These Haunting Photos Are A Tribute To ‘Hysterical’ Women

by Giselle Noelle Morgan

Photographer Giselle Noelle Morgan’s “Written On The Body” collection explores hysteria and chronic illness in women. Giselle’s artist statement is below:

In the protracted course of hysteria — a disease akin to the waste basket of medicine —there lives a vexing intersection between this medical marvel and masculine artists from the expressionist, dadaist, and surrealist movements who created a commodification out of this sexualized illness which continuously suppresses women and still stigmatizes female emotions.

This collection, “Written on the Body,” was inspired by the original albumen and lithograph images by Paul Régnard from the Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris France in the late 1880s. These photographs are an homage to the incarcerated female patients who were deemed as hysterical for past sexual trauma, chronic illness, and epilepsy. The images are a link from Freud’s era of hysteria to the current stigmatization of women with disabilities as being haphazardly deemed as deranged or broken. My aim is to create a relationship to a historically fractured medical system and the technological advances that have been tested on females throughout centuries.

As a woman with the chronic illness of dysmenorrhea, I consistently have to fight for my disease to be recognized by the public. It has prohibited my life with magnifying and debilitating pain until impregnation or menopause. The use of double exposures was to imply clonic and tonic epileptic motions that were noted from the Salpêtrière. I used my body as the medium and the material, reinforcing this concept of the “exquisite cadaver.”

“Written on the Body” is a rejection to the fetishization of women as medical muses and I am motivated to demand space for disabled women in the art and academic realm, crusading to “taking up space.”

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