Laura Hospes Documents Her Stay At a Psychiatric Hospital With Powerful Self-Portraits

Update Oct. 20: You can now find Laura Hospes’ work in a book entitled “UCP.” 

When Dutch photographer and student Laura Hospes was hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital, she processed the experience one of the only ways she knew how — through her lens.

Now her photo series, “UCP-UMCG,” named after the psychiatric hospital in the Netherlands where she stayed, documents the 21-year-old’s journey to recovery through a series of self-portraits. After a suicide attempt, she began treatment for depression and an eating disorder, according to the Daily Mail.

During her stay, Hospes told The Mighty in an email, she was allowed to have one item in her room.

“I had no difficulties having my camera with me, only when I had to stay in an isolation room I couldn’t photograph anymore. But after a couple of days the rules were less strictly and I was able to have one item in my room. I changed from camera to laptop to phone etc.” she told The Mighty.

Feeling overwhelmed and confused when she first entered the hospital, Hospes used photography as a way to rediscover herself.

“I couldn’t make contact with my own emotions and I felt like I was floating somewhere in the air with heavy stones tied on my whole body,” she told The Mighty. “After a month I slowly found myself back and the emotions screamed in my head. I was extremely sad or extremely angry. I felt so desolated in hospital, even if there were friend or family around me.”

The photo series won the photographer a spot on LensCulture’s list of 50 best emerging photographers for 2015 in the LensCulture Emerging Talent Awards.

“At first, I made this complete series for myself, to deal with the difficulties and express my feelings,” Hospes told The Mighty. “After that, I want to inspire people who are or have been in a psychiatric hospital. I want them to see my pictures and recognize themselves in it. I hope they feel taken seriously, less crazy and less alone.”

See her power self-portraits below:

laura self portrait
photo: Laura Hospes
laying against bed side
photo: Laura Hospes
front, blurred portrait
photo: Laura Hospes
close up gripping shoulder and wincing
photo: Laura Hospes
back view of laying on bed
photo: Laura Hospes
profile portrait
photo: Laura Hospes
front portrait, hair covering half of face
photo: Laura Hospes
screaming in a corner
photo: Laura Hospes
serious hunched over portrait
photo: Laura Hospes
close up, looking worried
photo: Laura Hospes
shoulder-up photo
photo: Laura Hospes
sitting on chair
photo: Laura Hospes
hunched over on bed
photo: Laura Hospes
blurred, laying on bed
photo: Laura Hospes
close up, head back
photo: Laura Hospes
crumpled tissue in her mouth
photo: Laura Hospes
hunched over naked on bed
photo: Laura Hospes

To see more of Laura’s work, visit her website.

Clarification: Information has been added to this piece about the location of the hospital and the nature of her stay.

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Mental Health

34 Mental Health Tips Every Incoming Freshman Needs to Hear

Going to college changes…well, almost everything. For many incoming students, it’s their first time living away from home, managing their diets, having a flexible schedule and being away from family and childhood friends. While the transition can be hard for everyone, college also marks an age when mental health issues can start to arise. Half [...]
depressed cookies with gray frosting and frowny faces

Why These Depressed Cookies Are Good for Mental Health

photo: The Depressed Cake Shop While it might be unnerving to see a cookie cry, these cookie are frowning for a good cause. They’re part of The Depressed Cake Shop, a pop-up bake shop that donates all of its proceeds to mental health efforts.  U.K.-based creative director Emma Thomas cooked up the original concept in August [...]
girl scout mental health awareness patch

Girl Scouts Can Now Earn a Mental Health Awareness Patch

At the age when many young girls get “the talk,” learn about their bodies and experience the glories of puberty, not often do they get a chance to learn about their brains. Now, in an effort to educate young girls about just that, Girl Scouts can earn a patch in mental health awareness. The program was created [...]

A Mother and Daughter's Unexpected Path to Mental Health Recovery

After a tough move to a new state, Rebecka Green started skipping breakfast. Then, she ate a small lunch at school. One day when she stepped on the scale, the then seventh grader realized she’d lost 20 pounds. “Then it became an obsession, and I started to restrict on purpose,” she says in the Kickstarter [...]