WOMEN
10/26/2015 05:30 pm ET Updated Oct 27, 2015

Woman's Haunting Self-Portraits Pair Bob Dylan Lyrics With Texts From Her Abusive Ex

"It took months for me to admit, even to myself, that what he did to me was rape."
Melissa Smyth

One woman paired Bob Dylan lyrics with the texts messages from her accused rapist -- and the results are utterly riveting. 

Amateur photographer, Melissa Smyth, recently created a photo series called "Lay Lady Lay" to cope with the emotional turmoil of being raped multiple times by a former partner in 2014. The series is a haunting combination of 17 self-portraits of Smyth paired with the threatening texts from her ex and the lyrics from Bob Dylan's 1969 song, "Lay, Lady, Lay." 

"It took months for me to admit, even to myself, that what he did to me was rape, which was the first step in a liberating process that continued with this project," Smyth told The Huffington Post.

Smyth took the photos over the course of a six-month period. Some of the self-portraits are reenactments of specific memories during the time she was with her partner, while others represent the feelings she dealt with as she created the series. 

The sweet and romantic tunes of Dylan's "Lay, Lady, Lay" take on a very different meaning when written next to the text messages from Smyth's alleged rapist. 

Melissa Smyth
Melissa Smyth

Smyth said that she was raped for the first time by her ex after she had ended the relationship in winter 2014. She said that the project was a way to heal herself after enduring manipulation, sexual violence and gas-lighting, which is a rather insidious form of mental abuse many domestic violence survivors experience, from her former partner.

She told HuffPost she chose this unique combination of words and images because it gave her her voice back after enduring such a traumatic experience. "[It] allowed me to comment on the way he objectified and abused me, to negate his attempts to define me, and to articulate the gravity of experiencing sexual violence," Smyth said.

"[It] allowed me to comment on the way he objectified and abused me, to negate his attempts to define me, and to articulate the gravity of experiencing sexual violence."

"It’s a romantic song, but each line in isolation begins to suggest voyeurism and subjugation, placing the woman in service of the man’s desires," she said. "In a way, this illustrates what I hope to express about the complexity of our relationships, how manipulation and abuse can be glossed over in terms of love and dependence, and what one can reveal by digging through the surface to articulate one’s own self."

The last image in the series shows Smyth outdoors surrounded by colorful flowers and she said it represents her recovery after being assaulted. "By appropriating and re-contextualizing his words, I claimed narrative control over the events and ultimately emerged from his hold," she said. "I waited a while before making the final image, which represents this emergence, until I felt truly healed and complete again."

Scroll below to see the rest of Smyth's haunting series.

Warning: Images below may be considered NSFW to some readers. 

  • Melissa Smyth
  • Melissa Smyth
  • Melissa Smyth
  • Melissa Smyth
  • Melissa Smyth
  • Melissa Smyth
  • Melissa Smyth
  • Melissa Smyth
  • Melissa Smyth
  • Melissa Smyth
  • Melissa Smyth
  • Melissa Smyth
  • Melissa Smyth
  • Melissa Smyth
  • Melissa Smyth
  • Melissa Smyth
  • Melissa Smyth

Head over to Smyth's website to see more of her work. 

Also on HuffPost: 

PHOTO GALLERY
40 Powerful Images Of Surviving Sexual Assault
CONVERSATIONS