Content Warning: rape and self harm mention
Nevertheless, She Persisted is an exhibition by Edinburgh-based photographer Mhairi Bell-Moodie currently on display at The Out of the Blue Drill Hall in Leith. The title alludes to the now (in)famous words of US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who silenced Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren; the phrase became a rallying cry for women across the world who were sick of being silenced and ignored by men.
Bell-Moodie’s exhibition presents the portraits of twenty-five women who have all undergone, and survived, extreme hardship. Cancer, loss, rape, self-harm … the exhibition is emotionally draining, but it is also inspiring. All of these women, despite what they have been through, persisted nevertheless. When I arrived at the exhibition, Bell-Moodie herself was there, and she had a box of tissues at hand if I needed one. I didn’t think that would be necessary. And yet to my surprise, the exhibition really did move me to tears, especially the story of Megan, whose daughter Alice died fifteen days old.
One thing that makes the exhibition so fantastic is that along with Bell-Moodie’s beautiful portraits of the twenty-five women, there are also hand-written notes and items belonging to those photographed. There is the bra, for instance, of a woman who survived breast cancer, and the firefighting medals of Ellie, a transgender woman. The use of these items transforms Nevertheless, She Persisted from a two-dimensional photographic exhibition into a three-dimensional glimpse into the lives of these women. At times it is shockingly personal and direct. You can look through the memory boxes Fiona bequeathed to her daughters so that they can remember her after her death, and inside are photographs and cards for their future birthdays. It’s even possible that you might meet one of the women at the exhibition, and the chance to talk to the photographer herself should not be missed. What’s more, the exhibition is completely free.
The venue itself, a former military drill hall built in 1901 just off Leith Walk, is fantastic, if a little too lively at times (the band playing was a little distracting as I looked around the exhibition). Still, that shouldn’t put you off visiting this powerful and important exhibition, which is supported by a range of charities such as ‘Breast Cancer Now’ and ‘Edinburgh Women’s Aid’.
At The Out of the Blue Drill Hall
Until 19 May 2018
Image credit: Mhairi Bell-Moodie