Pain and art

Excerpt from my Photography Journal for College, 2014. Topic set for the class “Self Portrait – Reflections – Identity

It’s not about ‘managing’ pain. How do you eat pain? Do you drink it? Or breathe it? Does it stay locked in your body, in muscles like rocks that strain to armour you against the world? In a stomach of snakes writhing, in eyes that are dry and blink too much? Do you find some way to digest it? Grind it down into small pieces with poetry, wash it out with tears? Do you hold onto it, storing each memory, like wine, ink on skin with tattoos? If you are suffering unbearably you had better find a way. All of us will one day need a way to bear unbearable pain. All of us will need ways to grieve, to be emptied, to be changed, to be burned to ashes, and to live.


I use the metaphor of fire for pain, a lot. I wonder if I can reflect flame onto my skin? Or into water? The dead leaves in the pool work well as a metaphor. Loss, autumn, winter, death. Rotting down.

There is an ocean of pain in me
Some days the tides
Are high and I drown –
But I do not drown. 


When I’m sick my world becomes:

  • Bed
  • Bath
  • Armchair
  • Computer
  • Toilet
  • Fridge

What’s the point?
What am I saying?
What questions am I asking?
What am I showing that hasn’t been seen before?
What am I exploring that I’ve never shown?

I talk about pain and shame but I don’t show photos of my sink full of dishes.
It doesn’t seem like enough to just show the illness. Why? Why do that? It will make people uncomfortable. Feels like self pity. I want to – show something people don’t usually get to see. Tell a side of the story that is about more than loss. What don’t we tell about?

  • Transcendence
  • Spirituality
  • Rage
  • Hope

No one sees me paint in the bath when my pain is bad but I’m desperate to create. There’s something there – raw – an energy – will to overcome.

People think sick people’s lives are boring and worthless. We are useless, lazy or objects of pity. We are defined by our conditions. We are forced to be naked in public – wearing our private personas in the public arena without the protection of a job to use when answering the question “So, what do you do?”. Can I answer that question in a zine in honest, unexpected ways?

So, what am I making for this zine? I want to photograph my soul. I’m crazy.

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