“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” I can recall my elementary school self parroting to the school bully in response to a nasty jibe.

But is it really true?  

In “Weapon of Choice,” photographer Richard Johnson challenges the old saying with an emotionally charged photo gallery.

These poignant and disturbingly truthful images hypostatize the emotional scarring of verbal abuse by depicting models with somewhat gruesome visible wounds.  Imbedded in the violent marks are hateful words such as “stupid, “dumb”, “trash,” and “ugly.”

“I think the overall goal [of Weapons of Choice], in my view, would be to shine a light on the fact that, when we’re focusing on bullying as a society, we focus on actual physical abuse,” Johnson said in a phone interview with The Huffington Post. “It gets a lot of attention when a father abuses his son, daughter or wife, but I think the issue goes back deeper. Before they actually choose to put their hands on someone, there’s more verbal abuse leading up to it.”

While the photos are meant to be a statement against verbal abuse of all kinds, in reflection of his own personal experience, they are specifically meant to represent verbal abuse from authority figures or parents.

“One thing that really became apparent during the shoots is that in any abuse situation, there are three people: the abuser, the abused and a witness.” Johnson explains. Through his pictures, he seems to be forcing the viewers to be witnesses to the abuse and challenging them to stop watching helplessly and a take a action. 

“These photos weren’t about me,” Johnson professes. “I wanted the subjects to tell their story, so I intentionally let some of the imperfections slide, and those little misfit details add a lot of authenticity to the work. They may not be ‘studio-perfect’ photos, but they are the most honest representation of the subject matter that I could get, and that was the point of the project.”

Warning: Images contain violence and language that may be considered disturbing












Pics Via Hurt Words

Tagged in: verbal abuse, Richard Johnson, Photography, huffington post, bullying   

The opinions expressed on the BUST blog are those of the authors themselves and do not necessarily reflect the position of BUST Magazine or its staff.




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