This is Olivia. These photos, made almost exclusively in her one-bedroom apartment during the Winter and Spring of 2016, explore the emotions that accompany self-harm, depression and anxiety. With Olivia I hope to increase awareness and create a place to begin an open dialogue about self-harm. Each photo is paired with a text message from Olivia in the caption.
Over the past several years, I have become increasingly aware of self-harm. As a teacher and volunteer with youth organizations, I began to notice the little tells such as faint scars on inner arms or long sleeves and pants on hot days. Asking "aren't you hot?" always results in uncomfortable silence. I learned there is a problem. I realized I didn’t know how to help. Olivia is one of four women I made contact with about self-harm while I was a photojournalism student at Syracuse University. I almost walked away from this project before it began because I didn’t know what I wanted the project to say. The first day I went to photograph Olivia I went in with one goal, make the best photographs I could. I focused on getting my camera literally and figuratively as close to Olivia as possible. Quickly the project became less about having something to say, less about physical cuts and scars and more about creating a connection with Olivia. These photographs share very raw and intimate feelings that many self-harming teens and young adults keep as a guarded secret. I hope that Olivia can inspire others to find someone to share their secret with.