Professor: Adrian Fish
The Honeymoon Phase started as a way for me to cope with feelings of isolation in a time where my mental illness was at its worst. This project allowed me to express feelings of pain, loneliness and paralyzing anxiety to my partner. It was a way to communicate how I was feeling day-to-day and where I was going in moments of disassociation.
In each image, I confront the camera directly. My partner stands physically close to me, but he is never looking at, nor engaging with me. This photo series is about the feeling of being so close someone, yet still being isolated. There is a social pressure on couples to be so madly in love that there is never a reason to be unhappy.
Dr. Emily Nagoski, a psychology specialist, states that the honeymoon phase “is made of attachment — the wildly powerful biological experience we tend to call “falling in love.” It can last, oh maybe about 4 years, give or take. The initial phase, though isn’t what love is made of; it's the mania of two people who think they know each other way better than they actually do.”
The honeymoon phase does not exist. No amount of love, infatuation or mania heals trauma. This work is a way to explore my feelings with my partner, a personal documentation and performance centred around understanding how I am feeling. These photographs are depictions of the small moments we’ve fabricated within our own personal lives.
While creating this series about mental illness and my relationship, I gathered inspiration from other artists such as Joshua Lutz, Francesca Woodman and Charles Bukowski. Joshua Lutz describes a project within the New York Times’ Pictures of Mental Illness as not consisting of pictures of mental illness, but rather as a series of pictures of people with mental illness. From that moment on, he focused his work on photographing what mental illness feels like rather than what it looks like. Charles Bukowski writes in his book You Get So Alone Sometimes It Just Makes Sense, the crippling loneliness he experiences while struggling with alcoholism and depression. The work created by these artists document what mental illness feels like to them, while the series of photographs I have created exist as a means to document my own encounters with mental illness.
The Honeymoon Phase is about what my mental illness feels like in moments of stillness. It's about being in a cramped, crowded and small apartment. It’s about feeling alone because the other person doesn’t understand. It’s about confronting my own expectations that everything was supposed to be perfect but realizing that nothing is. The reality is that most relationships are just like this one. This is a good relationship, however I am drowning in my own mental illness and no one can save me but me. You can feel so alone that it’s almost like you’re choking, that there is no air around you to breathe. The feeling is so strong that it lingers even when the person you love the most is right next to you. You can be mentally ill and unhappy even with a partner.
Although this project is about loneliness and dissociation, this performative documentation has allowed for some sense of release. The ability to explore moments of illness and feelings of being lost with my partner has been a way to translate what I’m going through. The Honeymoon Phase is a series of photographs expressing the chokehold my mental health has on our relationship. These images are a performance that blend my own disillusions and my own reality.
This series is an exploration of escapism in the 21st century through different means of entertainment, activities, and substances.
Patchwork is a photo book that compares personal family photographs of the past to the present. The images illustrate how the passage of time changes our relationships with each other, our roles as family members, and the places that we have called home. Inspired by my own childhood and family, I wanted to honor the story of small town rural Nova Scotian life.
Growing up throughout rural Nova Scotia, often in houses that were an ambiguous cross between abandoned and a construction zone, I became fascinated with the untold stories of small town rural life. My childhood was spent playing with rocks and dirt alongside my brother, to the grunge-y soundtrack of Alice in Chains. Often on some cracked Nova Scotian highway, moving from house to house, my parents were loners with family values, but without ties to any particular place. I grew up to be the same. Now, when I pass through old rural highways, I view the dilapidated houses that fall at the roadsides and wonder of the stories that accompany them. What happened there?
Among the stories in Patchwork are those of parental sacrifice, particularly regarding traditional gender roles, which are referenced through photographs of birth, marriage, and work duty. My father is shown removing his facial hair in order to properly wear a mask on a flight to his workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as in quarantine after his return, while my mother is shown in past portraits at her wedding and directly after giving birth to me.
Patchwork also shows how the passage of time can reveal dilapidated relationships. From an old album, I picked out a portrait of my brother and I on the lap of my maternal grandfather, next to my uncle and his girlfriend at the time. Compared to the old portrait, the contemporary photograph of his now abandoned house portrays the reality of his relationship to us. Although he is still alive, since my mother's childhood, he was more interested in pursuing other families and lifestyles rather than ours. I was very young, but I still have memories of this day, and the context of the contemporary image reveals the truth of the narrative behind the fake smiles from the past.
Reflecting on my inspirations for Patchwork, aside from my own personal experiences, I must mention how encouraging it was to view other work that delved into themes of family and home in an intimate manner, such as Alessandra Sanguinetti’s intimate and ongoing The Adventures series, and Margot Walard’s intimate photo journals. One of my biggest challenges while creating this project was fearing its vulnerability, until I accepted that its authentic point of view was its greatest strength.
Through these inspirations, I learned just how universal personal imagery can be, especially regarding the concept of the effect of time on familial relationships and the home. Although experiences differ between individuals, everyone can empathize because we all have had some experience with these concepts, with our families presenting very intimately in our lives, and influencing who we become.
Home is the soil where we are planted, its conditions never perfect. Our roots may lead us elsewhere, but who and where we came from is inescapable. Some of us may find it easy to honor this. Some may have to make peace.