Sick Of Bulimia – Conceptual – Exercise 3.3 – Sequence

Reflections upon Sick of Bulimia.

I have published Sick of Bulimia as a separate blog post, because I believe that it warrants being presented as a stand alone project. It can be seen here.


Exercise 3.3 is about photography as sequence, and I have now explored many of the options, based upon the ideas and learning about the photographers that we have been asked to review. Keith Arnatt’s Self Burial is a conceptual sequence, which I reviewed as part of the coursework (seen here).

It helped that I have had an idea that I wanted to explore about bulimia, and created some test photos around 6-9 months ago. Two of the photos in my final sequence have come from those, and the rest I have taken over the past couple of weeks. The opportunity to build upon my previous photography and to do so for exercise 3.3 was influenced by reviewing Self Burial.


I have an eating disorder, and was first diagnosed with Anorexia – binge-purge subtype in my late teens. I was actually a restrict-pirge but that’s not a separate diagnosis. My eating disorder has changed its shape over the years and I haven’t purged for many years. Having a personal investment has meant that I could explore bulimia from my own perspective, the experience of others, and from additional research.

There is a sequence, a ritual that is often associated with eating disorders, and I have tried to express the mental urgency around going out, buying food, bingeing and vomiting by using blurred photos, movement,  the use of bright colours. Some of the photos are taken from the perspective of the person engaged in the depicted activities rather than going with the golden rules of photography. Bulimia is personal, deeply emotional, and both thrilling and devastating. The excitement and the rush of buying and bingeing is short lived, and is quickly replaced by overwhelming shame and distress.

The central portrait is the signifier of shame, and I think the sequence would have worked better if I made this image larger and more dominant.


Reviewing eating disorder charities and websites from around the globe has evidenced that death is a very possible outcome for people with an eating disorder. Up to twenty percent of individuals with an eating disorder will die from either heart failure, organ failure or suicide. This made second photo important for me to include. The symbolic references by including the memorial and the shop where the food was purchased has a deep significance.

Bulimia is secretive, as are other eating disorders initially. Overtime it becomes obvious to family, friends and healthcare workers that a person is severely underweight and may have anorexia. People with bulimia may be underweight, of a healthy weight or overweight, and this poses many problems because it is less obvious to loved ones.

Purging depletes the body of the vitamins and minerals that it needs for electrical conduction (we are electro-chemical beings) and death can come from disturbances to the hearts electrical conduction as well as organ failure. Of those who die from bulimia, heart failure is the biggest cause of death.

However recovery is possible if help is asked for, so I included a link to eating disorder charities from a few countries.


Self Burial (Arnatt) helped me to formulate how I could build upon my original photos and create a sequence. The urgency of HAVING to go out and buy food, knowing that you were going to binge and then purge was a starting point, and lead onto re-creating the journey to do so, and things flowed from there. I made use of two cameras, Olympus OMD EM10 MKii and Mzuiko 25mm (50mm equivalent) prime,, and Huawei P10 smart phone with dual Leica lens, 27mm, 20mp raw. The Huawei gave me the opportunity to create good bokeh, if slightly unusual, which can be evidenced in photo 5 where the shopping is on the floor.

Fully aware that it is important to take lots of photos of each scene and from different angles, using different lighting (building upon 100 photos, soft light landscape, smash – part one of FiP coursework (seen here)), I set to work and took many photos.

Creating the vomit was a simple process of blending dog food, baked beans, carrots and eggs together. It’s visually effective. I have made the toothbrush the focus of that photo because the photos of just the vomit were too graphic. A tooth-brush may often be used by people with bulimia to make themselves sick.

The selection process also built upon previous coursework in relation to evaluating and selction, as well as the skills that I have learned from reading The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC Book for Digital Photographers, 2015 by Scott Kelby.

Through following the blog of an OCA degree student (can’t remember who) I picked up the idea of writing upon contact sheets as a method of aiding the evaluation process, and this was indeed very helpful.

Lightroom (Bulimia 1.png and 33 others)

The weakest two photos are the first – the trainers, however they are symbolic of the urgency to get food, and the third photos of the shopping basket and trolley. Nine Photos make for an aesthetically pleasing grid, so I have included these. I had not planned to use a combination of portrait and landscape orientation, but the final photos were important to me because they carried the message that I wanted to express.

Reworking from Feedback

Sick of Bulimia has received a lot of welcome feedback, which has included using photo two, the memorial with its symbolism od death as the central photo, keeping the same background, and changing the background to white. Having tried these options and also a white background and a grey border, I feel very strongly that my original presentation is the strongest, along with the grey background, which I was originally unsure of. The restructured grid to have death as the central photo doesn’t work because it significantly changes the grid layout. The shame of having an eating disorder is also the strongest emotion that I have in relation to my own experience of bulimia (I have no shame about anorexia), so the portrait of me crying has to be the central photo. The white background with the grey border is presentable, however the focus is taken towards the colours rather than the content. Having the grey background draws me deeply into the photos, and that’s what I would like for the viewers.

Here is the original presentation, and the other forms of presentation that I have tried.








The Individual Photos















I am deeply grateful for the feedback that I have recieved.


Kelby, S; 2015; The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC Book for Digital Photographers; New Riders; Pages 47-54

Keys, R; 2018; Review – Keith Arnatt – Self-Burial; Online AT: (accessed on 09/03/2018)


18 Replies to “Sick Of Bulimia – Conceptual – Exercise 3.3 – Sequence”

  1. Richard, I thought you wrote a great post about Bulimia. This photo arrangement works great for me from a layout point of view, it is visually pleasing how you arranged the photos, and nine is a good number (as with flowers, never have an even number). I like the trainer image, the colors are visually attractive, and your described symbolism makes sense. The grey background works for me, after all it is neutral and doesn‘t distract. Black or white wouldn‘t work in my opinion. Just my random thoughts….Marcus


  2. Hi Richard, excellent sequence, the purpose of the trainers wasn’t immediately apparent but I understand now. Perhaps a clock or a watch may have presented the same symbolism for urgency (or on the other hand may have been a bit obvious) … maybe with a long exposure so the second hand is blurry. Stream of consciousness thoughts now!!

    But a well considered, planned and executed sequence Richard, with a powerful outcome.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hi Richard. It’s a very powerful set of photos though I have one thought. I might be wrong but this is what I think – the sequencing could have been different as sequencing is something which follows a particular pattern and signifies things in a certain order. So if you had the central portrait representing shame just before the memorial image – it could have signified how it drives a person to have suicidal thoughts then followed by the memorial pictures. I think it would create a shock value as to create awareness amongst people that it is something that serious which might lead a person to take his own life or die of organ failure. That’s the only change I feel could be apt. Please correct me if you had another reason for putting this together in this manner.

    A great exercise. very powerful. Well done Richard.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. My ex and her sister were both bulimics. My ex was the laxative kind and her sister the kind you are talking about. There definitely are serious health issues from this as well as dental problems down the road…

    Liked by 2 people

  5. A very thought provoking piece of work Richard. I wonder if you have tried a white grid , I think it might look quite effective and always worth comparing even if you prefer the grey. The final two images are really striking .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Judy. I’m going to try a slightly different arrangement following feedback, and I’ll also try the white background just to see. The past two exercises have been good for me, because this is the kind of photography that I wish to make.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. A very brave series. Well done. I considered doing a similar one on Emetophobia and may approach this some day. What was your thinking behind the alternate landscape/portrait orientations? This is one series that has really made me look and then look again. The final image is very emotive. Well done again.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Adele. I have to say there were some photos that I was quite resistant to making. The photo with the shopping bag with food was the hardest of those.

      I shot photos with two cameras, different perspectives and different orientations. After my first evaluation I had 34 images. I produced a pdf and left it a couple of days and then opened them in Photoshop so I could write comments and selected other photos to delete, and a couple of definite picks.

      I had 8 different aspects that I wanted to cover, so I then compared photos for each scene, which gave me my final selection. This left me with these orientations. Two of the photos were the wrong size, so I cropped on of them, the other I reopened in lightroom and exported with the correct pixel dimension. So it was part planning and part luck.

      If you decide to go ahead with a series on emetophobia please would you let me know. I’d love to follow your progress and approach.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Very effective sequencing and so well-planned. The images certainly fit with what I know about bulimia.
    I’m continually impressed by the sophistication of your approach and depth of feeling that you bring to your work Richard.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Have you tried swapping the food (bottom left) with the memorial (top right)? I’m not a real photographer, I just find the colour is bunched together in the corner at the moment and could do with being spread out a bit.. Does that make sense?

    No knowledge of bulimia, sounds like a strange idea from the outside, presumably it has some kind of twisted logic from the inside..?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I will give that a go and see if it works Jesska, and yes, what you say makes sense.

      Bulimia is a serious mental illness, and to the sufferer there is a highly logical process, but it’s a perspective that the majority of society would consider alien and disturbing.


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