Feature: Billy & Hells for TIME Magazine
By Frances Molina
Last week, TIME Magazine announced their pick for “2017’s Person of the Year”, selecting not one individual but an entire group of women and men to grace the cover of their most anticipated annual issue: the #MeToo Movement. Featuring an incredibly diverse group of actors, activists, professors, hospitality workers, agricultural workers, and engineers, the “Silence Breakers” came together across cultural and economic boundaries to stand with the survivors of sexual harassment and assault who have united under the rallying call of the #MeToo Movement.
The movement, founded by activist Tarana Burke in 2010 to create a sense of community among survivors, was recently galvanized by the wave of famous women who came forward with sexual and emotional abuse allegations against a slew of directors, producers, and media moguls. In October, during the height of the Weinstein controversy, Alyssa Milano tweeted the phrase “#MeToo” in an attempt to reorient the focus of public conversation about sexual assault from perpetrator to victim (Chen, Rolling Stone). Milano’s tweet received over a million responses. Since then, the #MeToo campaign has become a global phenomenon with hashtags cropping up in every language (#BalanceTuPorc, #YoTambien, #Ana_kaman, etc.), a calling-card for an active and inclusive community of people fighting pain and shame with strength and truth.
The portraits of the “Silence Breakers” in TIME were done by photography duo Billy & Hells, who were commissioned by the magazine for the resonant power of their portraiture. While the portraits themselves, which feature the subjects in sharp contrast against soft pastel backgrounds staring into or away from the camera, are pretty standard as far as the portraits that TIME has featured in past “Person of the Year” issues. But the quiet intensity of these photographs takes on a deeper meaning when met with the subject matter. These are portraits of women who have lived in silence and shame for years; women who have lived in pretense, smiling in the faces of their attackers and those in power who protect them out of fear of personal and professional retaliation and even death.
And now, the “Silence Breakers” share their wisdom, helping us to find strength in vulnerability and healing in truth; now, with incredible courage and grace, empowered by the voices of millions of other survivors and advocates, they turn their faces to the light.
To read TIME Magazine's feature on "the Silence Breakers" or to view the entire collection of portraits, click here.