Us For All Women

“Dear friend and fellow woman, 

For those who don’t know me, my name is Camila Cavalcante, a visual artist from Brazil, settled in Scotland. I write this email to share my interest in your cause, our cause. I want to scream our issues, to show another side of a fight that so many avoid. Let me explain myself: 

Since I began to understand myself as a woman, I questioned male privilege. We are all witness to a patriarchal society that does not give much space for mistakes, choices or freedom. This has always bothered me and women’s rights is one of the main things that shaped me, personally. 

In 2002, when I started to take pictures, the way I saw the world was already through that perspective: photographing women has always interested me. The first time I received an award, in fact, was the National Competition Women Photographing Women, in Brazil, 2003. It’s only now, however, in the present context that surrounds us, that I decided to start a project about/with/for women. 

This project is called ‘Us For All’, and it delicately explores one of the most important issues that we all, directly or indirectly, have to deal with: abortion. This is an ugly word that everyone avoids speaking, and in deeply Christian countries like Brazil, the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland, the debate around this issue tends to be an exclusive judgement of the woman. 

The artistic vision of this project comes from the premise that every woman should have the autonomy over her own body. All of us; independent of the political and religious position or economic status of the country in which we live. 

In Brazil, abortion is only legal if it endangers the mother’s life, in cases of a foetus without a brain and in cases of rape. As the debate about decriminalising or legalising abortion is in the shadow of an ultraconservative government, we run the risk of going backwards. Abortion happens all over the country and that is a fact. Criminalising it imposes potential death sentences on many women, particularly the poor. 

In Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, abortion law is even harsher. It is only permitted if a woman’s life is at risk or if there is a permanent or serious risk to her mental or physical health. Often women from those countries must travel to England, Wales or Scotland to do the procedure. Once again, this punishes poorer women, particularly. 

What I propose on this project is to expose my face and my body in the name of all the women that directly or indirectly have had to deal with an illegal abortion. Whether because they made the choice to have an abortion and had to face the consequences of it, or because they were witness to the difficulty, the pain, the judgement and the danger that their sisters, partners, friends or daughters had to go through after making that decision. 

I would like to make a photographic self-portrait in which each woman would be by my side, but only I would be showing my body/face. The women would remain with their identities protected, with their back to the camera, but they would be in physical contact with me (holding my hand, hugging me), so that metaphorically I would be exposing myself in their name, in the name of all of us. 

I would combine the written word with the images, choosing quotes from the conversations I would have with them. I stress again that the identity of the women portrayed would be subject complete secrecy, yet their protest would scream with me around the world. 

If you have any interest in collaborating with this project, please contact me. If you don’t identify with this cause, I urge you to forward this email to a friend who might be interested. I also ask you to be careful when forwarding this email, because I don’t want to expose any women and I know that this is a very delicate subject, particularly for more conservative and/or extreme religious ears. Discretion and union will make this project. It’s US women FOR ALL women.

 I created this email especially for the project: [email protected], but if you prefer, do not hesitate to contact me via Facebook, personal email or phone number.”

———

It was with this text that I started this project on International Women’s Day, 2016. I have photographed 50 women between June 2016 and February 2018 thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign and the donation of 62 people who backed the project. Now I am looking for collaborators to keep amplifying the debate about this important issue for women’s rights. In Brazil, the strength of women on the streets has delayed the ultra-conservative agenda to go backwards on our current abortion laws. 

Inspired by the chant that people took to streets to fight for our reproductive rights, I am creating, in partnership with Break the Habit Press, the bilingual book For the Lives of All Women. This book will only be possible with a network of supporters through a crowdfunding campaign. If you would like to help, please support and spread the word: igg.me/at/ftloaw

Together we are stronger!

This page contains some images of the project, but there are many images that are only available to be seen in the book For The Lives of All Women. 

If you would like to have access a press release and for image usage, please email me on [email protected]


Us For All in 2005

Nós Por Todas em 2005

“You face judgement from other people, all the way. On the journey that I have been through, I did not find a single person who understood me, no one gave me support through the situation.” 

When she told her partner about the pregnancy and asked for help, he said that it was not his problem.

———

Image taken between July 2016 and January 2017 for the second series of Us For All


Us For All in 2011-2

Nós Por Todas em 2001-2

“I left without knowing if I would ever return or how it would be. I was not able to tell anyone about it and hoped that no one would look for me in those days.” 

 She believes that abortion should be considered a woman’s right today more than ever. Not just because she experienced it, but because she knows that there are many more anonymous women around. 

———

Image taken between July 2016 and January 2017 for the second series of Us For All


Us For All in 2011

Nós Por Todas em 2011

“It is a woman’s right. It is the expression of her autonomy to claim uncompromising power over her own body and destiny. It is the overcoming of motherhood as a biological destiny.”

She is used to talking to crowds about women’s rights, but she can never talk about her own experience of the subject.

———

This picture was one of 12 images produced by Camila Cavalcante during the Despina Art Residency, in Rio de Janeiro, 2016. It was displayed on the exhibition Nós Por Todas - Série 1 at Largo das Artes.


Us For All in 2013-2

Nós Por Todas em 2013-2

“The first thing that comes to my mind is the lack of support. It’s knowing that you’re alone in that moment, with no structure from the health system or society itself. It’s the fear of how people are going to react when they find out. That weight is on you.” 

She thinks that changing the law would not increase the number of abortions. Rich, middle-class and poor women have the procedure already, but only the poor ones are likely to suffer physical consequences for it, as well psychological ones.

———

Image taken in September 2017 for the third series of Us For All. 

The third series of Us For All was possible thanks to the support of 62 backers through a crowdfunding campaign.


Us For All in 2015-3

Nós Por Todas em 2015-3

“I was not afraid to be punished by the law, but I was very scared that it would not work, which is what happened. You really don’t know who to ask for help, you cannot trust people.” 

She had a very traumatic experience when dealing with the consequences of an abortion both at the hospital and with the lack of support from her own friends. 

———

Image taken in September 2017 for the third series of Us For All.

The third series of Us For All was possible thanks to the support of 62 backers through a crowdfunding campaign. If you still wish to contribute for the project, please visit www.igg.me/at/usforall


Us For All in 1982

Nós Por Todas em 1982

“Hypocrisy is the right word; we know it. This is something that happens. Women have abortions and they have them in the most clandestine way possible, with many risks and death.” 

 She respected the reasons religious people would not agree with the cause, but she could not understand how anyone could support the criminalisation of abortion. 

———

Image taken between July 2016 and January 2017 for the second series of Us For All


Us For All in 2014

Nós Por Todas em 2014

“The doctor looked at me with disapproval and disbelief. I was very anxious. She started to accuse me before she even examined me. When I laid on the hospital bed I was already weeping.” 

The three female doctors that dealt with her case were hypercritical and hostile, even when her life was clearly at serious risk. One of the doctors, with a crucifix as a necklace, actually threatened to report her. 

———

Image taken in September 2017 for the third series of Us For All. 

The third series of Us For All was possible thanks to the support of 62 backers through a crowdfunding campaign. If you still wish to contribute for the project, please visit www.igg.me/at/usforall


Us For All in 2001-2

Nós Por Todas em 2001-2

“You cannot go through this unscathed. It’s about responsibility, but not only our own, it’s society’s responsibility. We empower ourselves to demand the right for a choice, but this is something that needs to be discussed collectively. It cannot be something exclusively ours anymore. There’s too much pain, too much sadness.”

People make choices and suffer the consequences of those choices all the time in life, but for her the most important things in those moments are information, responsibility and support.

———

The third series of Us For All was possible thanks to the support of 62 backers through a crowdfunding campaign. If you still wish to contribute for the project, please visit www.igg.me/at/usforall


Us For All in 2013

Nós Por Todas em 2013

“Abortion is something that nobody wants to do. Nobody goes through this easily.”

She was hospitalised for over two weeks due to severe complications following her illegal abortion.

——— 

This picture was one of 12 images produced by Camila Cavalcante during the Despina Art Residency, in Rio de Janeiro, 2016. It was displayed on the exhibition Nós Por Todas - Série 1 at Largo das Artes.


Us For All in 1991

Nós Por Todas em 1991

“I don’t know how to explain. I don’t feel ashamed, I don’t feel guilty. I feel that there is a gap, if I think of it in the spiritual sense.”

She asked for the support of her family and partner, but the only ones who helped her were a few friends. This experience showed her how illegal abortions put women in a position of physical and psychological vulnerability.

———

Image taken in September 2017 for the third series of Us For All. 

The third series of Us For All was possible thanks to the support of 62 backers through a crowdfunding campaign. If you still wish to contribute for the project, please visit www.igg.me/at/usforall


Us For All in 1999

Nós Por Todas em 1999

“When the nurse looked at me, I felt all the weight and judgment a woman can experience for making this decision without the support of the law or public health.”

The resentment she feels against the handling of her experience in the hospital is very strong especially because it came from another woman. 

———

This picture was one of 12 images produced by Camila Cavalcante during the Despina Art Residency, in Rio de Janeiro, 2016. It was displayed on the exhibition Nós Por Todas - Série 1 at Largo das Artes.


Us For All in 1998-2

Nós Por Todas em 1998-2

“It’s such a common and generalised rhetoric… the one that associates abortion with irresponsibility, guilt, negligence, murder and crime. All this negativity always falls on the woman, as if it would be possible for her to become pregnant on her own.”

She could not understand the fact that we live in a culture in which the most common contraceptive is for the man, but despite that, women are to be blamed when this contraceptive is not used. As if she carried an obligation to ‘close her legs’. 

———

Image taken in September 2017 for the third series of Us For All. 

The third series of Us For All was possible thanks to the support of 62 backers through a crowdfunding campaign. If you still wish to contribute for the project, please visit www.igg.me/at/usforall


Us For All in 2004

Us For All in 2004

“I am not a religious person therefore my perception of life includes multiple determinations, it is not just biological. I cannot see this as taking a life away, or stopping the birth of a living being. For me, life involves many other questions: social relations, conditions to exist, emotional relations, etc. To live is different than just to exist.”

In her opinion, the law won’t change reality, in terms of the religious influence on our society.  Changing the law however, would have a big symbolic weight to change the way we see abortion.

——–

Image taken in September 2017 for the third series of Us For All.

The third series of Us For All was possible thanks to the support of 62 backers through a crowdfunding campaign. If you still wish to contribute for the project, please visit www.igg.me/at/usforall


Us For All in 2017-2

Nós Por Todas em 2017-2

“I don’t think it’s natural to feel guilty for interrupting a pregnancy. Nine weeks was something very minimal, you cannot say it was a life. It was the beginning, the potential for life.” 

Since the moment she discovered she was pregnant, she knew she wouldn’t go through with it. She didn’t have the material means or the psychological strength to have a second child.

———

Image taken in September 2017 for the third series of Us For All. 

The third series of Us For All was possible thanks to the support of 62 backers through a crowdfunding campaign. If you still wish to contribute for the project, please visit www.igg.me/at/usforall


Us For All in 2017-3

Nós Por Todas em 2017-3

“We don’t get pregnant every two minutes, it’s not like that. There are contraceptive methods around; people do not get pregnant necessarily because they want to. The circumstances are different for each person.”

She thinks that the number of abortions in Brazil is that big because it is mostly illegal. 

———

Image taken between January and February 2018 for the fourth series of Us For All


Us For All in 2017-4

Nós Por Todas em 1997-4

“My choices were either to have a baby alone again while he would be a father when it’s convenient, because he was not ready to change his life style, or not to have a baby. But what I wanted was to have a baby with him.”

They wanted to have a baby together, but when it happened, he was not ready to be a father and didn’t want to continue the relationship.

———

Image taken between January and February 2018 for the fourth series of Us For All


Us For All in 2017-5

Nós Por Todas em 2017-5

“It was a sexual assault. It happened once before. He took me by force and I spent twenty minutes fighting, trying to get away. Then I let go, I was tired of fighting back. That time I got pregnant. He did it on purpose, because I told him that I was ovulating.”

The suffering that she went through for months was exacerbated by many people who tried to change her decision to have an abortion, despite the fact that her pregnancy was a result of result of a rape.

———

Image taken in September 2017 for the third series of Us For All.

The third series of Us For All was possible thanks to the support of 62 backers through a crowdfunding campaign. If you still wish to contribute for the project, please visit www.igg.me/at/usforall


Us For All in 2015-2

Nós Por Todas em 2015-2

“It is difficult to talk about this, but the worst part was not being able to tell anyone and expose myself; the guilt I felt for having lied. Nobody knows about it.”

Her mother influenced her to be very religious in the past and she thinks that there will always be vestiges of that upbringing. However, today she knows that lying was essential to protect herself from the moral judgement from her family and society in general. 

———

Image taken in September 2017 for the third series of Us For All.

The third series of Us For All was possible thanks to the support of 62 backers through a crowdfunding campaign. If you still wish to contribute for the project, please visit www.igg.me/at/usforall


Us For All in 2013-3

Nós Por Todas em 2013-3

“It’s very easy to look at things as an outsider. But only the woman who is in that particular condition, with her own financial, emotional and familiar life, knows what’s like. Nobody has the right to judge. 

She thinks that women should accept who they are and not feel guilty. They should be the protagonists of their own lives and understand that they are the owners of their future.

———

Image taken between January and February 2018 for the fourth series of Us For All



Us For All in 2000-2

Nós Por Todas em 2000-2

“I know that Oxum’s intention is for life to be created, but I also know that Oxum is a mother and as a mother she doesn’t want to see her daughters sad and neglected, with equally suffering offspring. Is it love, just to let it out of the womb? That’s not love, it’s not being pro life. It’s being hypocritical.”

Even though African-derived religions in Brazil do not accept the practice of abortion, she thinks that Mother Oxum, the goddess who takes care of women’s fertility, respects their personal decisions. The natural course of life is to generate more life, but it’s not natural that every woman is obligated to do that.

———

Image taken between January and February 2018 for the fourth series of Us For All


Us For All in 2008

Nós Por Todas em 2008

“And if my daughter has an unplanned pregnancy one day and she doesn’t want to have it, I’ll be the first to say: don’t go through with it!”

She was married and already had two much loved children. It was a joint decision.

———

This picture was one of 12 images produced by Camila Cavalcante during the Despina Art Residency, in Rio de Janeiro, 2016. It was displayed on the exhibition Nós Por Todas - Série 1 at Largo das Artes.


Us For All in 1996-2

Nós Por Todas em 1996-2

“There I was, a woman who have had an abortion, reflecting on myself as a nurse, and as a woman. I cannot accept that they treat women this way, but I could not make it clear why I did not accept it because I would be discriminated against at my workplace.”

When she finally wanted to be a mother, she spent her whole pregnancy paranoid about her son having a congenital problem as if it would be some sort of a penance for what she had done in her youth.

———

Image taken in September 2017 for the third series of Us For All.

The third series of Us For All was possible thanks to the support of 62 backers through a crowdfunding campaign. If you still wish to contribute for the project, please visit www.igg.me/at/usforall


Us For All in 1999-2

Nós Por Todas em 1999-2

“Health professionals need to be better prepared for this, they need to keep their preconceptions outside of the institutions. There has to be awareness campaigns and a multidisciplinary support because it’s not just a doctor; you also need the help of social services and psychologists.”

She thinks that legalising abortion is urgent for understanding that this is a public health issue, not a moral or religious one.

———

Image taken in September 2017 for the third series of Us For All.

The third series of Us For All was possible thanks to the support of 62 backers through a crowdfunding campaign. If you still wish to contribute for the project, please visit www.igg.me/at/usforall

© Camila Cavalcante 
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