Just what does it take to recover fully from an eating disorder? And isn’t it time more of us started documenting the whole process in a way that’s faithful to the source?
These are just two of the questions that come to mind as I peruse 22-year-old photographer, Alice Joiner’s website. There is something opportunistic – bordering on voyeuristic – about the artist’s images, which include sympathetic portraits of friends and loved ones as well as a candid exposition of the photographer’s own struggle with food, body image and shame.
Joiner takes us on a journey from the development of her eating disorder (whilst at boarding school in Brighton) through her recovery and into the present day. Certainly the mood varies where the subject changes but throughout the artist’s work there is a constant nod towards depth and darkness, both illuminated (quite literally) by Joiner’s brilliant use of light, this in turn giving way to the inescapable prominence of shadows. There is beauty in suffering, she seems to say: but to see it we must risk. We need to stare it in the face.
Clearly there is nothing superficial or tentative here; nothing but a brave and empathetic exposition of the human condition, proving that it’s not age (just ‘life’) that’s required to take impactful photographs.“I kept some of these pictures hidden for years, though my illness fuelled much of my creativity,” she says. “It wasn’t until my first year at The Slade art college that I began to acknowledge my photographs and considering them seriously – before that I never viewed them as ’successful’ or powerful enough to display. My recovery has enabled me to draw upon light and healing in myself and my relationships; to unveil this newfound world of colour and emotion and as a result I am now able to capture something far more raw and profound.”
Joiner’s photographic exhibition – ‘An Emergence of Being’ – was held earlier this year at The Strand Gallery in central London.
“This exhibition was about a sense of coming back to life and opening my eyes to what it has meant for me to heal from an eating disorder and grow into my own body as a young woman,” she commented.
It was her first solo show and consisted of prints spanning the last three years. Joiner’s chosen images spoke of intimate relationships (mostly between young women) and turned the camera towards the idea of emergence into the being of adulthood – both bodies and sexuality.
Quintessentially diaristic, the collection involved a looking inwards (at her own body) in order to pan out and capture something more universal. A brave, thoughtful and talented new voice. We can’t wait to see what she does next.
Photos courtesy of Alice Joiner.