Photographer Captures Man Beating His Girlfriend In Startling Photo Essay

This sent shivers down my spine.  A moving photo essay by the photographer Sara Naomi Lewkowicz on TIME magazine’s website follows a young couple’s relationship, culminating in the man beating his girlfriend. As she explains in a piece accompanying the piece, Lewkowicz originally meant to document Shane’s life as an ex-con. But it turned into something entirely different when Shane, 31, began physically abusing Maggie, 19, the mother of two young children, with the photographer and kids present.

Shane is seen choking Maggie, threatening to beat her, and screaming in her face, all in front of her two-year-old daughter who is hysterically crying. Eventually a neighbor calls the police, who arrest Shane. (The above photo is a cop photographing where Maggie was choked.) Lewkowicz continued to take photographs during the assault and she explains in the piece complementing the photo essay that she has been criticized on social media for that. But she was told — as I was also told when I witnessed domestic violence — that physically intervening would be a dangerous idea. She wrote in the piece:

“After I confirmed one of the housemates had called the police, I then continued to document the abuse — my instincts as a photojournalist began kicking in. If Maggie couldn’t leave, neither could I. Eventually the police arrived. I was fortunate that the responding officers were well educated on First Amendment laws and did not try to stop me from taking pictures.”

It’s intense and upsetting — but at the same time shows how domestic violence unfolds, thereby shedding light on this usually private crime. She also explains in the captions some of the circumstances that lead Maggie to be with her abuser. I commend Lewkowicz for her work on this tough subject — and Maggie for leaving Shane at the end of it. It’s definitely triggering for violence and upsetting imagery, but well worth witnessing. You can see more of Sara Naomi Lewkowicz’s work on her web site.  [TIME] [Photo: Sara Naomi Lewkowicz]