Learn what inspired Eva Woolridge to create her series "The Size of a Grapefruit" and the story behind it.
1. Tell us why you chose to pursue “The Size of a Grapefruit”.
I chose to pursue "The Size of a Grapefruit" because it was my method to heal from trauma. When I submitted my application, I was just two weeks shy from the anniversary of my ovarian surgery, and creating art was my way of processing the experience. I was so frustrated that ovarian cysts are so common, and there is so little medical research of preventative methods or causes, because it's a women's issue. This visual narrative is my way to communicate that frustration.
2. What message are you hoping to convey through “The Size of a Grapefruit”?
I want people to see the emotional process trauma has in this particular subject. I want people who don't know about ovarian cysts to understand how it feels when one is about to rupture, or when your body is urgently warning you that something is wrong. I want more attention on the symptoms so that permanent damage can be avoided. And I want people to learn and understand the realities of the black female experience and our history of neglect in the medical industry.
3. Of all the images you have made from “Where Women Rule," which one is most important to you?
The most important image from my series "The Size of a Grapefruit," is 'The Weight of Trauma.' It represents the weight of depression, betrayal, confusion, and fatigue the cyst inflicted on my body. Biologically, when an ovary is removed, it will take weeks to months for your body to re-adjust your hormone distribution, which leads to intensified mood swings and dips into depression. I felt betrayed by my body, specifically my reproductive organs that I spent five years professionally advocating for updated medical research and treatment of. I was confused why I was not more prepared with information on what would happen to my body with one ovary-- whether I could still have kids, would still have a period, or if it could happen again to my other ovary. I felt isolated in my thoughts and emotions, and I felt like I was sinking. To see the image now on the other side is a reminder that emotions are momentary, and that eventually peace can be found.
4. What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered in your visual storytelling, and how did you approach these issues?
I often struggle with moving forward with a concept that is marinating in my head for too long. There are so many ways that an artist can tell a story, and like many, I struggle with actually taking the idea and turning it into a finished project. When making new work, I work best when there is a deadline. This way I am forced to make a decision and move forward. If not, I'll get stuck adding more concepts and visuals to a project and become overwhelmed to eventually myself out of completing the project. Alas, mind of an artist. To stay minimal I stick to the rule that less is more--if the message is meaningful enough, the story can be told with as little distractions as possible. I photograph people, and people have a lot to say using just their body and expressions.
5. What is a piece of advice offered to you, related to photography, that has been most valuable to you?
I was offered a piece of advice by an old mentor of mine, whom I still very much respect. We were talking about photography at a restaurant I was working at the time. I was still developing my style, but I knew I enjoyed photographing nude people. He told me that nude photography was a cliche, and an easy way to add "shock" value to an image, without actually saying anything. He photographed a polaroid portrait of me, and then wrote "don't photograph nudes." As the years passed every project I completed, that piece of advice lived in the back of my mind because each project had nude photography. And each project received international attention, including my last which received the Leica Women Foto Project award. And so the best advice I have received, is to not listen to every advice given. I keep that polaroid in my box of prized possessions.