Jo-Ana: Draft Project Descriptor

We will beat you with a stick, but if you bruise, it’s your fault.

Anorexia is a form of self-harm, quite capable of taking the sufferer to the point of self-destruction. Wanting the condition to progress, to become more emaciated, is part of the illness.

It is a severe mental illness which ultimately has a physical manifestation.

Sadly, it is rarely viewed as such, more commonly being regarded as a lifestyle choice.

Jo-Ana is a photographic description of diary entries made by one sufferer.

The project was undertaken largely for personal reasons, having witnessed someone suffering from anorexia first-hand. I have also witnessed first-hand the ignorance that surrounds anorexia and eating disorders in general.

There is a huge amount of stigma attached to anorexia, it is a very taboo subject and sufferers feel compelled to keep so much hidden away. Anorexia is something that happens to other people. Anorexia is a guilty secret.

Anorexia has many triggers but family, peer and societal expectations are commonly cited by sufferers as being causative factors. Society and technology contrive to enable a sub-culture from which anorexics can derive mutual support – thinspiration. The images of progressively emaciated bodies and words of encouragement which are shared within the pro-ana community are disturbing.

There exists, then, a distressing irony. Societies standards exert a pressure on susceptible individuals which can trigger an eating disorder – most people are aware of the fashion industry favouring anorexic looking models for example. And yet succumbing to an eating disorder is regarded as something shameful. In essence, we will beat you with a stick, but if you bruise, it’s your fault.

I believe that as a photographer I have a duty to highlight social issues, to raise awareness.

We document war, poverty and famine. Why is it considered unacceptable to document the causes and effects of eating disorders?

People need to see the reality of eating disorders, and the reality is shocking.

How can people be aware of and understand social issues if they only see a sanitised view?

Jo-Ana, then, is a collaboration which balances the participant’s voice with creative vision.

Aims for the project are to help dispel some of the ignorance relating to eating disorders, to raise awareness regarding the signs and symptoms of the disease and the sub-culture which helps drive the illness.

We need to establish an antithesis to the pro-ana culture. We need to establish a culture in which it is acceptable to ask for, to offer, and to accept help regarding eating disorders.

It must become acceptable to talk about anorexia, eating disorders, and mental illness in general.

It must be acceptable to be different, to be an individual.

People are much, much more than their appearance.

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