This Woman Documented Her Stay In A Mental Hospital In These Striking Photographs

Photo: Courtesy of Laura Hospes.
"My opinion is that social media is all about being happy and having the best life you could imagine, while behind the closed doors, there’s a lot of shit happening," Dutch photographer Laura Hospes tells us via email. In her photos, Hospes is not interested in showing people what they want to see. Instead, the 21-year-old artist puts her personal journey on display — in stark black and white — in her series UCP-UMCG.

Named for the mental hospital in which it is set, this collection of photographs follows Hospes through her ongoing treatment for depression, anxiety, and disordered eating following a brief stay in intensive care due to a suicide attempt. Hospes takes her viewers behind those "closed doors" she mentions — and into the life of a young woman in recovery. She bravely documents and performs her innermost feelings in front of the camera, in spite of the pressure and the self-consciousness that come along with photographing herself.

Hospes began taking photos the first day she arrived at the hospital, using her iPhone until she had her camera brought to her. For the first month, she was allowed to keep her personal belongings with her; "the only things we were prohibited to have were razor blades or other sharp stuff," she explains. Hospes' restrictions were increased, however, after she attempted to commit suicide for a second time. She was placed in an isolation room and was allowed to choose one item to keep with her: "I switched all the time from [having my] camera, to laptop, to phone, to camera," she says.

Adjusting her process to fit the rules of the hospital, Hospes demonstrates a true passion for her work — one that reflects how integral photography is for her recovery. "In shit periods, the thing I need is to be less lonely," Hospes explains. As we see how intimately she interacts with the camera, it's clear she finds respite from loneliness in her work. Drawing her viewers' focus close to her body and face, Hospes lets us join her during her hospital stay — if only for a moment.

Click through to see Hospes' experience unfold, in her own words and images. (Trigger warning: One of Hospes' images depicts the results of self-harm.)

Editor's note: This article has been edited since publication. Information as to how Hospes was permitted to have her camera with her while hospitalized has been added for greater context.
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Photo: Courtesy of Laura Hospes.
"The mental problems started in 2011, when I discovered I was sick. I suffered from an eating disorder and needed therapy."
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Photo: Courtesy of Laura Hospes.
"Three years later, my eating disorder was under control. I moved to a new city to study photography, had a completely new life, and fit in."
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Photo: Courtesy of Laura Hospes.
"After a couple of months, I felt my mental health was going down again; my eating disorder was controlling me, and I was depressed. I went to therapy again, but for only a few sessions. After that, my mood swung from very high to very, very low."
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Photo: Courtesy of Laura Hospes.
"I 'survived' a year in this rollercoaster and ended up in hospital after a suicide attempt... There, I made the project UCP-UMCG."
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Photo: Courtesy of Laura Hospes.
"I've been making self-portraits since my 16th [birthday]. First they were superficial...more next-level selfies."
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Photo: Courtesy of Laura Hospes.
"When I started taking [these] next-level selfies...I felt a little ashamed."
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Photo: Courtesy of Laura Hospes.
"That’s a little bit weird, right? I thought [at the time]."
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Photo: Courtesy of Laura Hospes.
"Later, I discovered I could tell my story with self-portraits."
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Photo: Courtesy of Laura Hospes.
"[Now], I can express my feelings without censure, and that really helps me."
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Photo: Courtesy of Laura Hospes.
"Still, nobody is allowed to watch me taking my self-portraits."
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Photo: Courtesy of Laura Hospes.
"I find it hard to tell people how I really feel and what’s on my mind."
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Photo: Courtesy of Laura Hospes.
"[Taking my photos] is such a personal thing, and when [someone is] watching it, it feels like that person can see right through my soul."
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Photo: Courtesy of Laura Hospes.
"My camera’s patience is endless, so I can cry forever, and 'he' [doesn't] get crazy of me."
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Photo: Courtesy of Laura Hospes.
"I feel my camera is really listening to me."
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Photo: Courtesy of Laura Hospes.
"Every time I take a picture and process it on my laptop, I feel a very tiny part of me healing inside."
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Photo: Courtesy of Laura Hospes.
"The nurses from the department I was in were emotionally touched when they saw the amount of photos taken behind my — often-closed — door."
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Photo: Courtesy of Laura Hospes.
"They were truly happy for me and hope I [will] make a series about having a good and satisfying life in the future."
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Photo: Courtesy of Laura Hospes.
"If I could inspire only one person on this earth to share his or her feelings with his or her surroundings by seeing this series...I would be super thankful."
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