Copyright 2012 Laia Abril self-published
First be warned, this is a troubling, if not disturbing, photobook.
As such, it is a photo-documentary of a community of mostly young women who appear to obsessively starving themselves to death. In a bazaar twist on social networking, these women post and share self-portraits of their current anorexia state amongst themselves. .
As a social documentary artist, Laia Abril has researched this self-destructing group by re-photographing what these women have posted about themselves on certain web sites and other social media. In by so doing, she calls attention to the act of social networking as well as photography as a medium to propagate an illness.
Abril asks the rhetorical question; does photography help them to be aware of reality or has the camera turned into another trick for anorexia to control their body and perpetuate the distortion of their own image? To what extent does photography influence the deterioration of their illness?
Abril mashes the subject’s self-portraits with text that the members post. Concurrent with the posting of their self-portraits, the pro-ana (anorexia) members provide “encouragement” on their quest to become invisible, to physically waste away.
The photographs reveal how the subjects document their current state of “success”, usually standing partially undressed or nude in front of large mirrors situated in bathrooms or bedrooms, posing to reveal the their protruding rib and hip bones, sunken stomachs or boney wrists or legs that are skinner than their knees. Abril edited and designed the layout of the resulting photographs to create a visual map of this destructive state of mind with the double gate-folds hiding and then revealing this complex condition, perhaps symbolic of how the women attempt to conceal/reveal what they are attempting to accomplish.
Indirectly, Abril has created a social commentary about and an investigation into what constitutes beauty and femininity, while exposing an addiction that has serious, if not deadly, consequences.
As a photobook object, it is a complex stiff cover book constructed of a series of double gatefolds. The introduction is by Silvia Omedes and the Afterword is by Abril with the text provided in Spanish and English.
As an interesting publishing note, the book was designed in collaboration with Ramon Pez and Guillermo Brotons with Edition Consulting by Christina de Middel and Silvia Omedes. Pez and Abril had similar roles in the publication of Christina de Middel’s The Afronauts, one of the most interesting artist photobook in 2012.