I used to keep diaries when I was younger. I wrote a lot. I remember my younger self being a shy person who never dared to reveal anything about herself, her thoughts, or her feelings to anybody. My diaries took the place of that one good friend who always listened but never judged. I found nearly two decades worth of my old diaries at my parents’ house when I went to visit them this past summer. It’s painful to read them because they are very clearly written by a person who’s full of self-hatred. These are direct quotes (although translated from various languages that I used to write throughout my teenage and young adulthood years) from my many diaries:
Tears welled up in my eyes reading page after page of hurtful words that I scribbled down in desperation. Hurtful words that describe how I viewed myself. I didn’t have to feel that way. Looking back, I know I wasn’t that worthless disgrace to the human race that I had convinced myself of being. I really wasn’t. I was naive as a teenager for sure, but aren’t most of them?
Pain has inspired many an artist to create. While I’m not trying to call myself a true artist here, reading my diaries and mentally living through the pain that I described on those pages did inspire me to tell the story in images. Sort of as a closure for myself, a way of making peace with what was. The first image took form in my head already before I left Sweden, but I wasn’t quite sure how to best execute it so I kept postponing it for months. The end result wasn’t exactly how I had imagined it because of one big issue beyond my control – I meant to shoot it through an open window in our guestroom, but I found out at the last minute that the window that I needed to use didn’t actually open. Having the image shot through a closed window with grill gives it a very different feel than what I had originally planned, but I think the message it’s meant to convey is still the same.
I’m struggling thinking that the next image is too “spelled out,” both literally and figuratively, but does it really matter if it is? It’s me, just like I was sitting many nights with tears wetting the pages of my diaries bashing myself and desperately wanting to be somebody else or just disappear.
This next image was actually not planned at all. I took it at the very end of the session shooting the prior image, mostly testing a type of lighting I had wanted to learn how to do – I didn’t didn’t figure it out that night, but I have, sort of, since – not thinking at all that I would use any of those test shots for my project. Yet this one seemed to fit well.
This final image image – the image of my back reflected in three mirrors I had set up in my studio – took me a lot of head scratching. I had to figure out where to place the camera and the lights to capture the full image of my back while not having the camera or the lights reflected in any of the mirrors, in addition to trying to avoid lens flare from the lights that I had to point toward the camera to illuminate my back.
I’m thankful that over the course of the past six or seven years I have finally started to realize that those words apply to me as little as they apply to anybody else. It took me having my first child to consciously start working toward being kind to myself because I didn’t want her to grow up with a mother who hates herself. I’m not stupid, or ugly, or nasty, or despicable, or worthless. I’m ok, with still some room to improve.