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With bated breath

When I was eleven years old, I started having panic attacks at the thought of dying. About once a week for several years after my cousin’s suicide in 2007, I would spiral into a crying, shaking, dysfunctional mess. I wasn’t equipped to handle these feelings, and the advice I received at the time didn’t alleviate my worries.


How does one comfort a panicked child feeling existential dread? I know many adults who desperately want to provide consoling words who also struggle with these feelings. Slowly, I learned to recognize the thought patterns that fed my anxieties, and I worked hard to let them go before they became too loud to ignore. In 2022 a psychologist introduced me to the idea of complicated grief, and a better understanding of so many past events clicked into place for me. Armed with this knowledge, I started finding new connections between many of the photographs in my personal archive: moments when I intuitively recognized this sense of grief, even if I hadn’t learned the words to name it yet.


These moments jumped out at me as I leafed through old contact sheets, booted up old hard drives, and scrolled through pictures from my phone’s camera roll. As I began to put these images together, I also created new photographs to accompany them. Choosing which images to include in this series quickly became too emotionally difficult, so I adopted a formal structure that would define my approach to curating it. I decided this series will always contain eleven color and eleven black and white photographs. Including a new photograph in this series means removing an older one, allowing images to have their own life cycle within this body of work.


I don’t just see this series as images of grief. Instead, I think of it as a series that celebrates living alongside it, cherishing the stubborn beauty found in little things all around us. With bated breath is in some ways a series cobbled together from photographic odds and ends I couldn’t see clearly until now, but in other ways it’s a series I’ve been working on since I was eleven.

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