“My life is torment,” says one young woman that Denis Rouvre met in Nepal. These words accurately encapsulate the state of mind of the women who agreed to testify barefaced. All of them have been victims of violence: domestic violence, social violence, war violence, and more. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the photographer encountered many women who suffered horrific abuse, including rape. Over there, it isn’t unusual for soldiers to slaughter entire families and then assault the rare female survivors. “There is nobody we can count on,” says Maria, a young Congolese woman photographed by Denis Rouvre.
The photographer spent over one year traveling all over the world to document the suffering of these women. In India, some of them stress how difficult emancipation is, while in Syria, others talk about the hardship they’ve experienced since the war broke out. In Arab countries, women from the Philippines are sometimes exploited in the homes of wealthy people who treat them like pariahs. In France, Denis Rouvre met a woman named Joe who was harassed by a man when she was a child. “It doesn’t hurt anymore,” she says today as an activist, while admitting that it took years to recover from the damage.
“In the center of the image”
In addition to the photographs for which these women were brave enough to pose, there are their words, which the photographer recorded and which give additional depth to his work by revealing the pain they suffer. “I’ve never seen such raw, naked cruelty,” says Denis Rouvre, adding: “During the interview, these women broke down, and most of them started to weep.” All told, he created some 60 portraits. Each time, he took the photo after the interview, seeking “to place the woman at the center of the image, to show the tension in her gaze, give it resonance, acknowledge her presence.”
By Jean-Baptiste Gauvin