The silent dialogue

PhotographerElena Helfrecht
PrizeHonorable Mention
Entry Description

"The silent dialogue" is a deliberate selection of an ongoing series of conceptually documenting selfportraits since 2014, examining the relationship between my own body and mind. Facial features and a physiognomic identity are avoided in order to focus on the skin and its storytelling, enabling the observer to identify better with shown imagery. The single photographs can be seen as fragments or shards which, put together, yield a mirror enabling me to analyze and reflect on myself. Diagnosed with depression and an emotionally unstable personality disorder I discovered the camera as a way of treatment.


When I was younger I never understood what was wrong with me. I was not able to control my temper and my mood switched in minutes from pure happiness to an unbearable sadness that made me wish dead. I surpressed it, but sooner or later it would overcome me and make me lose control. I didn't understand where the urge to hurt myself came from, nor did I know how to stop it. Sometimes physical pain was the only thing giving me safety, an emotion I could hold on to when otherwise I was apathetic and did not feel at all. There were days and hours where I was gone in the fog, waking up only later in places I didn't go to. Especially during my last years in school I often was not able to attend class or needed to go home early. Sadness and desperation were constant companions, no matter how hard I tried to get rid of them. My medication just made me very tired, but with it at least I did not have the energy to hate myself. In my first relationship I realized I was not only hurting myself but people close to me. I realized too late how much I hurt my own mother, how much I made her feel guilty for something she couldn't do anything about. I still silently admire her for her patience. Eventually with the help of friends I started to fight back. I started therapy, I reflected on myself, I wanted to understand. I also learned how to channel the pain into photographs. The camera became my instrument of peaceful exorcism. My first diagnosis made the big unseen monster inside of me visible. For the first time I was able to grasp it, I could finally get a hold of it. The knowledge of not bearing any blame but being able to take responsibility was my first weapon in a battle that sometimes still catches up with me today. In the end I did not defeat the monster, because it would mean to defeat myself – but I made peace by accepting it. It is a constant walk on the tightrope, but mostly we treat each other with respect instead of denying one another. Sometimes it still bites, but my camera and the people in my life help me to release and soothe it.