Self-Portrait with my Mother

I began a series of exploration within myself because I was dissatisfied with the unresolved feelings I was experiencing in regards to my own worth. I would often create work about moments I was delved into my destructive behaviour, but it became a sort of glorification, perhaps a way for the world to validate the fact that I was slipping. I spent three weeks photographing myself in various places, and like I believe many people experience, it transcended into a place where I realized I was focusing on myself in a critical way.

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Every nook and cranny became personal to me, and I was afraid to share it. I came to understand this came from a harvested and unresolved issue regarding my mother’s battle with breast cancer. Through much contemplation, I realized I wanted to photograph her as a way to portray my own insecurities and myself.

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When my mother was diagnosed, she had a mastectomy and struggled with feeling beautiful when chemotherapy took her hair and made her gain unwanted weight. It was like she had aged overnight, from a powerful woman who was taking care of my family, to a woman who needed to be taken care of. I, for much of my teenage life, resented the idea of losing someone I loved because it came so close to happening. I closed myself off, and slowly began to control food as a way to hold some comfort in my quite bleak outlook. I will never blame my mother for my own hardships, but I believe the two played important roles in the human being I am now. Over time, my mother and I both got better, by that I mean we were “no longer in danger of death”. I say that because illness, whether it be mental or physical, takes a toll on a lot more than just your outward appearance. When I began to photograph my mother, I found it increasingly difficult to put myself in a vulnerable position with her. It was as if so much conversation had failed to take place over so many years. At one point, when she took off her shirt and exposed her scar, I began crying. She looked at me with questioning eyes and asked why I was so emotional. I answered with this,

“Your braveness, I have never told you, but it made me get better. You are beautiful because of what you have gone through”.

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I think this has transcended with ease into a place where I am coping well with things finally. I have found it difficult to muster expression and passion in a field I feel I have no voice in, and I wanted to create a body of work that was resolved. Although this is far from resolved in terms of a self-portrait, it has allowed me to touch upon a place I kept so out of reach for so long. My mother and I look each other in the eyes now with love, and a mutual respect for our battles. That is more than what I could have ever asked for. Thank you.

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When We Used To Love Things That Were Beautiful

we were screaming in the car,
over the fact that you no longer had eyelashes,
and i no longer wanted to live.
how is it fair that a mother has to watch her daughter slowly die,
the end of quiet pain and too many bruised necks and I’m sorry but
im not.
i got in the car with a boy who was drunk,
but i wasn’t afraid.
now, tears blurring my vision in the backseat of this minivan,
im fucking petrified.
that the cancer is going to come back,
and I’m never going to be in love.
you still look gorgeous without eyelashes,
but in my haste i forget to tell you,
and we leave with doors slamming and words left unsaid.
hanging in the air like thick pockets of unspoken university debt.
I’m up to my ears in it,
this ability to love you,
but this knowledge that i am perpetually,
completely,
unhappy.
then, our big clumsy hearts knocks and we both answer,
“hello, I’m sorry. i love you. goodnight”.

Artist’s Statement

I decided to create a series that centred around the relationship between my mom & I after she beat breast cancer. It was never something I used to talk about much, and i think that is because for a long time I pretended it never happened.

 

In second year, I fell victim to severe anxiety and mood swings. I blamed it on my heartbreak from the summer, but realistically it was from so many other things. One night my mom drove me home and we fought the entire time. It was the heated conversation in which you say things you regret, and I told my mom she wasn’t as beautiful as she used to be. We both cried then, a quite puddle of hurt and pain,

and I never got over it.

These photographs are a visual representation of that fight. Of the fact that you can’t wash away pain in an easy way. For months, my mother and I were not the same, and I can honestly say the worst feeling in the world is disappointing a person you love more than yourself.

This is for the people who don’t know words hurt. This is for the people who have been hurt. And this is for my mom,

I’m sorry.

You are the bravest person in the world and I am sorry breast cancer compromised that.

 

On Acceptance

 Solitude

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” the first time I was  introduced to Edward, we were both drunk at a party. He introduced himself as Rama and had shockingly pink hair. Over the months, we grew close.

The first time i was properly introduced to Edward, we sat on a public bench for hours. we spoke lots, because there was lots to talk about but after a while he pulled out his notebook, and grew quiet. That was a beautiful moment to observe, the silence of a person sitting next to you. I learned, that day, that Edward is capable of experiencing moments within himself, and only for himself. It was one of the defining moments in our friendship. ”

Transforming

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” A few weeks ago Edward called me, with an unsteadiness in his voice. He had been getting testosterone shots for almost seven weeks, and was beginning to feel like things were moving to quickly. He told me he was not ready for his voice to change yet or to develop facial hair, having grown comfortable in the body he inhabited for what it was. I smiled across the line, and told him I was happy to support him in any decision he made. The thing is, society forces us to believe we need to identify with a specific gender or status quo to “legitimatize” our existence. The best we can hope for is that over time, we grow to love who we are for who we are. Edward still uses male pronouns, but is taking time now to love himself like we all should, with pride and acceptance”

Being 

” This documentary series has been more than simply a school project to me, I’ve developed a life long relationship with a person who has taught me more about identity and self-awareness than i could have ever asked for. Edward, this is for you. For others to learn from you, and realize that we are, meant to be, exactly the way we want. It is no ones place to tell us differently. Thank you for teaching me that.”