WE ARE CALLED ONE BY ONE is a still photographic documentary that explores individual stories in regard to the power of ritual and tradition surrounding female genital cutting (FGC) in Mali, West Africa. My intent for the project is to illuminate the cultural motivations of communities that practice FGC in Mali. “We are called one by one” is a recurring quotation I’ve heard during interviews with girls in the village of Konza, Sikasso, to explain how they are summoned one day to meet the traditional cutter and begin the ritual. It also serves as a metaphor that as humans we are called to seek an understanding of our world and its peoples. The project is a portrait series featuring interviews of girls in Konza, the midwife, a traditional healer and a traditional cutter.


In 2002, I began documenting the life of my sister, Christy, now 43, who was diagnosed with encephalopathy (brain disorder) at age 24. I had been looking at the photographs of Jim Goldberg in Rich and Poor in which he allowed his subjects to write their thoughts on the images of themselves. I decided this would be a way in which Christy and I could tell her story together. I placed an image in front of her, and without direction, she wrote, "Sometimes I feel lost and lonely." I realized these were thoughts she never shared, and doing this was also a way to understand her. Christy's condition is incurable, complex, and causes seizures and symptoms that mimic schizophrenia, including hallucinations, delusions and paranoia. While she is unaffected physically, the disease has stunted her mental growth since birth. This portrait series is about how this illness shapes Christy’s narrative: forcing a dependency on medications to suppress the urge to bring forth an imagined self, and learning to embrace and accept an unpredictable thought process. Christy’s handwritten commentary is a layer unique to her story and a way to share her truth.