Is it possible to measure pain? If so, how can one measure psychical pain? The Pain Project includes video portraits of mothers suffering from depression and anxiety, undergoing periods of treatment and rehabilitation. One of the reasons behind the treatment is postpartum (postnatal) depression, which since the 90’s slowly has been acknowledged as a widely unrecognized and untreated form of mental imbalance. I have met these mothers weekly since November 2009 and shot several 10-second video portraits. Each final portrait clip includes tens of video layers from these sessions – one of the portraits has 49 layers.
The final images are portraits of time, pain, depression and recovering, which can take months and sometimes years. Each person remains anonymous and distribution of the video work, photographs, press images and any other material related to the Pain Project is strictly limited by mutual agreements.
The Pain Project has been accomplished together with the registered association of Mother and Child Homes, Helsinki, and it’s Varvara Support Groups, which I am supporting financially with this work.
Besides personal or relatives’ experiences of depression or anxiety, a great source of inspiration has been the medical photography of the 19th Century: images of mental patients (Hugh Welch Diamond, 1809–1886), photographs of women suffering from what was then named hysteria and experimental medical photography of the Salpêtrière hospital in France (among others, Albert Londe, 1858–1917). These fascinating photographs reveal much about the general attitude towards women at that time, as well as the theories concerning the psyche or treatment of mental disorder. I ask myself whether these presumptions still exist?
What if pain resides in all of us? According to one of the participants it is in all of us, somewhere deep inside. It is complex and delicate, and it can rise up to the surface whenever life gets unbearable and things pile up; one can never know which straw that will break the camel’s back. (2010-2014)
Video loops 3:20, c-prints 80 by 110 centimeters (edition 7)Download Saarto's Statement Pain