By Melissa Spitz
You Have Nothing to Worry About is a complex and difficult body of work that can be broadly defined as documentary photography.
Since 2009, I have been making photographs of my mentally ill, substance-abusing mother. Her diagnoses change frequently—from alcoholism to dissociative identity disorder—and my relationship with her has been fraught with animosity for as long as I can remember. I am fully aware that my mother thrives on being the center of attention and that, at times, our portrait sessions encourage her erratic behavior.
The photographs are simultaneously upsetting and encouraging; honest and theatrical; loving and hateful. Corresponding to my mother’s current bipolar diagnosis, conflating these seeming binary opposites is the only way to make photographs of her that are remotely valid. By turning the camera toward my mother and my relationship with her, I capture her behavior as an echo of my own emotional response. The images function like an on going conversation.
“Mental illness is beyond subjective. For me it is personal and it is hard to look beyond that. It’s genetic, and something I think about constantly. I have tried over the past 6 years to understand what mental illness means to me through photography. The process has been cathartic for both my mother and me. ”