Dutch Art student creates photo series from inside her psychiatric ward

She wanted to show what it was really like to be hospitalised

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A Dutch Art student has created a powerful photo series showing what it’s really like to live with depression. 

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Laura was hospitalised for disordered eating, anxiety and depression

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Her series of black and white photos show what life is really like in a psychiatric ward

21-year-old Laura Hospes, from Groningen in The Netherlands began her project while in hospital, where she still lives today, after a suicide attempt.

She said: “Until a couple of months ago, I had a dream and that dream was to make exhibitions and photobooks with the self portraits I made. That dream was cruelly pushed far away from me when I ended up in hospital after trying to kill myself.”

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The 21-year-old said her photography helped her express her feelings

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The series has now won worldwide acclaim

Despite her grim surroundings Laura, who studies Photography in Amsterdam, forced herself to go on making self portraits while hospitalised, and used the experience to create her project, which has now been seen worldwide.

Laura said: “I’m not proud of my suicide attempt, but it made me like who I am today and I want to show that real part of me. I just felt the need to ‘survive’ the horrible time.

“Taking photographs gave me such a feeling of relief. I was able to cry, to be angry, to be terrified and everything around that feelings which I was unable to show in real life. By sharing the photos, my family and friends could see how I felt.

“Of course it was very difficult to see me having a hard time, but at least they knew how I felt. I was able to be myself and felt less lonely because of that.”

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Laura still lives in hospital today

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She says taking the photos made her feel less lonely

Laura’s series, named UCP-UMCG after the psychiatric unit she lives in, is a stark look into her struggles with anxiety and depression. The series, which shows what goes on behind closed doors in psychiatric wards, won Laura a spot on LensCulture’s list of 50 best emerging photographers for 2015 in the LensCulture Emerging Talent Awards.

Describing the series she says: “My project is a very extensive selection of photos about a girl, me, who is on the verge of death. The emotions I experienced in hospital were very overwhelming and intense and I feel like you can see that in the photos.

“I originally only created the project for myself and my need to express myself. But after sharing them I discovered I also feel a little rebellion about the fact that many people show only the perfect things in their life on Facebook or other social media. I want to show that difficult stories are also “allowed” and inspire other people to share the less “perfect” elements of their life. I hope they also gain love and support back and feel less lonely again.”

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‘The series is about a girl, me, on the verge of death’

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The project is named after the psychiatric unit Laura lives in

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‘The most important thing I want to say is that I’m not crazy’

The 21-year-old is no longer an inpatient at her psychiatric unit, where she was originally hospitalised for anxiety, depression and disordered eating, and can sleep at home, but must still show up every day. But she explains: “I need a rhythm to start the day with, because otherwise I still can’t get out of bed when my daily schedule isn’t full.

“The most important thing I want to say is I am not crazy. Nobody who ends up in hospital is crazy. Depression can overcome everybody and it feels terrible to slowly lose control of your behaviour. Think of that and think of the people around you who are not able to contact you, because of their mental problems.

“They don’t choose to be in this situation and don’t choose to be unable to have much contact with the people around them. Send them love and let them know you think about them. That is the most thankful message a hospitalised person can receive.”