Art + Science: Art of Healing: Ronni Knepp
Ronni Mae Knepp is a fine art photographer based in Texas. She is also a current candidate for an MFA in Photography at the Academy of Art University. The photographs from her project entitled Dear John Doe reflect the personal and emotional aftermath of being a victim of rape. What initially began as a more generic thesis project about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder evolved into her personally confronting her rapist via a letter she wrote entitled “Dear John Doe.”
Using the Polaroid transfer process, she creates unique photographs. This creative process of manipulating, lifting and transferring fragile, easily torn emulsion takes focus and time. It also includes an element of chance. The process itself gives reference to the emotional remnants of violent crimes, chaos, pain and healing. Knepp taps into a powerful and universal message, one that delves deep into the effects of violent crimes on the individual yet also brings to light elements of human resilience.
Dear John Doe,
My therapist asked me today what I would say to you if I could confront you about your betrayal. As I considered her question, the idea of wasting one more word, one more breath on your deaf ears made my stomach curdle. Sure, I could ask you why you raped me that night. The question has plagued me for years after all. I have constantly wondered what I had done to deserve such hatred and violence. But the reality is, there is no rational reason why. You’d give me an excuse, maybe even try to proclaim your innocence, inferring that I was lying, but nothing you could say or do would justify the fact you stole something from me that I have spent years trying to take back. No, I have absolutely nothing to say to you. I replied to my therapist, instead, that I’d rather SHOW you what you’d created. I would show you the physical bruises you left behind on my skin. I’d force you to witness every reminder that I have of the day you raped me, from the sound of the rain on the tin roof of that deteriorating trailer to the fear of the stirrups and cameras as I underwent the rape kit procedures. I’d show you my blood-stained clothes, the shower that couldn’t seem to wash the filth that you seemed to leave behind on me, and the pools of tears that fell every night that I spent awake crying because you haunted my dreams.
And then I would show you that I’m alive. I’m still here. I have not allowed you to take over my life. No, I’ve continued moving on. Some days I may be merely surviving, curled into a ball in a bare corner of a room. Other days I may be shuffling my way through adulthood, braving the strangers in public as I try to find some sort of normalcy again. And then there are days where I am thriving. I am laughing and spending time with people who legitimately care about me. I am moving on. You may have had an effect on me, even all these years later, but what you never did was define me. I am a survivor.
Ronni Mae Knepp is an American Fine Art Photographer that specializes in black and white postmodern photography. Ronni originally majored in Communications when she was in the military and continued to pursue other technical majors before she came back to her love of photography in 2010. She completed her undergraduate degrees in Photography through Academy of Art University in 2015 and 2016.
Ronni is currently working on her Masters of Fine Arts in Fine Art Photography and will graduate in 2019. Her work utilizes environmental and self-portraiture to illicit emotionally charged memories from herself and her viewers. Many of her current projects illustrate the emotional and mental impact of sexual trauma on the psyche. Her thesis, Dear John Doe, confronts her own rapist while also giving voice to the many untold or forgotten stories of rape survivors.
Ronni hopes to help build awareness for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as well as women’s rights through her photography. Her future goals include teaching at the collegiate level while also working within her field. Ronni published fine art portraits with the first two issues of Atomic Bombshells Magazine in 2012 and in 2016 she had 3 images from her project exhibited at the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art. She also completed a 4-month internship in 2016 at Treasured Memories Photography. In 2017 she had her work shown at the Howard Theater in Washington, D.C. and was featured in the Veteran’s edition for AAU’s newspaper. In 2018, one of her images from Dear John Doe was an editor’s pick for the LensCulture Black and White awards online gallery. Ronni currently resides with her husband and kids in Texas.
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