Food culture has always been fascinating to me, especially when it comes to the arts. Early luscious still life oil paintings were widely criticized by the church because they allegedly provoked unclean thoughts about sensual pleasures. Nowadays, the process of food consumption is nearly glorified in our society - and so are unrealistic expectations when it comes to a female body image. One of the most disturbing aspects of it is a spread of severe eating disorders among adolescent girls. This twisted emotional connection between a perceived ideal, consumerism and nature led me to producing a series of photographs that reflect on striving for unattainable perfection.
This project started in 2009 and originally was supposed to be a straight-forward documentation of teenagers struggling with anorexia and bulimia. But after a few interviews, I decided to go beyond somber portraits in blank hospital rooms. Images of incredibly skinny girls, as disturbing as they can be, are fetishized on-line, and often serve as additional motivation to loose weight, especially when accompanied by hashtags such as #thinspiration, #bikinibridge and #thighgap.
Instead, I made an attempt to portray experiences, both emotional and physical, using food. Extreme diets, sometimes as low as 500 calories a day, peculiar eating habits, such as choosing only one type of food, heavy make-up, self-mutilation - are all just some of the methods that are used to handle a feeling of inadequacy and depression. One of the ways to deal with hunger is to constantly eat low-carb foods that temporary fill up the stomach, such as celery and lettuce, but some girls go into extremes, for instance, soaking cotton balls in peach juice and swallowing them. Others constantly purge, keep diaries with exact measurements, and use support of pro-ana communities. Whatever the coping mechanisms might be, the sense of pain and emptiness is often overwhelming, and anorexia remains the deadliest mental health disorder in the U.S. among teens.