Grace Jackson

Grace Jackson is a British photographer that makes the personal political. In her work One in Five Grace collaborates with those affected by rape, using her own experience as the catalyst for speaking up about the effects of sexual assault.

What is your background in photography and how would you describe your work?

I graduated from London College of Communication in 2015 and have a BA. I would definitely describe my work as fine art. I have always been interested in the process, in the handmade and in the tactile nature of work, and I guess that is why I shoot everything on film and print myself. I can be a bit of a control freak and like to be able to know that when I have created a piece of work it has been made by hands with no shortcuts. Further from this my work always centres around making the personal political. I’ve always been brought up that a problem shared is a problem halved and I think that is engrained in my bones, so making personal work has always been part of my nature. I also find it is a therapy. I’m not a massive talker when it comes to my feelings. I never seem to find the words that express what I am thinking or feeling, so getting to have my photography as a medium I can speak through really helps me.

How did your project One in Five come about?

It came about after I was raped in 2014. I didn’t tell anyone. It was a massive secret that tormented me and in the end ruined a relationship and friendships because nobody could understand why I wasn’t the same smiling girl I once was. However, although I didn’t tell anyone I did start writing in a moleskin book, asking questions I would never get to the bottom to, or stating how my life my was changing and I couldn’t control it. It was a bumpy road but it was the only thing that gave me a small piece of light in a very dark place.

It was when one of my closest friends told me her ex-boyfriend had raped her that I knew I had to do something. I saw the guilt she was made to feel, the way she felt her voice had no authority and I knew all of those feelings. I knew that the one thing that gave me some light she and others needed, not only for themselves, but also to talk about this issue that we have. This project was started just before the #MeToo and TIMESUP campaign, but in the media these are highlighting celebrities struggles, not your average person on the street and what happens in Hollywood and Parliament also happens on our streets. The funding is almost non-existent for rape victims and even if there is some, waiting lists are so long most people don’t get the help they needed. So I’m not a therapist but I wanted to use my skill of photography to help and also raise conversation of the problem and hopefully educate.

Grace Jackson

How did you go about finding people willing to participate in the project?

Word of mouth, instagram and features help reach new people I wouldn’t normally be able to reach. Since I have a small following this can be tricky but I guess getting people talking in the hope it reaches someone who may need it.

How did the idea of the text and images come together?

The texts come from a diary that anyone wanting to participate in the project gets. Once anyone gets in touch I send out a diary as soon as I can. They are free to doodle, draw or write anything they want. It is a tool that is to help them. Then I arrange a studio shoot where they are able to decide what they want to photograph, how they want to stand or sit. I then set up my large format camera to capture this and attach a long shutter release and they are free to take the image whenever they feel ready and comfortable. I then develop these and with their diary curate the images with the text that I think works. The photoshoot relies on funding and as I am self funding shoots these can take a while. I am trying to arrange a London shoot at the moment for people who have reached out around the London area but struggling to find a studio that will reply to booking a date, so I do have so much more work that could be produced but like most funding is an issue.

Grace Jackson

Grace Jackson

Grace Jackson

What has it been like collaborating with the participants in your project? How important is that?

It’s amazing. It’s amazing to open a conversation with a stranger about something so personal and have a connection and although it is tragic subject matter it feels cathartic to have someone know what it feels like, to know that you aren’t alone but also to hear the way the project has helped them. The words people say when they’ve interacted with project or they’ve been a part of it makes me realise why I did all this. Even though it is self-funded it makes every penny worth it. I still find it hard to read peoples diaries when I start to curate the extracts together. I often am in floods of tears as I am doing it because it doesn’t feel fair. It can be hard sometimes but I have to remind myself I am trying to create conversation and educate. I think its so important to have a connection, they are participating and sharing something they may have not shared with their family, so it is so important to grow a connection and make sure the participants feel safe and secure.

What do you hope viewers will take from the project?

Back in January when the project was super new I participated in Photo Scratch which gave me a chance to get anonymous feedback on the project, which was so positive. I knew that what I was doing was being seen and felt by others, as it can be hard to have that perspective when you are so involved. I guess what I want a viewer to feel is a sense of this isn’t mainstream news and it isn’t shouted about but it happens to so many and it can’t just be ignored or silenced anymore. I want the viewers to question and have conversations about consent, sexual assault and rape; for people to feel safe, to have open dialogue. I guess a question I’ve always had and raised is why in schools do we teach about contraception but not consent? With questions like this being in a dialogue in a gallery, or a pub or watching the TV in the evening then we are starting to end the stigma of being made to be silent.

Grace Jackson

Grace Jackson

What are you working on now/next?

I am still working on One in Five and I don’t know when it will be finished or done, or if it ever will. I am hoping that starting in September I can secure a studio for a weekend to get the participants that have been waiting for a shoot day to get them into a studio to work on their extracts. Other than One in Five, I am working on my series Calls by the Sea and Les Filles. I always try to have at least two series going alongside each other as then I can keep my head above water. I know it doesn’t sound productive, and sometimes it’s not, but it means that I keep my own mental stability, as my work is so personal and can be so raw I sometimes need work that is easy and care free with no structure. My happy place is by the sea or in my darkroom so I often spend long days at either to keep myself going. Other than this I have just learnt how to do wet plate collodion, so this summer I am really looking forward to practising the technique and creating more work.

gracejackson.co.uk
@gracerosejacksn