What struck me about Walter Astrada’s presentation was his practicality and composure. Although the topic of his acclaimed multimedia project is complex and emotional, Astrada spoke about burn victims and narrowly escaping gunfire as if he were reading off a weather report.
The understated manner in which he explained his project made it seem even more impressive. He didn’t need to dress it up with dramatic accounts of his emotional reactions to what he saw while photographing oppressed women; his pictures told the stories.
After seeing the first few photos of women gazing with tortured eyes, widows-turned-beggars and victims of femicide, I wondered how Astrada could have taken on such a heavy crusade. He is tackling a historically controversial and deeply-rooted issue with nothing but a camera.
Astrada revealed something about his work that, to me, was very surprising. Going into the presentation, I assumed Astrada must have run into a lot of resistance from men while trying to photograph women, especially in India. However, Astrada insisted both women and men helped him with his project. He said there were a lot of men who realized violence against women is wrong, and they supported Astrada’s mission to expose the wrongdoing to the rest of the world.
Aside from his disturbing photos and his account of how he was nearly shot in Africa, Astrada also gave some good journalistic advice and explained some hard journalistic truths. He said journalists need to know history. Astrada also said he does not tend to pay attention to the composition of his photos when he is working. His main goal is to provide information through his photos. Astrada admitted that he paid a price to work on this project. He rarely spends time with his family and friends, but he has no regrets about the choice he made to undertake this project.
Astrada will now continue his project in Norway. I look forward to seeing the results. He will be exposing the oppression of women in one of the most peaceful, “civilized” nations in the world. It will be very different from where he worked in the past, and it is a necessary step to take in revealing the widespread nature of female oppression.