Donna Ferrato

(1949) American


Born in Lorain, Ohio, Donna Ferrato is a self-taught photographer who became a freelance photojournalist in 1976. She was based in Paris and Belgium until 1978 and traveled extensively in Europe and the United States throughout the late 1970s. In 1982 she was hired by Japanese Playboy to photograph couples who epitomized the wealthy American lifestyle of the early 1980s. After witnessing the husband of one of those couples brutally beat his wife, Ferrato embarked on an independent documentation of domestic violence in the United States. She spent several years visiting women's shelters, emergency rooms, and prisons, and traveling with police to make contact with people involved in domestic violence. Her photographs on this subject were published in Life, The New York Times Magazine, Time, USA Today, U.S. News and World Report, and the Los Angeles Times, among others, and were aired on a television programs Dateline and Eye on America. Ferrato has received numerous honors for this reportage, among them the W. Eugene Smith Grant in 1985 and a Kodak Crystal Eagle Award in 1990. The culmination of Ferrato's domestic violence project came in 1991 with the publication of her book, Living with the Enemy, and the founding of the Domestic Abuse Awareness Project, which produces photographic exhibitions on domestic violence to raise money for women's shelters.
Ferrato's photographs heightened public awareness of domestic violence. She uses only black-and-white film, and thus avoids exploiting the victims' suffering through the sensationalizing effects of color. Hers is an important and effective body of work that continues to insist on photojournalism's potential for social change.
Lisa Hostetler

Handy et al. Reflections in a Glass Eye: Works from the International Center of Photography Collection, New York: Bulfinch Press in association with the International Center of Photography, 1999, p. 215.
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