What do you see?
A mess, maybe. But to photographer Sarah Anne Ward, these stains run deeper. Her art aims to fill them with politics, pain, and all of menstruation's cosmic complexities.
Sarah finds periods “FASCINATING” with a capital everything, and her analysis of them might make you feel the same.
“This series was mainly prompted with my struggle to accept PMS,” she says. “Being a feminist, I never wanted to accept these symptoms and often thought PMS was a very Westernized cultural phenomenon or a crutch for womankind…” until she experienced terrible, gut-busting symptoms herself.
“When I was all of a sudden very irritable, nauseous or had cramping/back pain I would think okay I’m getting me period, phew this explains my behavior…to the point where I felt crazy.”
That’s where the Rorschach test idea comes in. The (dated) psychological ink blot test is meant to analyze someone’s emotional functioning so doctors can assess our levels of crazy. But these days there’s so much push back against pathologizing and over-medicalizing people's mental health/emotions, or what Sarah calls “the inevitable physical and emotional changes that some women experience at different times of their cycle.”
These shots are her way of expressing that conflict (with a little bit of humor, which she says always helps!).
Her work was profiled on The Period Store — a must-see site where people can chat about bleedin' and sign up to get monthly gifts inspired by their monthly gifts. It delivers personalized packages of menstrual products, meds, tea, chocolate, and period-related art that “celebrates womanhood” right to your bleeding self each month; a pretty great idea.
(There’s a slight bit of run-of-the-mill trans* erasure in how this stuff is described, so an important note: not all women have periods, and some male-identified people do bleed on the regular; periods aren’t 100 percent an every-woman, all-womankind deal. But it’s absolutely rad nonetheless - this means these packages are good for even more kinds of bodies!)
Check out more of Sarah’s work at SarahAnneWard.com, and poke around The Period Store for more. It's just overflowing with great art and goodies. (har)
Thanks to The Period Store and Sarah Anne Ward.
Photos via The Period Store, by Sarah Anne Ward.