"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.