Anorexia, bulimia and related phenomena are increasingly widespread around the world. According to the ANAD [the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders], up to 70 million people of all ages and genders currently suffer from some kind of eating disorder.

But to say it is a global problem obscures an important fact—there is strong evidence to suggest that young women in the Western world have the highest risk of developing such disorders. Furthermore, there is evidence that ”Westernization” increases the risk. Specifically, heightened body awareness, unrealistic beauty ideals and an emerging trend for self-optimization, dieting and fitness are a few—but certainly not the only—reasons that young people feel insecure about themselves and their appearance. These are all trends that are felt more strongly in developed countries.

[A behind-the-scenes look at Rakoš’ work on this subject, which resulted in the publication of a book by the same title.]

Experts such as sociologists, psychologists and therapists agree that not only social processes, but also individual experiences and family dynamics are highly relevant factors. Nonetheless, the topic is often treated in an unfortunately one-dimensional way. It is frequently used by the media as a keyword rather than being presented as a serious illness. Closer examination is prevented by an omnipresent taboo connected to the topic.

By using a collaborative approach, and in cooperation with women and girls who were willing to share their experiences, this project aims to establish a different perspective on the subject to overcome black-and-white-patterns. Therefore, I didn’t only take photographs but also conducted lengthy interviews and collected drawings, sculptures, writings and pictures made by the protagonists.

This open approach allowed the participants to decide freely what they wanted to contribute to the project as well as how deeply they wanted to engage with it.

The outcome is not only addressed to those who are interested in photography and art, but also to those who are in touch with eating disorders and interested in seeing them from a new point of view.

—Mafalda Rakoš

If you are interested in other projects like this, here are a few more to explore: Sara Lewkowicz’s series Maggie documents the harrowing story of an abusive relationship; Birthday Suits, by Lucy Hilmer, is a set of the photographer’s self-portraits from ages 33-68; and in I Used To Be You, artist Kyoko Hamada photographs her elderly alter ego, Kikuchiyo-san, thus meditating on perceptions of self over time.