My Self Portraits Have Arrived

qrfMy self portraits have arrived, and you know what, I’m actually pleased with them. The expression has come out how I wanted (although I should have taken a higher resolution image for these photos).

There are three potential ways to create this assignment now. To present the full self portraits as they are, along with written and spoken word for each portrait, with the text relating to the represented emotional state.

qrfTo block out and reveal my eyes and face, and selected aspects of the Laura Letinsky photos, along with written and spoken word, and include a physical object similar to that revealed in Letinsky’s photo. This would then be an installation.


Thirdly, to embroider over my portrait’s and the Letinsky photo’s. Use a similar object from the Letinsky photo’s to be placed between the portrait and her image, sew from the portrait to her picture to join the two together, and finish off with text to create an audio-visual installation.

I’m going to use all three methods as I printed 3 of each of Letinsky’s and my photos.

It’s great that I am pleased with my portraits. I really wasn’t expecting that. They are great photo’s and clearly represent the emotional States that I want them too. I have only revealed they eyes here, as they will be the revealed aspects in the second and third presentation. I know my tutor can only accept one version to review, which will be the embroidered version, but there’s no harm in trying all three ways.

The Pain Of Making Self Portraits

Firstly – I know have a working title for my assignment… “The Emotional States Of Anorexia”. The emotions that I’m photographing all relate to different emotions that I have experienced that relate to my anorexia.

Defiance (fuck you! I won’t eat and you can’t make me)

Pride (Yes – another target weight hit)

Rage (I fucking hate my self)

Joy (I can wear those new skinny jeans now I’ve hit that weight)

Fear (I’m so fucking scared of eating, l will have to kill myself if I do)

Grief (I hurt so much I can’t cope anymore)

Now I know that you know that I hate my photo being taken. I hate seeing photos of myself. It’s taken me sometime to build up the willingness to photograph myself. Tomorrow and Thursday I have the pain of seeing my face when I develop them. Fuck sake. Why am I doing this. I could have used someone else as the model.

Thing is I can’t. I know that these emotions are extreme and trying to work with a model and talking them into these states is gonna be challenging and time-consuming. I know these emotions and the thoughts that go with them. They’ve been a second skin that I’ve lived in. Consequently it’s taken me an hour to make these photos.

I’ve not liked doing it at all, but, I’ve got the photos that I need. I’ve captured the emotions. Am I putting them up on here? Not bloody likely. Once I’ve embroidered over them then I will publish them, but they, of themselves, are not the final piece of work. They are just part of a still life audio, visual installation that will be juxtaposed with the Laura Letinsky photography.

If I put my displeasure about the photos of myself to the side, I feel excited. This is coming together. My creative vision is clear, I can see the outcome.

Will I exhibit the six pieces I am creating? Damn right if I can get the right curator and the right space. It’s weird how I can feel so confident of that when I can’t stand seeing my photo. Perhaps it’s because my portrait is just a part of a larger piece of work, that my face will be sewn over? Perhaps it’s just a dichotomy of the human experience.

My Current Experience Of Anorexia

This is a photo about amorexia, and shows the food that I will eat today.

I’ve had an eating disorder since I was diagnosed with anorexia the age of 17. Up until the age of 29 anorexia controlled my life and had a serious impact upon my mental health and well-being. Then slowly I started to increase my calories and have a healthy diet. Over a number of years I began to eat more and more and my anorexia turned into binge eating disorder.

For the past four years I have switched between binge eating disorder and anorexia, and each period of these illnesses lasts for many months. With binge eating disorder I feel completely out of control and full of shame and guilt for eating food.

My current experience of anorexia is completely different from that during my younger years. Right now I like my experience of anorexia (and I only speak of my own experience). I feel completely in control, my mental health has improved greatly. My suicidal thoughts have diminished and my anxiety is quite low, although I do still experience paranoid thinking and feelings and have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

My self-esteem improves with anorexia, I take more care of my appearance and my environment, and I am full of energy, my motivation is good, I buy new clothes which fit me and there are parts of my body which I like (such as my arms, shoulders and lower legs). It’s really quite nice to like parts of myself, and on the whole, to be enjoying life.

The downside is that my health is starting to deteriorate, my blood chemistry changing, my blood pressure has dropped, I have orthostatic hypotension, and the QT interval (part of the heartbeat) is beginning to elongate. This means that I could become an inpatient for the treatment of anorexia.

I’m working very closely with my psychiatric team, and we are following an anorexia nervosa harm reduction model. Increasing my calorific intake too quickly increases my anxiety and suicidal thoughts, so we are increasing my calories at a very slow rate. Every increase that my psychiatrist and I have agreed I have stuck to, which is very positive and am pleased that I am making progress. My progress is slow and it won’t be enough to keep me out of hospital, but it is progress. We are trying to keep me out hospital for as long as possible because I find hospital and overwhelmingly scary experience.

On a personal level I have no desire to either increase my calories or my weight, why would I when anorexia improves the quality of my life experience? The only motivator that I have to change is the desire to stay out of hospital and to reduce the length of time of a likely admission.

This is a photo about amorexia, and shows the food that I will eat today.
Todays total calories. Although this may appear to be a small amount of food, it is double that of what it was in May when my psychiatrist and I agreed to follow the harm reduction model.

My current experience of anorexia, which is a positive experience for me, is far different than it wasfor me in between the ages of 17 and 29, and I am aware that other people’s experience of anorexia is often very negative.

Recovery is possible from all eating disorders, and I am working with my psychiatric team and making use of support froman  eating disorders charity. Am I a positive role model for recovery from anorexia? On one hand my response to this is no because I’m enjoying my experience of anorexia and I am still losing weight. On the other hand I have to answer yes, because I am working with my psychiatric team and making use of third sector support. I have also stuck to every increase in calories which I’ve agreed with my psychiatrist, without backtracking at all, and I’ve stopped purging completely. Recovery in my mind is doing anything which increases quality of life. Following the harm reduction model has meant that I’m experiencing less muscular pain and increased ability to walk around, and be able to be fully engaged with my photography and study.

A larger town that is nearby to me has an outpatient day service for people with eating disorders which I have requested to attend. The difficulty is funding for a place. The day service is run and managed by different NHS trust than the one for the area where I live, and obtaining funding from my local NHS trust to attend an out of area service is time-consuming and frustrating.

For those of you who read this post, who also have an eating disorder would like to stress that recovery is possible, my recovery may not be the greatest example, the recovery can be difficult and slow process for many of us. Baby steps, one step at a time, but sticking with these steps and moving forwards is definitely progress which is achievable and sustainable.

If you have an eating disorder please try to talk to somebody you know and trust, and ask them to support you in attending your doctors.  There are many eating disorder services and charities throughout the world.

United Kingdom


Men Get Eating Disorders Too

United States





The Minds Foundation




It’s All About Me When It Comes To My Emotions – Responding Not Reacting

It’s been a challenging week for me on many levels’. I felt hurt and frustrated by a friend’s behaviour and, have had a professional organisation failed to keep their commitment, and two professionals involved in my care are leaving their posts.

I find it very difficult to be authentic and express my emotions in response to somebody’s behaviour. However, I had to say something this week so that O could remain true to myself and protect my self esteem. My friend’s behaviour isn’t the issue, it’s my feelings that I need to focus on. It doesn’t matter how you behave, that’s your choice and your right, so if I feel upset or hurt in response to your behaviour that’s my responsibility. My telling you how I feel doesn’t mean that you have to change your behaviour. As your behaviour is your responsibility you can choose whether to act differently, or continue to behave as you are. This means that you can remain true to yourself.

Self-portrait in which I photographed myself as a reflection in a mirror.
(Please click on photo for a full size image) I am slowly becoming comfortable with displaying self portraits, but I still need to cover my face.

So this week I took responsibility for my emotions and spoke to my friend about how I was feeling with regards to our friendship. I did this in a manner that owned my feelings and didn’t blame her for my emotional reaction. In order to do this I needed to give myself a couple of days to allow my emotions to calm down and so that I could prepare what I wanted to say without it being an attack on her. It would have been so easy to react but that would have been damaging to both her and myself (There have been recent news stories about students trying to get their lecturers sacked because they have differences of opinion. This behaviour is completely inappropriate because it apportions blame rather than taking responsibility for your thoughts and feelings, it’s also very arrogant and self righteous).

With a professional organisation letting me down my approach is firmer, more descriptive and without emotional content. They have provided me with some software called Dragon Nuance, which is voice to text software, and am using this to write this blog today. They are currently training me how to use and make the most of this technique. I had an appointment with them which they failed to keep. I’m very pleased that in both instances I have been able to respond, to take responsibility for my thoughts and feelings without resorting to criticism or blaming them for how I feel.

(Please click on photo for a larger image) Macro photography is my mindfulness. It is something that I enjoy immensely and it also calms me down.

My eating disorder therapist has been off work for several months,. We had an appointment this week, during which she informed me that she is changing role in two weeks and I won’t have a therapist until the new person is in post. On top of this, the junior psychiatrist that I have been working with whilst my therapist has been off sick, is moving onto a new rotation in two weeks and I’ll have to get used to a new doctor. My care coordinator is also changing. I feel quite vulnerable with having these three changes at the same time.

Acceptance is the answer, and the only way of responding to these changes I don’t like and that I feel unsafe with. So my response is to allow my vulnerability to be as it is, and to discuss this with my friends as often as I need to.

By Thursday afternoon my thoughts were along the lines of “what else is going to go wrong today?”. So I wrote a gratitude list and made a note of all the things that had happened during the day which I felt grateful for, I spoke with a friend, and my mood and thoughts improved. Making some macro photography also helped to keep me focused straight after my psychiatric appointment.

(Please click on the photo for a full size image) Macro photography is my mindfulness. It is something that I enjoy enormously, and it also calms me down.

Exercise 3.10 – A Formal Portrait – Planning – Self Portrait -Gender – Identity


This is a scary one for me because I am going to need to make this a self-portrait. As you are aware I do not have anyone that I can work with on this, and although I had initially considered working with one or two people who I know who are homeless, my mental health currently leaves me unable to approach people.

I have anxiety about revealing myself, so I am going to build upon my tutors feedback with regard to assignment two. She suggested that I explore identity by making portraits of people and by using masks where possible.

The brief is quite specific about what a formal portrait is, and I am choosing to break away from it a little, otherwise I will not be able to complete the exercise. I hate my face right now, so I cannot create a formal portrait of myself in which my face is revealed, it wouldn’t help my mental health.

So I am going to create a multi layered approach that will include the use of masks, clothing, and current books and camera, to explore questions around gender identity along with practice representations of my current lifestyle. The use of masks will mean that I am breaking away from the brief and also respecting my needs with regard to keeping my mental wellbeing as well as I can.

The photos in this post are self portraits that I have taken in a manner that I can cope with sharing with others.

Richard Keys