From Dhaka, 32-year-old photographer Farzana Hossen has produced a harrowing document called “Lingering Scars” (2013), a series of photographs depicting women victims of acid attacks. Hossen is one of 13 photographers taking part in an exhibition called “Voice of Tacitness: Asian Women Photography,” currently running at the Hong Kong Arts Centre from October 19 until November 2.
According to Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) in Bangladesh, from 1999 to 2011 there were 1,084 reported cases of acid assaults against women. Most of these attacks were marriage related, or lovers spurned, and far too often women are blamed for family breakups and divorce. Worse still, is the fact that both society and state have often turned a blind eye to the situation.
Violence against women is an ongoing issue that has been addressed by many artists, but none with the sobering directness and honesty that are shown through Hossen’s body of work. Her bravery and sensitivity in the portrayal of these women are admirable, and the trust she has established with them comes across in her images. Upon first viewing the photographs, one is almost affronted by the horror, but those immediate responses are soon overtaken by an unbelievable sadness and at the same time, the courage and warmth displayed between the subjects and the photographer. Hossen wrote:
“I intend to work with women and girls who have survived an acid attack, and are trying to rebuild their lives despite carrying horrific mental and physical wounds. This is a profoundly personal undertaking and an important part of reflecting upon my past. I plan to travel to ten different districts of Bangladesh where groups of survivors have built support structures. I want to document their lives, their struggles, their sufferings and their resilience. The stories of these women will shed light on a very dark corner of human existence. They will give voice to individuals who’ve been silenced by their oppressors. They will tell the world that we need to campaign for women’s rights.”
Hossen was awarded the Ian Parry Scholarship in 2013 for her work in “Lingering Scars.” The scholarship, named for London’s Sunday Times photographer killed at the age of 24 while covering the Romanian Revolution (1989), supports projects by full-time photography students and photographers under the age of 24. In March, Hossen also received the 2014 Alexia Foundation Award of Excellence Grant for “Lingering Scars.”
Here are selected photographs from this series. For more on Farzana Hossen, please visit: http://farzanahossen.wordpress.com/