(in)visible scars e-book

eBook | 8" x 10"
Danielle Mertens

Danielle Mertens

(in) visible scars

Throughout my adolescent years, I struggled with depression and anxiety. Around age thirteen, I began self-harming. The cuts I carved into my skin only made me want to hide myself more than I already did. I became afraid of being viewed differently, labeled a freak, or being alienated. In recent years, the social conversation has moved in favor of talking about mental health. One aspect, self-harm, has been conspicuously absent in the social conversation. As an adult, I realize now that if I had felt comfortable talking about my harmful tendencies, someone may have been able to help or relate.

Through my work, I bring self-harm to the forefront of the conversation. It has been ignored for too long, and those of us who have experienced it deserve to know that despite having scars, we are still beautiful, still worthy, and not alone. Perhaps by sharing our experiences, we can be what we needed then for somebody now: a source of acknowledgement and acceptance.

My work consists of portraits of people who have experienced self-harm, photographed in their homes, specifically in bedrooms and bathrooms. These rooms are private, intimate spaces where this behavior often occurs. People keep their most private and treasured items in these spaces where outsiders cannot see--much as we often hide our scars. In these photographs, I have highlighted my subjects’ scars with black makeup so this part of them cannot be ignored.

Alongside the photographs in my book are statements from the models. These quotes are honest, sometimes graphic accounts of the models’ experiences, and in some cases they speak directly to the viewer. Through the conscious act of picking up the book, the viewer engages directly with the models and breaks the norm of looking away from the scars.

For those who have experienced self-harm, this project is an opportunity to relate your experiences to those of the models. You may be strangers, yet you know each other in a way no one else ever will. For people who haven’t, this project is an opportunity for you to see that which has been hidden from you or that you have been told is not to be openly discussed. The only thing keeping us from understanding each other is a conversation.