Lay Lady Lay consists of 18 frames combining 3 elements: a self portrait made with Fujifilm FP-100C instant film, a lyric from Bob Dylan's Lay Lady Lay, and a time-stamped text message sent to me by my rapist. 

Through the practice of self-portraiture, I reflect on the lasting repercussions of the rape a year later, exploring my relationship with my body after being made into a sexual object. Each portrait is spontaneously made, describing the ways I feel or recalling memories of the violence. By creating instant photographs, I integrate the image itself into my healing process. 

The lyrics to Lay Lady Lay run across the top of each slide, adding a narrative flow while clarifying the discord present in the images. Despite the song's romantic tone, the isolation of single lines, juxtaposed with my content, evoke something more unsettling, suggesting voyeurism and misogyny.

The text at the bottom is taken from messages sent to me by my rapist around the time of the incidents. Through they reveal the severity of his pain, they also represent abuse, gaslighting and blackmail, elucidating the complexity of a once-consensual relationship devolved into dependency and violation. By appropriating my rapist's words and arranging them in a created context, I re-establish discursive agency over myself and the events. 

I use photography to understand and express the ways in which looking and desiring can make an object of the body, and the ways in which images can be used to resist this. To photograph my own body allows me to not only reclaim control over my self-image, but also to comment on the objectification that occurs through forceful violation and emotional manipulation. I've been inspired by other survivors of sexual abuse and gender-based violence, and hope to add to the voices speaking in solidarity and strength for all of our liberation. 

Copyright 2014 Melissa Smyth
Using Format