Kaley McGoey has a huge heart for women who have been abused, molested or assaulted.
At 18, she was sexually assaulted. Now 23, she has a photography show at the Rookery in downtown Juneau. The show relates to her recovery process, and she’s donating the proceeds, minus her expenses, to Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies, also known as AWARE.
“It affected me in really really negative ways,” she said of the assault. “When I was finally dealing with it, these pictures were a result of that process.”
Several were taken in Juneau. Others were taken in Seattle, and one was in Los Angeles.
Each of the six photographs on each wall has a relationship to a photo across the room. In one, a girl is staring at a wall, dwarfed by it, her back to the camera. In the connected photo, she has turned away from the wall. She faces the camera. It’s this photo McGoey says many people have told her is their favorite.
“It’s her realizing she can turn around,” McGoey said. “It can be something that doesn’t hinder her at all. She’s only looking in one direction. … That’s what it meant to me, but it could mean so many things.”
“What are these different sides of us, the different processes we have to go through?” she said about her inspiration. “These pictures are kind of a representation of parts of that feeling of coming full circle. Recognize it, see it, it hurt, it sucked, but right now, I’m doing okay. It doesn’t own me. And for me that was this big moment of ‘aha!’ It doesn’t own me. The pictures for me were a big part of that release.”
She has a nervewracking perspective as both the artist and a barista working at the Rookery. People frequently comment on the photos to her without realizing she is the photographer, though a lot of regulars have figured it out.
It’s the people who say they feel a connection to or are moved by the images whose comments mean the most to her.
“That’s all I really want in a project like this,” she said.
McGoey came to Juneau in 2008, soon after she graduated high school. Her father was in the Coast Guard, and her family moved a lot.
At first, she hated the city. But it grew on her and she realized “there are some gems here,” she said.
She studied photography in 2011 in Los Angeles, a place she describes as “a terrible place to live.”
She doesn’t lack places for comparison: she’s lived in Seattle, Albuquerque, Denver and Lincoln, Neb. — all in the past six years.
“I think that’s why I’m in love with Juneau so much,” she said. “People are so community-minded. It’s so refreshing.”
McGoey became interested in photography through her mother, who started her own photography career when a 16-year-old family friend was diagnosed with cervical cancer. McGoey’s mother was hired to take pictures of the girl and her family. McGoey, then around 11 or 12, was her mother’s assistant.
“I sort of fell in love with what portraits meant to people — how important they could be,” she said.
She and her four siblings were homeschooled, so McGoey had time to begin doing her own portraits and close-ups of objects.
After she was sexually assaulted, she didn’t feel as much of a creative urge.
“It puttered out for a couple of years after the rape incident, and then I realized I could go to school for this and really focus on it,” she said.
Some of her other work stemmed from the assault: She had a show in Los Angeles that featured pictures of women in lingerie wearing saint-like head coverings. She thought those pictures might be a little too risqué for Juneau.
Another effort was a series of self portraits in which she dressed up like a doll while holding her childhood American Girl doll.
McGoey’s show will be at the Rookery through March. She’s considering switching some of the photos next month to provide a little variety.
She has other photo projects in the works. A multimedia project may be next on her list.
“What I would really love to move it into is having women who agree to share their (recovery) story,” she said. “A lot of people wouldn’t want to. They wouldn’t ever want to look at it, or share it.”
Some, however, want others to know what happened to them, and that they’re “growing, changing, moving through it,” McGoey said.
Her dream project would be to collaborate with Tlingit and Haida storytellers.
That would also be multimedia: she would like to record culture-bearers telling legends and stories to accompany images (of her creation). She hopes the project would connect visually-oriented younger generations with legends.
“That’s something that would be a dream dream dream project,” she said. “Maybe when I’m 50.”