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The #MeToo Photo Going Viral on Instagram

We spoke to Victoria Siemer (aka @witchoria) about her haunting #MeToo photo and why she set it free.

As the trending hashtag #metoo makes its way around social media, artist and graphic designer Victoria Siemer (also known as @witchoria) created a haunting image for her followers to repost. In just one day, it received over 22,000 likes and hundreds of comments thanking her for the image. The foggy landscape peppered with “Me Too” neon lights puts a visual identity to the chorus of text-based updates by women around the world.

The movement is generally attributed to a tweet by Alyssa Milano that read, “Suggested by a friend: If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” When we contacted Siemer to find out more about her #metoo image, she highlighted the importance of acknowledging that “the ‘Me Too’ campaign was started by activist Tarana Burke ten years ago, not Alyssa Milano.”

“While it’s cool Milano helped make this into a viral phenomena, you have to give credit to the woman who has been working on this cause for a decade,” Siemer wrote to us. “Burke created ‘Me Too’ as a campaign to aid sexual assault survivors in underprivileged communities where rape crisis centers and sexual assault workers weren’t going. She launched this website: www.metoo.support.”

The story behind Siemer’s image is full of emotion—she said that her hands were shaking as she created it. We also found out more about the philosophy behind her hugely popular Instagram account and why she made her image free to repost.

“Honestly, I was fucking livid. And so I created the piece in sort of an emotional frenzy.”

Format: It might seem obvious—but what was the catalyst for making this ‘Me Too’ image?

Victoria Siemer: I’m usually pretty hesitant about participating in these sort of viral campaigns because I feel that all too often it becomes more about people creating content for engagement than it is about the cause that is being promoted.

But yesterday morning I sat down with my morning coffee and popped onto Facebook and right there at the top of my feed was a friend of mine bravely sharing her rape story and being very aggressively attacked for it by ‘not all men’ trolls.

And I saw more and more and more stories and it really clicked that I don’t know any women who don’t have a story. I was forced to reflect on the things that have happened to me, that have happened to nearly all of us.

Honestly, I was fucking livid. And so I created the piece in sort of an emotional frenzy.

Why did you make the hi-res image available for reposting?

Most of my artwork is intertwined with my emotions, and I just wanted to make something that let some of my own pain out while being inclusive of everyone else’s.

I made the hi-res available for two reasons:

1) A lot of people in the comments thread were asking if they could repost it, and I was like, ‘Hell yeah, here’s a better link’. And I let the piece go.

2) My hands were trembling while I was making the piece, and the high-res photo fixes some of the little issues I found after I had calmed down a bit.

What was your process for making this image? What tools do you use?

I shot the photo this past spring in the Marin Headlands during a photography residency. I picked it specifically because it matched the tone of what I wanted to create, but because I was also terrified when I shot it.

There was this distinct moment when I had ventured down a trail quite far and realized I was completely alone. And I had to figure out if it was worth putting myself in a potentially dangerous situation for ‘the shot’ or if I should turn around and quickly go back to a more public place. I was spooked. I grew up in a place where women getting raped and killed on bike paths was fairly commonplace. A women in Queens last year was brutally murdered jogging through an area that was eerily similar to the one I was shooting in.

And I’d love to say I stayed, but I was so paralyzed with fear I jumped on the phone with my friend so someone would know if something happened, packed my shit up, and booked it back to a busy road.

The typographic elements were added in post, via Photoshop. I’m classically trained as a graphic designer, so I bring a lot of that into my photography work. I’ve been playing with illuminated statements on natural landscapes for a few years now. Some of that work was recently projected on the windows at the International Center of Photography, which I was pretty dang proud of.

Are you ever afraid that your work faces stigma, or dismissal, because it’s unapologetically female?

My whole thing is putting it all out there, and because I am a woman, a lot of the experiences that I share through my artwork naturally have that feminine tone/energy in them. I can’t control how that’s interpreted and I really don’t care if that stigmatizes me.

I used to fear vulnerability and one day just said “Fuck it” and started letting it all out, no filter. It was the first time I was making work entirely for myself and I didn’t give a heck if other people didn’t like it. It was really liberating. Now that raw openness is a fundamental part of my identity as an artist.

I think the reason my artwork has been so well received, and has grown a the audience it has, is because we’re all human and a lot of experience is universal. We’re all in this together. And to be honest, if you’re not in it with the rest of us, feel free to unfollow. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

Follow @witchoria on Instagram here, and check out more of her images from her Hue Don’t Own Me series below.

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