At 16 years old, Chantal Barlow learned of a family tragedy that had been buried under years of emotional repression: her grandfather, in a drunken rage, murdered her grandmother in 1975, two days after their divorce was final. Mabeleine Nelson Barlow’s murder forced Chantal’s father and his 6 siblings onto the Los Angeles streets, where their focus on survival was necessary, suppressing the ability to process their mother’s death.
Years later, Chantal’s grandfather became sober and attempted to become a positive force in his family’s life. Her grandfather cherished his family involvement, buying a camera to take photographs at every event with his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Despite his presence, the family never mentioned the crime nor their mother’s tragic passing. Chantal felt conflicted, and sought an outlet to express and heal survivors of domestic violence.
Today, the same camera that was bought by her grandfather is being used as a tool to photograph women that have been impacted by abuse, and have been silenced.
Chantal started the Unconventional Apology Project to honor her grandmother’s memory and to celebrate the voices of survivors who are now sharing their stories in their words on their terms. One goal of the Project is to create a #TrailofExistence, giving survivors a platform to share and heal others from telling their stories. To date, the Project has published 13 portraits and stories and plan on featuring 23 more survivors.
The Project is an artistic endeavor 100% self-funded, so the Awesome Without Borders grant will make a big impact. The $1,000 grant will cover some the costs to host more photo-shoots (catering, videographers, renting a location) and will allow the Project to expand outreach efforts to touch more women in person and online.