Elena Helfrecht emailed me about her series The Silent Dialogue recently. When I first looked at the photographs, I was struck by how beautiful, and how affecting, they are. In our correspondence, Helfrecht told me that she feels there is a lack of photographic work dealing with self-harm, and that the issue is mostly overlooked by society. I agree. While I personally find the images almost too much to bear, I deeply appreciate them. Not only do the photographs address self-harm in connection to mental illness, they specifically explore femininity, and use animal/natural symbols to create another layer of meaning.

I found myself dwelling on this work a lot leading up to the publication of this post. Helfrecht mentioned to me that, due to their graphic nature, the images are difficult to responsibly show to a wider public. But it’s important work. It reminds me of a series I made in college, What Waited for Me. The images I made use the female body and self-harm scars (my own) paired with animal parts to create metaphors surrounding suffering and emotional turmoil. It was cathartic for me to make, and I think work like this is, in a way, cathartic to look at.

From the artist’s statement: “The Silent Dialogue” is a series of conceptually documenting self portraits from 2014 to 2017. Born out of affective visions and impulses, each image deals with specific aspects of femininity connected to depression and emotionally unstable personality disorder. The single photographs can be seen as fragments yielding a mirror to reflect, while creating a visual portal to subconsciousness. A physiognomic identity is avoided in order to focus on the skin and its storytelling, elevating personal insights to an abstract and associative shared knowledge. Through the lens the subject merges with the observer, giving an objective access to an idiosyncratic perception. The body is treated as a book to be read – opening an entrance to a world beneath the signs.


Visit artist's site: elenahelfrecht.com