Endo (within) metri (womb) osis (condition)
1 in 10 women will suffer the effects of endometriosis, a total of approximately 180 million women worldwide, represented here by the 18 photographed for the exhibition. The condition comes about when tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows in other areas of the body, causing symptoms including chronic pain, fatigue, bowel issues and devastatingly, it is one of the leading causes of infertility in women. It is also shown to have a serious negative impact on mental health, career and education. Yet, endometriosis diagnosis and treatment remain a woefully underfunded, under researched, and often misunderstood, area of medicine. Taking an average of 7 and a half years for symptoms to be diagnosed, endometriosis can be a painful, invisible fixture of many women’s lives.
Through these intimate portraits of real endometriosis sufferers, I wanted to express some of the emotions of living with the condition. I photographed the women nude to express the sense of vulnerability and loss of self that is often described by victims of endometriosis. The images also show the bravery of these women. On plinths of soft white material, reminiscent of giant rolls of bandage, they stand strong, seeming almost statuesque, in the face of their suffering. In a single large group shot the women stand united through their shared experiences. However, they do not look at one another and stand apart, separate and isolated.
Sometimes known as an “invisible illness” endometriosis has very few outward signs. With 10 close-up images, I gently highlight the women's surgical scars, the only outward signs that they suffer from a medical condition. For the majority of endometriosis sufferers, this surgery (known as a laparoscopy) is the only way to confirm their diagnosis and can be the only way to treat their symptoms. Surgery, however, is often not the end of the women’s ordeal. As the endometriosis lesions can grow back, repeated surgeries are often required to control the condition. Some of these surgical scars are only faintly visible to the viewer, yet they are the focal point of both the image and much of the subject’s life. These faint physical scars can often be dwarfed by the mental scars caused by infertility, chronic pain or feelings of disenfranchisement and neglect brought about by years of medical misunderstanding.