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Unconventional Apology Project

Unconventional Apology Project is a portrait and interview series focusing on female survivors of domestic violence. The Project was sparked by a domestic violence tragedy in my family compounded by the death of the offending abuser.

My grandfather murdered my grandmother in 1975 in Compton, CA—two days after their divorce was final. Mableine Nelson Barlow was shot to death while running down the street with my father (1 of their 7 children together); both attempting to escape his drunken rage. She was 36. My father went unscathed, but held his dying mother in his arms while she took her last breath, suffering a lifetime of survivors' guilt.

My grandfather eventually became sober and religious; allowing him to be accepted back into the family by his 7 children. Unfortunately, their acceptance led to the silence of my grandmother's life and death. She was never mentioned and her death a mystery to me until I turned 16 - the same age as my father when he witnessed his mother's murder. I, of course, was very conflicted and remained so through adulthood.

My grandfather came to cherish his family involvement, and used photography to document our growth. He was obsessed with taking photographs with his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. There are innumerable photos of him with us as we matured. His Trail of Existence will live on forever. My family refused to mention his cold-blooded crime, for their need to avoid the reality that their father ended their loving mother’s life. Our coping came at the expense of my grandmother’s memory, evidenced by my recent acquisition of the only two photos that show her distinct physical characteristics. I feel profoundly connected to the remnants of her memory.

Upon his death, my grandfather left me his camera.

This camera is being used as a tool to photograph women that have been impacted by abuse, and have been silenced. They deserve a Trail of Existence. They will not disappear.

This is an Unconventional Apology.

Funded by Awesome Without Borders (June 2015)