You Have Nothing to Worry About.
A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of the Photography Department in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Fine Arts in Photography at The Savannah College of Art and Design Melissa Audrey Spitz Savannah, Georgia © May, 2014
Thesis Committee Chair, Jenny Kuhla Thesis Committee Member, Liz Darlington Thesis Committee Member, Josh Jalbert
Table of Contents
Body of paper
The Document within Contemporary Art
Images of Female Hysteria
Figures 1. Deborah Adams, Forensic Self-portrait .................................................................... 5 2. George Luys, Emotions, 1887, Invention of Hysteria ................................................ 9 3. Melissa Spitz, Sue, Debbie and Renee, Archival Ink Jet Print, 2013 ................................. 12 4. Excerpt from Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper and Deborah Adams, Journal Entry ........................................................................................................................... 13
5. Deborah Adams, Journal Entries .................................................................................... 14 6. Melissa Spitz, Mom Looking at Work, Archival Ink Jet Print, 2013 .................................. 15 7. Albert Londe, “Hysterical Sleep” from La photographie médicale, 1893 .......................... 17 8. Melissa Spitz, Saying Goodnight, Archival Ink Jet Print, 2013......................................... 17 9. Sage Sohier, Mum in Her Bathtub, pigment print, 2002 ................................................... 19 10. Tierney Gearon, Untitled, pigment print, 2006 ................................................................ 20 11. Melissa Spitz, exhibition view of New Make Up, Vinyl Decal, 204x108, 2014.................. 21 12. Melissa Spitz, Scream, Archival Inkjet Print, 2013 ......................................................... 22
Spitz 2 You Have Nothing to Worry About.
Melissa Audrey Spitz May, 2014
The body of work, You Have Nothing to Worry About, is a photographic narrative following the life of my mother, Deborah Adams, who suffers from mental illness and addiction. Both are epidemic in the United States, and my mother has consistently been over-medicated. My initial intent for this body of work was to acknowledge a family history of abuse. By viewing and apprehending these moments of chaos through my viewfinder, I have been able to capture my mother’s behavior and a reflection of my own emotions toward the situation. The work defines photography as a conversation. It is a heteroglossic relationship between me, the operator of the camera, and my mother, the subject. The diaristic documents of our personal relationship create consistency and some degree of understanding out of chaos.
Spitz 3 Introduction Throughout history, mental illness has been defined and managed in a variety of ways. As early as 400 B.C., Hippocrates acknowledged mental illness as a medical condition and proposed means of treatment.1 However, Hippocrates’ humanistic approach would not be embraced for centuries. Until relatively recently, mental illness has variously been considered an effect of demonic possession and treated with religious ritual, or individuals suffering with mental illness have been grouped with criminals and treated as such. By the 1900s the number of hospitalized mentally ill patients was rising, and psychoanalytical therapeutic methods were being employed as a means of treatment. By 1955, there were 560,000 people hospitalized for mental illness in the United States; this is the highest number in American history.2 My mother, Deborah Adams, was born one year prior in 1954. The epidemic of mental illness continued, taking my mother with it. By the mid- 1950s, anti-psychotic drugs were being developed, and they aided in the release from institutions of a great majority of the mentally ill. This resulted in an unforeseen increase in homelessness, and in 1980 it was estimated that one third of the homeless population was mentally ill. In December 1987, the FDA approved Prozac, and since then, the development of pharmaceuticals intended for the treatment of mental illness has increased exponentially. I was born one year later in 1988. There are gaps in my childhood memories, and, as is the case with most people, family photographs fill these voids. Photography has given many people the opportunity to organize and understand their personal histories. I grew up hearing horror stories from my mother—most notably, her sister’s crimes of setting a baby bird on fire, cutting off a girl’s finger with hedge clippers, and drowning a puppy in a baby pool. Whether or not these stories are true, I do know that my mother had a traumatic childhood and that I come from a long line of mothers who abused their daughters.
PBS Online, “A Brilliant Madness: Treatments for Mental Illness,” www.pbs.org, April 13, 2014, accessed April 13, 2014, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/nash/timeline/index.html. 2 Ibid.
Spitz 4 When I was six years old, my mother was institutionalized after numerous paranoid episodes during which she called the police to report that there were people in our home who were trying to kill us. To protect me from these imagined home invaders, my mother would tell me to hide in the bathtub and keep quiet; I was a child and I trusted her. At the time, my father was working for Microsoft in Germany, and my older brother was at summer camp. On the day she was taken away, I stood alone in the driveway facing the back of the ambulance as they situated my mom. I watched them drive away, and I was placed in the custody of our neighbors. No one ever informed me that my mother was delusional, that there was no one coming to kill me. I was unaware that I had been fed the paranoid delusions of a sick parent. When my father returned from Germany, he justified my mother’s irrational behavior as a mental disability and stayed committed to the marriage for as long as he reasonably could. However, my mother’s downward spiral of mental illness, physical illness (breast cancer), prescription pill addiction, alcoholism, and physical and verbal abuse ultimately pulled our family apart. Eleven years after her first mental breakdown, my parents’ lengthy divorce began. Over the next few years, I had little parental supervision and free access to extensive divorce paperwork. I discovered photographs that had been staged by my mother and that were intended for forensic use in the divorce trial. My mother suffers from anemia and has always bruised very easily. These photographic documents of her bruises were intended to prove that my father had abused her; her motive was to gain more financial support from him (fig. 1).
Figure 1: Deborah Adams, Forensic self-portrait, 2006, Commercial lab printed snapshot, Courtesy of Deborah Adams.
This highlighted for me the tenuous relationship between photography and “truth.” I was in disbelief that others could believe something that I knew was pure, manipulated fiction. In 2009, after a lifetime of dealing with this situation, I took my camera home and began to shoot. At the time I was unaware that other artists were using the camera to explore their personal histories; I was simply observing what home had become. Susan Sontag states, “Shock can become familiar. Shock can wear off.”3 Seeing my living situation through a camera viewfinder, I came to the realization that I had become callused, that I was inured by shock. You Have Nothing to Worry About is a complex and difficult body of work that can be broadly defined as documentary photography. The photographs are simultaneously upsetting and encouraging; honest and theatrical; loving and hateful. Corresponding to my mother’s current bipolar diagnosis, conflating these seeming binary opposites is the only way to make 3
Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others New York: Picador/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003, 82.
Spitz 6 photographs of her that are remotely valid. By turning the camera toward my mother and my relationship with her, I capture her behavior as an echo of my own emotional response. Similar to Freudian “talking cures,” the images function like a conversation, but to what extent can reliable photographic documentation be achieved when both participants (camera operator and subject) engage in a familiar and familial dance?
The Document within Contemporary Art Since its invention, the camera has been trusted to reveal what the eye could not.4 We rely on photographs for social, historical, and scientific documentation, and we collect and archive these images for research purposes. “[Photographs] were not only intended to record reality, but in fact to explain that reality.”5 My photographic documents of my mother are a tool for understanding; photography enables me to isolate particular situations and to revisit them later. They also provide the viewer with a reasonable amount of truth. Some of what they depict might seem unbelievable, but these events actually happened, as my photographs are my witness. Within contemporary art, the aesthetics and agenda of documentary photography have evolved.6 In Documentary Now! Frits Gierstberg and Ine Gevers say, “Photographers and artists have shifted their attention to ‘the small,’ the personal. The goal, it seems, is no longer to change the world but to know it.”7 This echoes John Szarkowski’s assessment of the work of Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, and Garry Winogrand and the 1967 MoMA exhibition of their work, New Documents. Szarkowski says, “In the past decade this new generation of photographers has redirected the technique and aesthetic of documentary photography to more personal ends.”8 Susan Sontag (in adopting a quotation from dancer, Bella Lewitzky), says, “Making social comment is an artificial place for an artist to start from. If an artist is touched by some 4
Frits Gierstberg and Ine Gevers. Documentary Now! (City: NAi Publishers, 2006), 87 Ibid. 6 Mark Nash, “Reality in the Age of Aesthetics.” Frieze no. 114 (April, 2008): 1-13. Accessed May 15, 2014. http://www.frieze.com/issue/article/reality_in_the_age_of_aesthetics/. 7 Gierstberg and Gevers, 95. 8 John Szarkowski quoted in New Documents exhibition press release, February 28, 1967, http://www.moma.org/momaorg/shared/pdfs/docs/press_archives/3860/releases/MOMA_1967_JanJune_0034_21.pdf?2010 (accessed 5/16/2014) 5
Spitz 7 social condition, what the artist creates will reflect that, but you can't force it.”9 You Have Nothing to Worry About is a document of my own, personal situation. I understand that these photographs will not effect marked changes in attitudes towards mental illness and that they will certainly not make my mother “better.” However, I have learned from the process, and I know my mother has too.
Images of Female Hysteria The word, hysteria, is a derivation of the term, usteria which means, “all the way back, at the limit: the womb.” Until the end of the 19th century, many medical doctors believed that a woman’s uterus was an animal-like entity that could freely move around the body— that it could travel to the brain, suffocate it, and cause women to act irrationally.10 In explaining this to my mother, she mentioned her own hysterectomy. She revealed to me that as a teenager her hormones would always get her in trouble. My father seconded this and said that at the beginning of their relationship, my mother would have fits of anger that she blamed on her period. Is it possible that dated and disproved ideas from the late 1880s have stuck with women of the 20th century? As a means of subduing her hormones and keeping her more stable, my mother’s uterus was surgically removed in 1998. It seems that the concept of the uterus as a cause of female mental instability persists. Photography has played a major role in the construction and dissemination of what mental illness looks like, and by the late 19th century, photography was being used in the institutional environment as a means of scientific documentation. The Pitié-Salpêtrière in Paris was an institution that began housing “madwomen” in 1690. The conditions were poor, and in 1862, the year that Jean-Martin Charcot began working at the facility, 254 women died from insanity. The specific causes of death were documented as masturbation, erotomania, alcoholism, 9
Susan Sontag quoted in Robert Andrews, The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), 58, accessed May 20, 2014, http://books.google.com/books?id=4cl5c4T9LWkC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&c ad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false. 10 George Didi-Huberman, Invention of Hysteria: Charcot and the Photographic Iconography of the Salpetriere(Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2003), 68.
Spitz 8 love, nostalgia, misery and unknown causes.11 In the development of his photographic studies of madwomen, Charcot built upon Franz Joseph Gall’s phrenology studies. Similar to police photographs of criminals, Charcot photographed madwomen in order to track and organize Salpêtrière patients. From Charcot’s perspective, the camera was a tool of truth, and in response to detractors and skeptics, he makes the following claim: It would seem that hystero-epilepsy exists only in France and only, I might say, as has sometimes been said, at the Salpêtrière, as if I had forged it through the power of my will. It would be truly fantastic if I could create ailments as my whim or fancy dictate. But, truth to tell, in this I am nothing more than a photographer; I inscribe what I see…12 The camera was seen as a reliable tool for scientific observation; it accurately rendered and fixed a subject before the lens. Its response was immediate—a photograph of a madwoman did not need narration or testimony—the image possessed something more telling than any written account and, thus, it was accepted as factual. What was not taken into account was the degree to which the camera can encourage certain behaviors, that the camera creates a particular type of situation, and that the object, the photograph, can travel away from its original context. Charcot held regular, Tuesday night demonstrations for affluent members of society and allowed this audience to feast their eyes on the exotic madwomen who were directed to perform skits for the public—supposedly as a means of cathartic treatment. These demonstrations, which were ostensibly intended to provide insight into the plight of Salpêtrière patients, were, in fact, an exploitive, titillating spectacle. Charcot, who wanted to justify his findings of hysteria in women, used photography to create its appearance. I do not mean to assume or suggest that these women did not suffer from some sort of mental illness, but from my own experience photographing my mother, I have come to understand the degree to which the camera (and its operator) can encourage people to act (fig. 2). 11
Ibid., 13-15. Jean-Martin Charcot quoted in Invention of Hysteria: Charcot and the Photographic Iconography of the Salpêtrière by George Didi-Huberman (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2003), 29. 12
Figure 2 Ge o rg e Luys , Em o t io ns , 1 8 8 7 , Inv e nt io n o f Hy s t e ria .
Dr. Jules Luys used smells and injected drugs to manipulate deliria. I argue that the camera can act as a similar catalyst. Luys’ images, which are meant to illustrate a range of emotions, can simply be acted out; the camera is the ultimate encourager. Its lens and shutter communicate to the subject the operator’s desire to capture something important, something worth studying. Since Luys’ subjects were clearly suffering, the camera became a means to draw attention to their plight or, perhaps, to please those who, putatively, were there to help them.
Spitz 10 Sigmund Freud studied under Charcot, and they shared ideas about the subconscious and its ability to affect the conscious mind and reveal the root cause of mental illness.13 In his studies of female hysteria, Charcot concluded that tapping into the subconscious mind could reveal its cause. He determined that trauma was a possible origin, and Freud later concluded that sexual trauma, specifically, caused hysteric attacks. My mother, who was sexually abused by her minister, cites this event as the source of her mental issues. Freud’s method of psychoanalysis was essentially to take an irrational life event as explained by the patient and to retell the event from the point of view of a rational doctor. The patient would thus believe the doctor and discontinue the irrational thought.14 My images of my mother function similarly; they are my retelling of her irrational life events. However, unlike many of Charcot’s photographs, they are not directed or posed. They are instances of chaos that are recorded by the camera. My mother wishes to be seen as a victim and to be seen as ill. I have heard her say on multiple occasions, “Melissa, people just like the sad shit.” Many people are fascinated with “the sad shit,” but they do not necessarily have empathy for those who suffer with mental illness and addiction. As the media focuses on the downfall of public figures, the ratings rise. Perhaps the fascination with watching someone’s rock bottom is that we all know someone like that, because statistically we do. In fact this fascination with others’ misfortunes is scientifically proven. The German term schadenfreude describes the pleasure an individual feels when he or she is informed of or witness to the misadventures of others. In American culture these feelings are viewed as inappropriate, but in German culture the feeling is so accepted there is a term for it.15 Researchers from Princeton University found that most people felt sad when good things happened to wealthy individuals and happy when bad things happened to them. Other forms of rivalry—for example, in sports and politics—also result in schadenfreude. I acknowledge that some viewers might experience schadenfreude when viewing images of my 13
Catherine Bouchara, M.D., Philippe Mazet, M.D., and David Cohen, M.D., Ph. D., “Jean Martin Charcot, 1825–1893: Did He Anticipate Freud's First Topology?”, The American Journal of Psychiatry 167, no. 4 (December, 2009): 1-2. 14 Elaine Showalter, “On Hysterical Narrative,” Narrative 1, no. 1 (Jan, 1993): 26. 15 Richard H. Smith “Why Do We Feel Schadenfreude?,” CNN, August 15, 2013, http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/15/opinion/smith-schadenfreude-word/.
Spitz 11 mother’s suffering. Perhaps when viewing a situation that is worse than one’s own, it puts personal issues in perspective; by comparison, you have nothing to worry about. The diagnosis previously termed “hysteria” was removed from the DSM-III in 1980.16 Symptoms previously associated with “hysteria” are now defined as dissociative disorders. In the spring of 2013, my mother was briefly diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, also known as multiple personality disorder. This diagnosis gave her a kind of permission to behave cruelly or childishly and to blame her bad behavior on the illness. She seemed to revel in her pathology, and she asked me to photograph her in the guise of her alter egos—Renée, Sue, and Debbie (fig. 3). At the time, my mother had been watching HBO’s United States of Tara, a television show about a woman with multiple personalities. With information learned from a fictional television series, my mother performed for different doctors until she got the diagnosis she wanted. For me, this illustrates how quick certain doctors are to diagnose, over-prescribe, and encourage certain types of behavior. Twenty-five percent of the American population has been diagnosed with some form of mental illness, but some doctors believe that our society’s real mental health issue is our addiction to over-diagnosis and prescription.17 My mother is part of that twenty-five percent and is a Xanax and Valium enthusiast. From 1997 to 2004, Americans doubled their spending on these two drugs from $900 million to $2.1 billion.18 “Hysteria” may no longer be a term used in contemporary medicine to describe mental illness, but a different kind of hysteria still exists in our cultural obsession with witnessing the struggles of others and the over-prescription of pharmaceuticals that is becoming as contagious as mental illness seems to be.
Cecilia Tasca et al., “Women and Hysteria in the History of Mental Health,” Clinic Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health (July, 2012): 9-10, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3480686/, (accessed April 22, 2014). 17 Linda Sapadin, Ph.D., “Are We Over-Diagnosed and Over-Medicated?,” World of Psychology (blog), February 5, 2013, http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/02/05/are-we-over-diagnosed-and-overmedicated/ (accessed April 22, 2014). 18 Taylor Clark, “It's Not the Job Market: The Real Reason Why Americans Are More Anxious Than Ever Before,” Culturebox (Jan. 31 2011): http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2011/01/its_not_the_job_market.html (accessed April 22, 2014).
Figure 3. Melissa Spitz, Sue, Debbie and Renee, Archival Ink Jet Print, 2013, (courtesy of the artist).
Emotional, autobiographical, and fragmented, my portraits of my mother relate to the “hysterical narrative”—a genre of women’s literature. A former English major, my mother has used writing as her mode of catharsis. Her poems are reminiscent of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1892 short story, The Yellow Wallpaper, one of the most famous narratives of hysteria. It is a woeful, fictional journal of a woman suffering from mental illness, and the parallels with my mother’s writing are uncanny (fig. 4). My mother’s writings not only provide a personal perspective, but also provide clues to her state of sobriety (and addiction) at the time they were written (fig. 5).
Figure 4. Excerpt from Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper and Deborah Adams, Journal Entry, (courtesy of Deborah Adams).
Figure 5. Deborah Adams, Journal Entries, (courtesy of Deborah Adams).
Heteroglossia Broadly defined, You Have Nothing to Worry About is a documentary project; it is a narrative of my mother’s tumultuous life and my relationship with her. It is also collaboration, and as is the case with all photographic portraits, the work is heteroglossic. “Heteroglossia” is a term typically used to describe certain forms of writing within which there is the presence of two or more voices or expressed viewpoints.19 My photographs of my mother simultaneously reflect my own emotions and hers. In Mom Looking at Work (fig. 6), my mother is viewing one of my photographs of her for the first time. After looking at the image, she screamed, “How could you make me look like this?” My mother was in the hospital, and it had been a particularly rough 19
M. J. Larrabee, S. Weine, and P. Woolcott, “‘The Wordless Nothing’: Narratives of Trauma and Extremity,” Human Studies 26, no. 3 (2003): 1.
Spitz 15 morning; my mom was obviously on pills and was being rude to hospital staff. I never deliberately chose to make my mother look a certain way. At times she is very playful and acts for the camera; other times I know that she is most likely too inebriated to care. She later told me that the images scared her, that they presented a mirror and reminded her of the life she was throwing away.
Figure 6. Melissa Spitz, Mom Looking at Work, Archival Ink Jet Print, 2013, (courtesy of the artist).
This collaboration between photographer and subject can be compared with the doctor/patient relationship. One of Sigmund Freud’s most famous case studies is his heteroglossic relationship with his patient, Dora. Freud described hysterics as individuals who had the inability to tell a complete and even story about themselves. An hysteric’s story would be distorted and confused due to sexual repression.20 It was the job of the therapist to digest this story, rationalize it and tell it back to the patient. “The patient brings out of the armory of the past the weapons with which he defends himself against the progress of the treatment—weapons 20
Spitz 16 which we must wrest from him one by one.” Without the story of the patient there would be nothing to psychoanalyze; the diagnosis becomes both the work of the doctor and the patient. Similar to the diagnosis made of my mother’s multiple personality disorder, treatment of psychosis seems based on a shared conversation between doctor and patient. The most prominent example of this relationship, and one that is visually relatable to my work with my mother, is Charcot’s work at the Salpêtrière. Of Charcot’s photography, DidiHuberman says, “In any case, it is through the photographic medium that the hysterical woman offered herself, in an exemplary fashion, to be touched in the most subtle and most exquisite of contacts.”21 Lonely hysterics would act out, displaying themselves for the attention of the doctors and the crowd. Didi-Huberman further explains that Charcot’s photographs hide their touch, their manipulation, and the stage. He suggests that Charcot was exploitive and used inhumane methods to elicit a reaction. Albert Londe was a photographer employed by Charcot, and in his image “Hysterical Sleep” from the 1893 book La photographie médicale, the subject is depicted in the midst of a sleeping attack (fig. 7). This relaxed state of the hysteric turned her into Sleeping Beauty and gave doctors and photographer ample opportunity to document. In today’s context this image would signify mental anguish, but in the 1890s it was seen as the hysteric at rest. Charcot explained that even Sleeping Beauty was an hysteric, an estranged woman being pursued by “a featherheaded prince.”22 Made after an emergency appendectomy and then-recent sobriety, the image of my mother sleeping is strikingly similar (fig. 8). She lay in bed and started to fall asleep. She seemed at peace, and although she was still in pain, I could see that she was calm.
Didi-Huberman, 175. Ibid., 182-183.
Figure 7. Albert Londe, “Hysterical Sleep” from La photographie médicale, 1893, Invention of Hysteria.
Figure 8. Melissa Spitz, Saying Goodnight, Archival Ink Jet Print, 2013 (courtesy of the artist).
My mother says that my photographs represent the darkest part of her soul. I do very little beyond making the camera present; my mother is a willing participant in the photographic act. She often dresses up, increases her medication and poses. Like Charcot’s Tuesday night demonstrations for the public, the camera encourages my mother to act, and the idea of an audience encourages her to keep going. For me, this work helps me understand my mother, our relationship, and our lives. When faced with difficult circumstances, other photographers have used photography as a means of addressing and understanding conflict. Sage Soiher began photographing her mother in 2000. Her mother is a former model who was photographed by Richard Avedon, and she always pressed the importance of beauty. At a certain point Soiher felt that she could no longer compete, and she found her place behind the camera (fig. 9).23 Tierney Gearon’s body of work, The Mother Project, focuses on the photographer’s mentally ill mother and Gearon’s own parenting. Gearon uses her own family, including both her children and her mother, to depict her personal feelings about her own childhood (fig. 10).24 However, the artist with whom I feel the deepest connection is Richard Billingham. His series and book Ray’s a Laugh is a collection of images of his family made in his parent’s home in England from 1990 – 1996. They were an instant success despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that they are the complete inverse of what most expect of family photographs. Billingham’s photographs highlight the “human catastrophe” of living at home.25 The sheer number of images and their context allow the viewer to become desensitized to this family; things that might seem strange at first become ordinary after seeing the entire body of work. There are similarities and differences between Billingham’s Ray’s a Laugh and my body of work, the most obvious being my mother’s willing complicity. Billingham, as a
Boston University, “Group Portrait: Sage Sohier,” Photographic Resource Center at Boston University, November 18, 2005, https://www.bu.edu/prc/groupportrait/sohier.htm, (accessed April 22, 2014). 24 Tierney Gearon: The Mother Project, directed by Jack Youngelson and Peter Sutherland (Jordanville Films, 2006), DVD. 25 Outi Remes, “Richard Billingham: Reinterpreting Unconventional Family Photographs: Returning to Richard Billingham's ‘Ray's a Laugh' Series’,” American Suburb X (2007): 2
Spitz 19 seemingly silent observer, watches his mother, father, brother, and pets decay inside their home. In the work with my mother I use the camera to present a conversation between my mother’s actions and my perception. At times, I scrutinize our home and her actions. Other times, I choose to let her have control. My mother craves both attention and control; she wants all eyes on her and is willing to act out to obtain the desired attention. Billingham’s parents let Richard have the control, but they may not have cared in the first place.
Figure 9. Sage Sohier, Mum in Her Bathtub, pigment print, 2002, sagesohier.com.
Figure 10. Tierney Gearon, Untitled, pigment print, 2006, tierneygearon.com.
In the exhibition of You Have Nothing to Worry About, one print is enlarged as a wallsized mural (fig. 11). This piece, in conjunction with the others, is meant to represent everpresent and unavoidable chaos. After the initial confrontation, viewers may become desensitized in the same way that Billingham, Gearon, Soiher, and I have.
Figure 11. Melissa Spitz, exhibition view of New Make Up, Vinyl Decal, 204x108, 2014 (courtesy of the artist)
Conclusion The work I have made in collaboration with my mother over the past five years is a document of mental illness and substance abuse. I hope that these photographs bring this everpresent issue to light and show the complexities of an individual experience. The work of Sohier, Gearon, and Billingham provides contemporary context, while Charcot’s 19th century photographs highlight the history of picturing hysteria and the performance of mental illness. For my mother, the camera has been her spotlight and the stage has been our home. The images that I have made with my mother include both her voice and my own. The photograph Scream (fig. 12) was made in the football field bleachers at my mother’s high school. She began to scream. Initially, her scream was obviously fake, but as it went on, I could hear deep pain in her voice. I felt this pain myself as I listened to her scream, and I released the shutter. This piece is the sum
Spitz 22 of my feelings towards both my mother and photographing my mother. For her, this image is an honest representation of the pain that she feels.
Figure 12. Melissa Spitz, Scream, Archival Inkjet Print, 2013, (courtesy of the artist)
Taken as a whole, You Have Nothing to Worry depicts a fragile psychological state in conjunction with the toll of prescription drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes. The camera created participation—as does therapy. Both encourage the subject to bring something to the table and both provide the photographer or doctor the opportunity to give something back. At times my camera stands in as a surrogate therapist, allowing my mother to skew and act out her feelings My mother’s writing contributes to this body of work by providing access to her firsthand perspective on her own feelings. It also visually depicts her mental state through her handwritten text, which varies from poem to poem. The work with my mother functions as a conversation; it is irrational and chaotic on one side of the lens, and once it is transposed through the camera it becomes a tangible object that can be better understood.
Thesis Exhibition Image List 1. 2 Months After Appendectomy, 2013 1 of 3 26x40 2. Broken Jaw, 2012 1 of 5 20x30 3. Bruises and Scratches, 2013 1 of 5 16x24 4. Butts, 2012 1 of 5 16x24 5. Evidence Photo 1, 2006 1 of 5 11x16 6. Evidence Photo 3, 2006 1 of 5 11x16 7. Evidence Photo 4, 2006 1 of 5 11x16 8. Evidence Photo 2, 2006 1 of 5 11x16 9. Smoking, 2013 1 of 5 8x10 10. Sink, 2012 1 of 3 26x40 11. Scream, 2013 1 of 5 20x30 12. Rocking Chair, 2013 1 of 5 16x24 13. Robe Stains, 2012 1 of 5 8x12 14. Self Portrait, 2013 1 of 5 5x7 15. Red Wine Stains, 2013 1 of 5 16x24 16. Praying, 2013 1 of 5 20x30 17. Open Wound, 2013 1 of 5 16x24 18. New Make-Up, 2014 1 of 1 204x108 19. Dead Tooth, 2013 1 of 5 8x10 20. Mom After Appendectomy, 2013 1 of 3 26x40 21. Mom in the Garage, 2013 1 of 5 8x10 22. Mattress Burn, 2013 1 of 5 16x24 23. Mom At First Watch, 2013 1 of 5 8x10 24. Wallpaper, 2013 1 of 3 26x40 25. Hole in the Wall, 2012 1 of 5 16x24 26. Xanax, 2013 1 of 3 26x40 27. Intravenous Fluids, 2014 1 of 5 16x24 28. Mom in Bed, 2012 1 of 5 20x30 29. Homage to Nan, 2013 1 of 5 20x30 30. Installation Shot, 2014 31. Installation Shot 1, 2014 32. Installation Shot 2, 2014 33. Installation Shot 3, 2014 34. Installation Shot 4, 2014
Spitz 24 Thesis Images
Spitz 35 Bibliography Andrews, Robert. The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993. Accessed May 20, 2014. http://books.google.com/books?id=4cl5c4T9LWkC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_g e_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false. Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida. New York: Hill and Wang, 1981. Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulation. The University of Michigan Press, 2003. Davey, Moyra. “Notes On Photography,” Long Life Cool White: Photographs and Essays by Moyra Davey, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Art Museums, 2008. 79-119. Diamond, Hugh W. “On the Application of Photography to the Physiognomic and Mental Phenomena of Insanity.” PsicoArt 1 (2010): 1-14. Didi-Huberman, George. Invention of Hysteria: Charcot and the Photographic Iconography of the Salpetriere. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2003. Giesrstberg, Frits, and Ine Gevers. Documentary Now! N.p.: NAi Publishers, 2006. Grob, Gerald N. “Changing Faces of Madness: Early American Attitudes and Treatment of the Insane by Mary Ann Jimenez.” Journal of Social History 22, no. 1 (Autumn, 1988): 18991. Hunter, Dianne. “Hysteria, Psychoanalysis, and Feminism: The Case of Anna O.” Feminist Studies 9, no. 3 (Autumn, 1983): 464-88. Justice-Malloy, Rhona. “Charcot and the Theatre of Hysteria.” The Journal of Popular Culture 28, no. 4 (March 5, 2004): 133-38. Khun, Annette. “Photography and Cultural Memory: A Methodological Exploration.” Visual Studies 20, no. 3 (December, 2007): 283-92. Kleinman, Arthur, and Joan Kleinman. “The Appeal of Experience; the Dismay of Images: Cultural Appropriations of Suffering in Our Times.” Daedalus: Social Suffering 125, no. 1 (Winter, 1996): 1-23. Love, Spencie. “Hystories: Hysterical Epidemics and Modern Culture by Elaine Showalter.” The Journal of American History 84, no. 4 (March, 1998): 1598-99. Micale, Mark S. “On the 'Disappearance' of Hysteria: A Study in the Clinical Deconstruction of a Diagnosis.” Isis 84, no. 3 (Sept., 1993): 496-526. Nash, Mark. “Reality in the Age of Aesthetics.” Frieze no. 114 (April, 2008): 1-13. http://www.frieze.com/issue/article/reality_in_the_age_of_aesthetics/ accessed May 15, 2014.
Spitz 36 Olin, Margaret. Touching Photographs: Roland Barthes's “Mistaken Identification.” Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002. Remes, Outi. “Richard Billingham: 'Reinterpreting Unconventional Family Photographs: Returning to Richard Billingham's 'Ray's a Laugh' Series'.” American Suburb X (2007). Showalter, Elaine. “On Hysterical Narrative.” Narrative 1, no. 1 (Jan, 1993): 24-35. Showalter, Elaine. “Our Age of Anxiety.” Chronicle of Higher Education 59, no. 31 (April, 2013): 6-9. Smith, Richard H. “Why Do We Feel Schadenfreude?” CNN. August 15, 2013. Accessed May 15, 2014. http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/15/opinion/smith-schadenfreude-word/. Sontag, Susan. On Photography. London: Allen Lane, 1978. Sontag, Susan. Regarding the Pain of Others. New York: Picador, 2003 Spicer, Jakki. “Spectral Evidence: The Photography of Trauma by Ulrich Baer.” Cultural Critique 57 (Spring, 2004): 187-90. Yampolsky, Mikkhail, and Larry Joseph. “Mask Face and Machine Face.” TDR 38, no. 3 (Autumn, 1994): 60-74.