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(In)visible Illness: A Photographic Collection

Taking inspiration from Jo Spence’s self-representative photography collection, Narratives of Disease (cw: nudity), I wanted to provide insight into my relationship to and with chronic illness using both photography and my body as materials to present my lived experience.

Through these photographs, I illustrate six specific themes or emotions that are most prevalent in my life with illness. My intention with this collection is to both respond to Spence’s work, regarding her artistic expression of what it truly is to live with illness, outside of the objective language of medical environments, and to portray the complexities of my own journey as a chronically ill individual.

Specifically, I hope to demonstrate the ways my so-called invisible illness marks me, both physically and emotionally; to resist the objectification of medical and other social institutions; to make meaning of my experience, both for myself and to connect with others who face similar experiences; and to ultimately narrate my disease in a way that allows others to understand the often arduous reality – both physically and psychologically – of living in a chronically ill body.

black and white photo of hands
black and white photo of woman sitting on the ground with a tube in her stomach and reaching out to take something from a person's hand
black and white photo of a woman standing in her underwear giving herself an injection in her stomach with the word 'inspiration' written across her abdomen
black and white photo of a woman sitting on the ground surrounded by medical equipment
black and white photo of a woman in her underwear holding a tube connected to her stomach
black and white photo of woman standing in just her underwear with a tube in her stomach visible

This story originally appeared on Jennifer Colleen.

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