a project by Caroline Burrows
Who am I? - I'm a woman, a mother, a child abuse survivor (but I make a face as I type that because it does not define me). I'm a recent Social Sciences graduate and I live in Brighton. I'm 48 which always genuinely surprises me as I really haven't finished being 20 yet.
In 'see me hide' I attempt to illustrate my ongoing exploration of the adverse effects of complex childhood trauma on my adult relationships and interactions. It's a series of self portraits in which I am often naked, sometimes blurred and occasionally bleeding, but always hiding who I am, while imploring the viewer to really see me. I'm asking, and I really do want to know: What is it like to be seen? What is it like to be heard?
What is it like to be seen? What is it like to be heard?
Mental Health, my own mental health, is vital to me. "Mental Health" is very difficult to define however. I firmly believe that there is no such thing as "normal", which makes the concepts of illness and wellness entirely subjective. There seem to be clearly defined symptoms of mental illness, but no clear benchmarks for mental wellness. I think that people need to get to know themselves to be able to know what is well for them and what is unwell, but that level of self awareness takes a great deal of work, and I wonder if anyone ever really attains it.
I've always been interested in photography but I never knew enough about how to make a camera work for me until I was given my first fully manual mirrorless camera two years ago. Since then my interest has developed into a passion. I've always looked to see if I recognize myself in photographs that other people have taken of me, and in my own self portraiture I'm still looking for a me that I recognize. Even though I'm often naked in my self portraits in 'see me hide' I don't find them nearly as revealing or as exposing or as raw as the words I've written to accompany them.
If you had one message for our readers, what would it be?
A message for Peculiars readers - I would say don't carry other people's shame for them. It's heavy and it's cumbersome and it will burden you and you don't need to because it really really isn't yours.
Any inspirations to share?
Francesca Woodman. I love her work and her humour and her cynicism and her use of herself as a model, not as self portraits as such but as the subject (or object) in her photographs. I'm inspired by artists who work in self portraiture or who use themselves as models for their pictures, and who use that approach to explore or express who they are and how they see the world. Robert Mapplethorpe for the way that his photographs are beautiful but push boundaries and push viewers and push norms. I love the way that Vivien Maier just got on with taking photographs for herself throughout her life, without receiving any recognition while she was taking them or while she was alive. I found Anja Niemi's project 'She Could have been a Cowboy' very inspiring, in which she dresses up as both a woman trapped at home in a pink dress and the cowboy that she dreams of being, capturing for me the juxtaposition between conforming to other people's expectations and the freedom of being who you know yourself to be. I fell for Munch's depiction of Puberty and stared at it for what felt like ages, feeling once again the awkwardness of being a teenage girl, how it felt to be becoming sexually attractive and simultaneously incredibly self conscious, and marveling at the way he captured it, as if he knew. I also love the incredibly beautiful darkness in Francis Bacon's work.
Writers who inspire me are too numerous to list here, but I've loved Thomas Hardy and the characters in his novels since I studied his work as a teenager. I've loved Tom Robbins for nearly as long and have devoured every novel he's written. Also Will Self, Jonathan Franzen, Toni Morrison, Kate Atkinson, Arundhati Roy, Martin Amis. My favourite book is The Bone People by Keri Hulme, and my copy of that novel is one of my most important possessions.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Caroline is a self taught photographer and was born in Oxford. She have lived in Brighton in the UK since 1989.
Find Caroline's entire project over here.