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Clare Carter


In 2009, Clare Carter read a newspaper report about the rape and murder of a South African woman named Eudy Simelane (1977–2008). The crime and the trial of the perpetrators were covered in the press because the victim was a prominent athlete, a player on the South African women’s national soccer team. Members of her community asserted that Simelane was targeted because she was openly lesbian as well as a LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex) rights activist. Although same-sex marriage had been legalized in 2006 in South Africa and discrimination for reasons of sexual orientation outlawed in 1996, a deepseated antipathy against lesbians, gays, and transgender people was and is ingrained in the culture.

Carter was deeply affected by what she read—which argued that an underreported war of terror was being waged against lesbians in South Africa and that those who perpetrated these crimes were almost never brought to justice. This led to a trip to South Africa in 2011, the first of many over the course of two years, to work on this story of violence against lesbians and transgender people—the brutal and widely accepted practice of “corrective rape.” Carter contacted NGOs involved in combating this practice and began to meet individuals who had been attacked. In each case, she asked them to pose for a photographic color portrait. Her intent was to record the personal stories of these individuals and to capture their dignity, resolve, and bravery using the camera. In an interview for Slate magazine with writer David Rosenberg, she described her increasing involvement in the details of each individual’s narrative. “It was like peeling an onion,” Carter said. “Just layer upon layer, and there was always more to the story. It’s never black and white: cultural, religious, familial—they all have a hand in what’s happening.” The portraits also show the environment of her sitters— the interiors of their homes, a view of the Khayelitsha Township outside of Cape Town, the site of a rape and murder, an image of the two children of a woman who was raped numerous times standing on a dirt road, and a photograph of the mother of Eudy Simelane at her daughter’s grave.

Through these portraits, thirty-five individuals bravely step forward to publicize the violence that they have experienced at the hands of others within their community. Carter’s sensitive portrayal of them emphasizes their resolve—but one also senses their continuing vulnerability. Her work on this issue joins that of Zanele Muholi, a lesbian and photographer in South Africa who began a portrait series of her LGBTI community in 2006, prompted by the death of a friend from HIV-related illness at age twenty-five. Carter also has produced a documentary video in conjunction with the still photography in which she interviews not only lesbian women fighting for acceptance and justice, but also men from the townships and male religious and community leaders who believe that being LGBTI is unnatural and a sin. The juxtaposition of the two views underscores that it will be a long time before members of the South African LGBTI community can live in a discrimination-free society.

Katherine Hart, Senior Curator of Collections, Barbara C. & Harvey P. Hood 1918 Curator of Academic Programming, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College


Clare Carter was born in London in 1985 and currently resides in New York City. She earned a B.F.A. in photography from Parsons School of Design in 2009. Carter’s work mainly investigates human rights and social issues around the world. Her projects have been exhibited internationally and featured in The New York Times, The Independent Magazine, Vanity Fair, and Slate, among others. She has won numerous awards, including a CENTER Project Launch grant, the 2014 Peter Urban Legacy Award, and a 2014 Pride Photo Award, and she was the runner-up for the 2013 Aperture Portfolio Prize.

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