• The Listener
  • North & South
  • Noted
  • RNZ

A new Auckland exhibition asks us to confront a pervasive social issue

Megan Bowers-Vette and her husband Nicholas Vette, photographed by Tracey Stevens.

A powerful exhibition has opened in Auckland.

It's been a harrowing journey for a photographer to get an important exhibition about sexual abuse shown at a gallery.

Photographer Megan Bowers-Vette's Us Project exhibitionwhich is now on display at Auckland's Studio 541 till 11 March, presents the powerful portraits and stories of 50 men and women from New Zealand and Australia who have experienced sexual assault.

The project began when Bowers-Vette put out a call on YouTube for survivors to be part of a book - the only condition was they be proud of who they are and put a name to their face: no anonymity.

Bowers-Vette has since described the process of creating the book and trying to tour an accompanying exhibition as absolutely shattering. A survivor herself,  she wept transcribing people's stories and the growing media interest in what she was doing became overwhelming. The process to create the book was not easy; some stories had to be pulled and she was threatened with lawsuits.

Read more: How photographer Megan Bowers-Vette got 50 sex abuse survivors to speak out

Raewyn, one of the participants in Us. Photo/Megan Bowers-Vette.

Through a professional touring company, she tried to tour the exhibition around New Zealand last year but every single gallery approached turned it down, which was devastating, not only for her, but the people who had shared their stories. 

With up to a third of all girls in New Zealand and one in five boys, subjected to an unwanted sexual experience by the age of 16, it is social issue that is pervasive, often ignored and under-reported.

Despite the journey to create the book and exhibition, she says it has been worth it because of the ongoing response she has had from people who have had similar experiences.

With this Auckland exhibition enabling more people to see the work in the flesh, Bowers-Vette will also be talking about the project and having "an open and frank discussion" along with participants of the project, this Sunday 11 at 2pm.

Us. Project

Until March 11
Studio 541
541 Mt Eden Rd, Mt Eden