Kasia Strek is one of very few women whose work is showing at the Visa pour l’image photography festival in Perpignan, France, this year. “The Price of Choice” is her long-term commitment to the subject of women’s reproductive health and access to abortion around the world. Impressively, it is photographed in over five countries and remains in progress; she has plans to add work from two more countries.
Shortly after Strek did her first public walkabout of her exhibition, I asked her why she was drawn to the subject of women’s health to begin with. “I am a young woman and since I was young I’ve considered myself a feminist,” she told me. “I’ve always been interested in human rights, and specifically women’s rights.” She goes on to describe how the October 2016 strikes in her home country of Poland –– where 100 thousand women and men took to the streets to protest a total ban on abortion –– were a tipping point for her. She turned to her camera to help her understand what it can mean for a woman to abort in a country with heavily restricted reproductive rights.
Globa figures on abortion are dismal. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that every year more than 25 million unsafe abortions are performed and every day an average of 160 women die from complications from these illegal operations.
The conductive line of “The Price of Choice” is indeed portraits of the women that have had abortions. But Strek is quick to point out that clandestine abortion is the absolute tip of the mountain, that it’s the ultimate consequence of lack of access to sexual education, modern contraception and sexual violence. Women are dying because religion is often used for political power and not as personal faith. All of this shows in her images and it is what makes them nuanced and layered and different from many other bodies of work on the same topic. Context and experience are not always as easy to photograph as an after-the-fact portrait, however beautiful. Yet both will be needed if the project succeeds in its goal, which is to create meaningful and open discussion about a taboo subject.
Strek is a Polish photojournalist based in Paris. She is a member of the French Collective ITEM. She was selected as one of 30 Under 30 Women photographers for 2018 and received the Camille Lepage On Est Ensemble prize at Visa pour l’image and a grant from the Jean-Luc Lagardere Foundation that same year.
— Samantha Reinders
The Price of Choice
Eglise des Dominicains, Visa pour l’image, Perpignan
Though September 15, 2019
Motherhood, Sex and Reproductive Health
Photographing the High Stakes of Ireland’s Abortion Referendum
Visualizing the Early Tools of Childbirth