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Ronja Tomke Otto's What Remains Project
As a photographer and social worker, Ronja Tomke Otto is acutely aware of social issues, particularly violent crimes that happen in public places. In her project, What Remains, Ronja uses her photography skills to raise awareness about sexual harassment and assault.
One in three women will experience sexual harassment or assault at some point in their lives. Ronja's project aims to highlight this pervasive issue by capturing the aftermath of sexual crimes in public spaces. Her series consists of 12 photographs of crime scenes in Bielefeld, Germany. Each photograph is representative of other crime scenes in public space.
"In the majority of the photographs, we can approach them objectively," Ronja explains. "This is a scene we are mostly unfamiliar with and so in the beginning, we have no preconceptions. Some visual details are noticeable, but our background knowledge only prevails in familiar scenes. For example, we perceive large trees, waste bins, and a small footpath from a neutral perspective."
The project's contrasting nature only becomes clear to the viewer when the victim's story is heard. Ronja includes descriptions of each location's full story in the exhibition of the project. These monologues reveal what happened at each location, provoking an emotional reaction and altering the viewer's perception of the image from one of neutrality to disgust, anger, or fear. Seen in their wider context, the photos take on a far more sinister meaning.
Ronja's project is a powerful example of how photography can be used as social commentary. By capturing the aftermath of sexual crimes in public spaces, she raises awareness about an issue that affects millions of women worldwide. Her photographs are a reminder that even the most ordinary places can tell a deeper story.