Flowers Still Bloom

A collaboration between Har Leen and Shin Ling • Photo series

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i.
here’s to those faces that still get 
touched by sunshine
some days,
despite not being able to feel it.
 
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ii.
the ghost of me
gifts me flowers
to remind me it is spring somewhere else,
it is how she shows me i am loved.
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iii.
no i do not worry,
that the Earth continues
to spin without me.
no i do not worry,
i am being forgotten.
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iv.
the lies i tell myself,
the ones you call me crazy for,
they’re the only lies 
that keep me alive.
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v.
i wonder if the sun doesn’t mean
to sear my skin when it kisses me,
how much i understand
its violent love.
 
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vi.
some days i believe
that i wouldn’t fly from my window,
into freedom,
even if i could.
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vii.
these flowers:
the opposite
of my inertia, they are either living or dying,
and i can’t manage to do either.
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viii.
i might have built my home
like a grave,
but Shah Jahan showed me:
tombs can be beautiful things.
 
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ix.
flowers still bloom
my love,
they are on their way to you.
 

 

Artist Statement

The concept for this shoot came from reflections on how depression is normally represented through the media as well as through social and political discourse. We know that stereotypical image of someone experiencing depression: often in black and white, someone with their head buried into their knees, or in fetal position on their bed. There is not only this stereotype that people look very sad and depressed in a very particular way, but it becomes a social requirement that you reflect this image every single moment of every day in order for your experience of depression to be seen as legitimate and valid. There is, of course, nothing wrong with relating to such images, but the experience of depression is so different from one person to the next that it is a problem that these are the only representation depression gets through mainstream media.

The photoshoot itself was an act of reclaiming the narrative. We shot the entire series in Har Leen’s bedroom, where she spends most of her time during her depressive episodes. We deliberately captured the evening sun and played with it in our photos, to show that depression does not necessarily mean one cannot see the light, it sometimes means they simply cannot experience it the way they could on better days. The hues of the photo series were also made to look warmer in order to create a contrast from the stock photo of depression we are used to seeing. Har Leen chose her outfit, a simple pink dress, illustrating the moments of softness and hope despite experiencing a chronic depressive cycle.

Although depression is not beautiful, and although we struggled with carrying out our vision without reinforcing a romanticization of depression, reclaiming the narrative of depression did mean seeing the beauty in the ways someone continues to survive despite the suffering depression brings. The juxtaposition of the poem Flowers Still Bloom is intended to show the internal experience of our thoughts and emotions through moments of depression. The poem constitutes 9 mini-poems, which are attached to each photo of the series.

 

Har Leen is a South Asian writer, artist and educator whose practice is entrenched in feminist and anti-racist principles and community-building approaches. As an educator, Har Leen uses arts-based approaches, ranging from visual arts to spoken word, to facilitate grassroots youth programming. She knows that artistic self-expression in safe and community settings can become a catalyst for collective healing and inducing transformative change. Har Leen’s primary artistic practice is spoken word and writing, and she currently lives in Montreal writing her book of poetry.

You can find more of Har Leen’s work on her website, her Facebook page, and her Instagram!