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?
Access to the people and institutions that complete a story is always a challenge, as there could always be more of it. Financial resources, time and social connections directly affect that access, so grants like these do make an impact.
Other imperatives are consistent, clear communication on the project's goals, as well as understanding each community’s unique culture and individual’s comfort level. I try to prioritize truthful, catchy storytelling on par with learning each person's and community's boundaries as I become a part of their lives, to avoid confusion or intrusion.
A common rut we face as journalists hides in the predictability of words or pictures. So in addition to traditional storytelling methods, I enjoy more innovative styles of visual speak, whether via diptychs or juxtaposed layers (like double- or triple-exposures,) to compare and contrast the places, people and ideas I visit.
5. What is a piece of advice offered to you, related to photography, that has been most valuable to you?
I received invaluable advice early in my career — to insist on one's style. This has proven ever-relevant since the arts, whether in language or visuals, are often subjective both in their execution and in their interpretation, and are often the craft of the modern precariat (in journalism’s case, this being the non-affluent freelancer.) Thus, the intent and influence of art itself is susceptible to many pressures. I think this makes one’s growth as a journalist essential in a highly personal but also a communal way, especially when free of middling trends, corporate greed or creativity-subsuming control, which takes a strong subscription to one’s evolving vision of self and the world. That, amongst other fortunate or unfortunate things — like money, empathy and luck.