After receiving nationwide attention for her Guarded photo series, recent University of Iowa alum Taylor Yocom has announced she’s taking her project on the road to other university campuses. The series, recently on display at Public Space One, highlights the prevalence of sexual assault in our society and the subsequent ways women protect themselves.
Although no official commitments have been made at this time, Yocom says she’s collaborating with multiple universities in an effort to expand the project and raise awareness of sexual assault issues on their campuses. It’s less common for universities to coordinate programming over the summer, she says, noting that several schools plan to reach out come August.
Yocom says the series, which features stark photos of woman holding various objects for self-protection, began as a class project. When she posted it to her personal Tumblr page, however, the project became a viral hit and drew enormous amounts of attention. Since then, the series has been featured in numerous major news outlets, including BuzzFeed and the Huffington Post.
Despite an outpouring of support, Yocom says some critics have misunderstood the intent of the series. One commenter, for instance, suggested she display firearms in her photo series, arguing that it’s a better form of protection.
“It’s not a how-to guide,” Yocom said. “If I were photographing and a women had a gun and wanted that to be photographed, I wouldn’t tell her ‘No, that’s not my narrative.’”
Yocom says the response has been largely positive, regardless of the critics.
“I’m getting so many emails from women saying that this project is validating their own feelings,” Yocom said. “Seeing that is pretty powerful and a pretty good counter to those arguments.“
Moving forward, Yocom says she’s considering a few stylistic changes to the project as she visits other colleges and universities, such as incorporating varying backgrounds into her portraits.