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Photographer Explores Her Depression With Vulnerable Self-Portraits

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Photographer Aleksandra Stone came to the United States as a refugee in 1998 after fleeing to Germany from a war-torn country formerly known as Yugoslavia. But despite being what she calls “an active participate of the American dream,” with a new life in Kentucky and a college education, she was still fighting a war inside her own head: depression.

Now, she channels depression and self-scrutiny into a series of bizarre and vulnerable self-portraits, which she calls an “intimate glimpse into my daily struggles with guilt, anxiety, fear and melancholy.”

She hopes her photographs will start a dialogue about the prevalence of mental health issues in society.

“My presence behind the camera has instilled me with a sense of purpose, and given voice to a narrative for which I otherwise lacked words,” she told The Mighty in an email.

For example, one of her photographs (below), represents the psychological stress of being what the world expects us to be, despite feeling differently inside, Stone says. “By utilizing mirror fragments as a sort of camouflage, this photo depicts a coping strategy employed as a means of reflecting back on to the world the very things expected of the individual,” she said. “It’s a conflict we’re all familiar with.”

Stone wears a pink dress and a mask made of sharps of glass. She also has glass adorning her arms. She stands in front of an empty picture frame.
photo: Aleksandra Stone

In another photograph (below), she says she was drawn to a landscape where it’s impossible to tell how much terrain the subject has covered and how much she has left to go. “Living with depression tends to feel akin to trudging through a race just to receive the participation prize,” she said. “For individuals such as myself there is no trophy at the finish line.”

A woman with red hair stands in a bare field. She holds a walking stick and looks upwards.
photo: Aleksandra Stone

Besides giving her depression a voice, Stone said the work keeps her mind busy — an important aspect in her recovery. “Depression tends to feel akin to swimming in an ocean with no sight of land,” she said. “You may tread, swim, or float, but no matter which method you chose, survival requires a constant effort.”

See more from Stone’s self-portrait collection below:

Stone stares into the camera, wearing a golden mask. Her hands are tied together with rope.
“Golden” – photo: Aleksandra Stone
Stone stares into the camera wearing a white mask covering half her fact. The side of her face without a mask shows thickly painted red lipstick.
“Masked” – photo: Aleksandra Stone
A woman stands on fallen logs holding a lantern. She swears a white dress, a white veil and a black blindfold.
Misstep” – photo: Aleksandra Stone
Stones hands are chained to the ceiling. She wears a colorful mask, a beige shirt and black shorts.
Pull” – photo: Aleksandra Stone
Stone lays on train tracks in a white gown.
On Track” – photo: Aleksandra Stone
Nude, Stone lays among rocks, her back towards the camera.
Soft” – photo: Aleksandra Stone
Stone lays curved up in a pile of crinkled tissue paper. Her body is printed with lines.
Doubt” – photo: Aleksandra Stone
Stone holds an old-fashioned telephone. The cord is wrapped around her neck and head.
photo: Aleksandra Stone
Stone lays in a bed of white roses in a purple, sheer top. She holds a black mask to her face.
Prim” – photo: Aleksandra Stone
Stone wears a black dress. She wears a holden cap adorned with clocks, attacked to a clock she holds in her hands with blue and red wires.
Zeit” photo: Aleksandra Stone


Originally published: January 19, 2016
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