Survivor of Extreme Domestic Violence Finds Her Beauty Again In Underwater Photoshoot

Survivor of Extreme Domestic Violence Finds Her Beauty Again In Underwater Photoshoot
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Saundra and her daughter Missy at the Face Forward photoshoot
Saundra and her daughter Missy at the Face Forward photoshoot
GAL Photography

On Saundra’s 28th birthday, she was out celebrating with her husband when she suddenly could not find him. After searching for him for hours, she found her husband with another woman.

He became enraged, took her outside and started yelling and screaming at her. Then he started punching her until she was unconscious. Because of the blunt force trauma she developed a condition called Necrotizing Fasciiti.

Necrotizing Fasciiti is a rare, skin-eating bacteria that made Saundra's face swell, then start rapidly decaying. After 28 surgeries and having half of her back being cut off for skin grafts, Saundra was able to get the infection removed from her face. It took years before Saundra was comfortable enough with her body to live without a constant mask on her face.

Saundra after the beating and developing necrotizing fasiiti
Saundra after the beating and developing necrotizing fasiiti

Recently, Saundra participated in an underwater photoshoot with other victims and several Hollywood celebrities for Face Forward, a non-profit dedicated to helping victims of domestic abuse through reconstructive surgery.

World renowned conceptual underwater photographer Gisele Lubsen donated her time to this project, in hopes to raise awareness and put an end to domestic violence.

Lubsen explained why she chose underwater photography:

Being underwater and doing an underwater session is an extremely fun and timeless experience which is invigorating and empowering. Water is the most nurturing of all elements. As comforting as being inside the womb. Our first relationship was with water. In water we feel limitless and weightless, immortal to a certain degree no longer defined by disease, life struggles or other obstacles we all face during our lives. Being engulfed by nature's purest source, gives us back our zen and serenity.

The shoot also includes captivating images of celebrities and other survivors of domestic abuse who were saved by Face Forward, given reconstructive surgery and other support to help them move forward.

The celebrities included Nia Peeples (Pretty Little Liars), Ashlan Gorse Cousteau (E-News), Chloe Farnworth (Dirtymoney), Sugar Shane Mosley (world champion boxer) and Shane Mosley Jr. (renowned boxer).

The models and the artist go underwater free diving, without an oxygen tank to create the pieces.

Lubsen explained, “I free dive because I believe in the binary. I do not exist without the model opposite me and she not without me so we go down together with my team and up so I can give her feedback and we share and intimate energy and flow. It’s all about creating an personal experience and story.“

The models are wearing red carpet designer, Dalia Maphee’s gowns, which gives a timeless, ethereal look and feel for the images.

"Daisy's Dream" - Depicts Daisy's transition from victim to survivor. In her words "the part of you that dies comes back to life and reminds you how amazing life truly is.
"Daisy's Dream" - Depicts Daisy's transition from victim to survivor. In her words "the part of you that dies comes back to life and reminds you how amazing life truly is.
GAL Photography
"Nia's Forgiveness" - "Forgiveness does not change the past. It breaks the chains that binds your past to your future" In this image Nia Peeples represents true freedom and oneness in her underwater pose. A balance of pure feminine empowerment. She is an amazing dancer so underwater in this truly gorgeous yet very heavy gown she overcame its heavy weight and became truly limitless.
"Nia's Forgiveness" - "Forgiveness does not change the past. It breaks the chains that binds your past to your future" In this image Nia Peeples represents true freedom and oneness in her underwater pose. A balance of pure feminine empowerment. She is an amazing dancer so underwater in this truly gorgeous yet very heavy gown she overcame its heavy weight and became truly limitless.
GAL Photography
"Ashlon's Flight" - Portray's Ashlan Gorse Cousteau's fierce activist character and personality. Helping causes as a modern Nike such as the fight against domestic abuse and also clean oceans. We put the plastic backdrop behind her to enhance this polluted environment in which she spreads her wings to help and protect. She is a trooper and true activist.
"Ashlon's Flight" - Portray's Ashlan Gorse Cousteau's fierce activist character and personality. Helping causes as a modern Nike such as the fight against domestic abuse and also clean oceans. We put the plastic backdrop behind her to enhance this polluted environment in which she spreads her wings to help and protect. She is a trooper and true activist.
GAL Photography
GAL Photography
"Plunge" - British actress Chloe Farnworth did an amazing performance underwater. This piece represents taking the plunge into the Hollywood environment after many successful years of acting in Europe.
"Plunge" - British actress Chloe Farnworth did an amazing performance underwater. This piece represents taking the plunge into the Hollywood environment after many successful years of acting in Europe.
GAL Photography
"ChloeChloe" Water to her was a way to feel free and not judged by anyone. Something she experiences on a daily basis in her field. Chloe was fascinating to photographs since she painted with bubbles underwater her face and made traces in the water with her body as she moved.
"ChloeChloe" Water to her was a way to feel free and not judged by anyone. Something she experiences on a daily basis in her field. Chloe was fascinating to photographs since she painted with bubbles underwater her face and made traces in the water with her body as she moved.
GAL Photography
"Shane 'Sugar' Mosley & Shane Mosley Jr" It was great to have two men on set as well with all the women who are passionate about spreading awareness on Domestic Violence. Ironic I thought in the beginning since they are boxers but from their interview and after having worked with them underwater I realized how beautifully controlled their gestures were. An art form in itself.
"Shane 'Sugar' Mosley & Shane Mosley Jr" It was great to have two men on set as well with all the women who are passionate about spreading awareness on Domestic Violence. Ironic I thought in the beginning since they are boxers but from their interview and after having worked with them underwater I realized how beautifully controlled their gestures were. An art form in itself.
GAL Photography

These art pieces will be auctioned off at the end of October, and the proceeds benefiting Face Forward.

On September 24th, at 6 pm, Face Forward’s ANNUAL FUNDRAISING GALA will take place in the Vibiana in downtown Los Angeles. The event includes special performances by singer/rapper Nelly and more. Latoya Jackson and Sharon Stone are honorary board members and invitees to the gala as well.

More info and about the survivors you can find on the Face Forward website http://www.faceforwardla.org/.

You can see more underwater art pieces by Gisele Lubsen at www.giselelubsen.com.

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