New York photographer Donna Ferrato remembers, with perfect clarity, the moment she took one of her best known photographs: “The room was pitch dark,” she says. “It was nine o’clock in the morning and I was there with the cops. And it was just pandemonium.”
The flash image, permanently preserving the iconic scene, would become one of many of Ferrato’s shocking testaments to the rampant violence against women in the home.
In TIME LightBox’s First Take video series, Ferrato speaks to her life’s work, discussing why she wants viewers to care about the people in her photographs. “If I’m just trying to make it nice so that we can sell it and do something, maybe hang it on a wall in a museum, make it more palatable, then I’m not really showing the reality,” she says.
Donna Ferrato is a New York City-based photographer and activist known for her coverage of domestic violence and her neighborhood of Tribeca.
First Take is an ongoing video series curated by TIME’s photography editors.