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Marissa RothWar is said to define menís lives, their memories permanently cast in categories marked "before" or "after" the war. Scars, both physical and emotiona are totems to courage and vulnerability, irrevocably revealing the unspoken partnership between man and war. Monuments are erected to fallen warriors. Veterans are venerated. In the context of history, wars have defined turning points in time, delineated eras and redefined civilizations.
One Person Crying - Women and War
But what of the women who do not fight while their men go to war? What is the impact of war on the lives of the wives and daughters, mothers and sisters, who are nonetheless caught in the crossfire?
In a war zone, and in refugee camps, women are the emotional touchstones for families, shouldering the responsibility by maintaining some semblance of normalcy while their whole lives are falling away around them. After a war, often bereft of men and burdened with grief and memories, it is up to the women again to rebuild the foundation of their culture and society from the hearth up. All too often, they bear physical reminders of war, from bullets and knives and rape, but do not share the male camaraderie that is forged during the war experience. Often they suffer their wounds in silence.
A long term project that I am currently undertaking is to document photographically the lives of women in different regions, countries and communities around the world where there have been or are conflicts, and show the impact of war on women. For some women, daily conflict is a fact of life. For other women, war turned their lives upside down in a relatively short period of time. For still others, war did little to change their circumstances.
The images encompass numerous subjects; Afghan refugee women in Pakistan, photographed in 1988; Kosovar Albanian refugee women in Albania, photographed in 1999; gang girls and their environment, photographed in Los Angeles between 1996 and 2001; Eastern European survivors and descendants of World War II, photographed in 1991 and 2005; American mothers from Ohio, who have lost sons in the war in Iraq, and women at a peace vigil in downtown Los Angeles, September 21, 2001.
Other subjects that I hope to photograph include the women of Northern Ireland who have endured generations of sectarian strife; the war widows of Bosnia; Israeli and Palestinian women; the women of Nicaragua and El Salvador; the Korean "comfort" women; women in Rwanda and Darfour; and American women whose lives were directly impacted by the wars in Vietnam, Korea and World War II.
Since war has traditionally been a male enterprise, it has been seen historically from a male perspective. The lingering impact of war, however, transcends gender and generations. My goal is to reflect on war from what I consider to be an underreported perspective, that of the womanís point of view. My hope is to give a visual image of the women who have suffered greatly because of war, and who have typically been faceless. Women who are engulfed by war should not be perceived only as victims, but as survivors, as well.
Marissa Roth (2006)