Sara Lewkowicz is an American photojournalist, who has created two photo essays titled “Shane and Maggie” and “Closer to Heaven”. Both of these series follow young women who are struggling in their daily lives. They tell a story of “real” women who are both in dangerous and unhealthy situations.
Maggie is 19, and has two children. In her series, we follow her throughout her relationship with Shane, 31, who at the beginning of the photographs has just been released from jail. The photographs document their tumultuous relationship for two years. At first we see the honeymoon stage of the relationship, but then it progresses into something more violent. Shane becomes frustrated because he has to support Maggie and her two children with little income. Throughout these two years, we also see Shane competing with Maggie’s son for her attention. He begins to feel that she cares more for the kids than him. We see the escalation of his frustration come to a breaking point when he becomes first verbally aggressive towards Maggie, and then physically aggressive. In “Closer to Heaven”, we follow Alex, 20, who is a heroin addict and works as an exotic dancer in Baltimore, MD. In one image we see Alex trying to find a vein in the bathroom of the club she works at. She gets high several times a night while working. We see Alex stay sober for a year, but then she
Sara Lewkowicz’s work deals with very real issues. Through her work she is able to show the public personal moments from her subjects lives. Through these photographs the public was shown the gritty reality of domestic abuse and drug addiction. We see the fragility in these young women’s lives, and the consequences of making poor decisions. Some of the photos are disturbing, but they capture the reality that these women are living.
Sara received some backlash for “Shane and Maggie”. According to policymic.com, “The reason the Internet got mad at Sara Lewkowicz was because she had the courage to cover publicly an intimate display of violence. The Internet community, functioning individually as moral human beings, had a hard time definitively dealing with the ethical implications of viewing and capturing such a raw display of ‘family’ violence”. Sara became the witness in this situation, but did not intervene. Once things escalated between Shane and Maggie, a neighbor had to step in and call the police. Many accused her of voyeurism for publishing these photos. Others blamed her and/or Maggie instead of Shane who was the one responsible for the domestic abuse. This is why Sara’s work is important. It frees victims of domestic abuse.
Sara makes an artistic statement about these young women with her photographs. As is quoted in Author/Auteur: Feminist Literary Theory And Feminist Film, “the camera which Austrue identifies as a writer’s pen, or metaphorical penis, an as the mechanism with which directors inscribe their ideas on film” (Austrue1968). Although Sara is a photographer and not a director or writer, her camera is her pen. The photo essays reflect her personal vision of these stories. When going through the photos, they read like a story.