A brief encounter with photojournalist Mary Calvert

By Sarah Daniell

A few words with two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee photojournalist Mary Calvert.
Mary Calvert. Photo / Kristin Donaldson
Mary Calvert. Photo / Kristin Donaldson

Why this project - women abused in the US military?

It occurred to me that we Western photographers often have a provincial view of the world when we only go to other countries to illuminate their problems. When I began looking for a domestic project, my husband, photojournalist Joseph M. Eddins jr said I ought to be looking at Military Sexual Trauma, (MST). When I discovered there were about 26,000 sexual assaults in the US military in the past year, my anger drove me to tell the story.

Which person, a subject, has exposed or reinforced a truth that has given you great hope?

I have met many courageous women who refuse to let their trauma define them.

What have you learned about men in the course of your work with abused women in the military?

The majority of men in the military are fine honourable people. That said, I have spent many sleepless nights wondering why this rape culture exists at all in our colleges, churches, and the military. I no longer define the kind of projects I do as "women's issues" because they are men's issues. It is a failure in leadership among men to educate and police each other in how to respect and treat women with dignity.

How has your work effected change?

When I began I had lofty ideals that I could bring about meaningful social change but change happens really slowly. I feel that my work is part of the movement of many people working to end MST.

How does your work impact you personally?

I do have to take breaks when I hit an emotional wall. I have a supportive husband and family. But in the end I tell myself to suck it up because I can walk away and take breaks, while the person I'm photographing lives with this trauma every minute of the day.

Define bravery.

Bravery means doing something even if you are terrified. I think true bravery means standing up for the dignity and rights of others, even when it is unpopular.

World Press Photo Exhibition, July 2-24, Smith and Caughey's, Queen St. see worldpressphoto.co.nz for more info. For more information on Mary Calvert and to see some of her work, click here.

- Canvas

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