MIDSTATE, Pa. (WHTM) — A Master’s student at Penn State Harrisburg is using her final project to bring attention to women’s mental health.
Julia Slezak wanted to capture feelings like depression and anxiety, so she stepped behind — and at times, in front of — the lens, creating a collection of 15 photos representing women’s mental health.
“I just really want people to feel the pictures,” Slezak said.
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The cameras lining Slezak’s shelves make it clear photography is a lifelong passion.
“My parents always had big boxes, containers of old photo albums and I would always go through them,” Slezak said.
It made the choice for her last project in getting her Master’s degree an easy one.
“Oh 100 percent, I’m doing a photo collection,” Slezak said.
Slezak decided to highlight mental health, something she herself has struggled with over the last few years.
“I went through loss, and breakup,” she said.
Slezak specifically focused on women, saying she felt portrayals of women’s health have not been accurate. She said women with mental health struggles are often expected to hide them.
“I would see these pictures of women like full makeup, hair done,” she said.
In other cases, Slezak said women’s struggles are not taken seriously.
“They were crazy, they were insane,” Slezak said.
Slezak describes her photos as intimate. They are often close-ups of hands or feet.
“You can tell it is someone’s home,” she said. “I just wanted it to feel very real.”
For more than a year, Slezak carefully crafted her 15 photos, exploring themes like depression.
“An aspect of depression is either self-harm,” Slezak said of one of her photos.
She also said other photos portray anxiety.
“Somebody is underwater, in a way drowning,” she said. “Water’s still rising.”
One of her favorite photos represents trauma.
“Blood, broken glass, and rose petals,” Slezak said, describing the photo. “I really look at this picture as a broken relationship, and I’m picking out the rose petals in it as that last hope.”
Slezak said she hopes people can relate to her pictures and that her images spark more conversations about mental health.
“I wanted to capture them and show them so people don’t feel alone,” she said.
Slezak’s project is open to the public for one day. Her photos will be displayed Saturday, April 23 at Penn State Harrisburg’s Olmsted Building from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.