism, ageism, ableism, heterosexism and other divisive boundaries fall away in Bradshaw’s inclusive community of women.
Outcry Origins: Scream Photo Sessions
Five portraits taken the night of the 2018 Women’s March grew to one hundred Outcry images at the DePaul Art Museum in Chicago by September that year. Outcry is now 400+ women strong and growing.
Wherever Outcry goes, Bradshaw invites women to participate in scream photo sessions ranging from five to 25 participants, most of whom have never met before. The practice aims to create a safe space for women to heal personally while uniting politically. Crossing borders of race, class, age, sexual orientation and ability, participants share food, drink and stories, creating a supportive community that validates their response to their experience.
Bradshaw takes multiple shots of each participant and reflects them back to her immediately, gently inviting her into self-acceptance. These revelations make a revolution, one woman at a time. After the sessions, participants sustain community in an online forum.
Some of the participants say screaming has saved their lives. Many had never dared to scream before. Supported by other women’s understanding and example, silenced voices break free.
Bradshaw’s vision is radically democratic. No woman’s race, class, age, clothes, face, ability, gender expression or body type is presented as more worthy of our attention than another. Each sharply focused image asserts each woman’s distinct identity: strong and vulnerable, grieving and resisting, neither victim nor virago. Bradshaw’s portraits affirm that women need not be styled or posed as ‘attractive,’ seductive, virginal or any other way pleasing to the male gaze in order to be rivetingly admirable. Righteous grief and compassionate anger are beautiful.
Grieving the Patriarchy
Screaming and weeping have traditionally relegated to women. But seeing these women’s faces means seeing them in ourselves, and ourselves in them. We recognize we are all crying out against the same things: violence to our bodies, outrages to our humanity, threats to our homes, dangers to our children.
The work of grieving patriarchy’s ravages falls so heavily on women that men depend on us to do it for them as well as for ourselves. Outcry also speaks directly and lovingly to men—both protesting men’s complicity with systemic oppressions and lamenting how men also suffer under them.
Bradshaw thinks carefully about gender in her calls for Outcry scream sessions. She welcomes all who identify as women or who are “in alignment with the cause of empowering women’s resistance.” This includes trans “womxn” (Bradshaw’s prefered usage), along with “non-binary folks who identify with the struggle of being a womxn under white supremacist patriarchy.” At present, she excludes cisgender men.
For some viewers, Outcry may be their first sustained visual insight into women as human subjects rather than sexual objects. Focusing on heads, not figures, Bradshaw refuses to invite us to sexually evaluate bodies.
Even in torso portraits, shot while COVID required physical distancing, she finds ways to insist we look these women in the face. One method is heroic scale: Most portraits are 22” x17,” some are poster size (45”x30”) and those currently projected on the outdoor screen at BAMFA are 100’x70′.
Bradshaw’s direct, respectful camera angles also elevate each woman to an equal plane of dignity, asserting women united are an unstoppably powerful force.
Outcry on Tour
The exihibit currently consists of 250 portraits, plus participant Anamarie Edwards’ short video documenting an Outcry scream photo session.
Outcry can be seen in California at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) until Dec. 1, with outdoor projections three times daily—at 8:30 a.m., noon and 6 p.m.
The exhibit comes to Atlanta Contemporary in Atlanta, Ga., from Nov. 17 to Jan. 8, and to the Photographic Center Northwest in Seattle, Wash., from Jan. 12, 2023, to March 16, 2023. Outcry then goes to the Colorado Photographic Arts Center in Denver, dates to be determined.
Bradshaw is working to bring Outcry to states where women’s health is most catastrophically threatened by the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
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