Photography has therapeutic benefits that can provide catharsis for those who need it. Jessica Hardy has used photography as a from of self help to better understand her relationship with bulimia. Jessica’s photographs revisit past memories and confront the present in one frame.
I have used photography as a form of therapy to consider my past and study my present self. I struggle with bulimia, this started in my last year of university but I had always had an unhealthy relationship with food and my body even before my early teenage years. I created this work as a form of self-help, I wanted to understand what was happening and possibly why.
I started this work by looking through old albums, messages and diaries. I discovered so much that I had forgotten. Inspired by Jo Spence, I wanted to recreate the memories of my past that I thought could have fueled the development of my disorder. Recreating these memories through self-portraits using location and clothing allowed me to confront what had happened, revisiting these moments as who I am now and not who I was then; allowed me to feel like I had moved past these negative times.
Although, I was exploring my past I didn’t want to forget the present. I often get lost in the false perceptions I create about my appearance so the act of photographing my “self’s” forced me really look at myself and not ignore what was happening. I staged portraits doing the things that really defined the bulimia side of me. The body of work is still open and I photograph myself whenever I feel like I want to capture how I’m feeling. At one point I was taking a photo daily, but as soon as I wanted to stop I did and waited until I wanted to pick the camera up again. Shooting the polaroid’s helped me to not over think what I was capturing; it was a quick and easy way of capturing the moment in a raw form.
Before photography, I never really looked at myself, I never saw in the mirror what I see in my portraits. Photography can allow you to discover and accept what has happened. Once I acknowledged that I was struggling, living out an incredibly unhealthy lifestyle I started to process how I could escape it. Without this work, I truly believe I wouldn’t have ever taken the steps to help myself, ignoring the problem would’ve been easier. The project allowed me to open up to friends, family and anyone that I spoke about the work with. Having the images to support me made it easier to speak to people. I felt like I could be understood.
I believe that photography has many therapeutic benefits. The ability it possesses, to allow someone to speak through it is incredible, people can bare their true feelings through the lens and people can gain a greater understanding of how they feel and what they are experiencing. There are so many ways to use photography to express yourself, I focused on self-portraiture but photographers can get messages across through all different forms of imagery. With cameras being a lot more accessible now, it might appeal to a lot of people because they already own the tools to create something.
To see more of Jessica’s work please click here.
Featured image: © Jessica Hardy, Jess After School