Bison!

While we were in Colorado, our friend Sally Spencer-Thomas (of the Carson J. Spencer Foundation) was kind enough to take us up to her cabin in Grand Lake, where there are—purportedly—a ton of moose, which we did not see. We had to get up before dawn to drive back into Denver to catch our flights, though, and did end up getting the tiniest glimpse of three moose in the distance, as well as THESE bad boys! Nature!

Elevating the Conversation in Denver (and a few other things)

Hello, hello!

Last Friday, I was incredibly lucky to present as part of a panel of attempt survivors (with Craig Miller and Eduardo Vega) at the third annual Elevating the Conversation conference in Denver, CO. It was—and always is, when it happens—amazing to talk about my experiences and my work in a way that has the potential to influence future service providers to treat those of us who struggle with suicidal thoughts with a bit more compassion than we’ve historically been shown. I was also able to meet and photograph three incredible survivors from the Denver area. I can’t wait to share their stories with you guys (but it’s gonna be awhile before it happens). To top it all off, Doug and Kurt, from The S Word team, flew out and we did some filming! I’m really terrible in front of a camera—unless I can manage to forget it’s there—and, luckily, they’re very patient with me.

We closed the day out with a poem performed by Craig, and a slideshow of 75 of the portraits I’ve made for the project set to the LTT theme song, “Redeemed,” by Charlotte Martin. It was apowerful day, and those last few moments really took it up to 11. When I got off the stage, I was all teary-eyed and shaky—but in a good way.

There’s been some really nice press coverage of late:

All of these were really refreshing after a time suck of a courtship by a huge national magazinethat ended in me turning down the feature because they continually pushed me to share information I wasn’t comfortable sharing. It was a painful experience that left me feeling emotionally manipulated and bullied in a way that seems wholly unique to large press outlets. I’ve felt it every single time I’ve dealt with one, and this was my third experience.

A big part of my mission these days is to change the focus of our conversations about suicide. I don’t want to talk gory details, I want to talk about how these experiences affect us and what helps. While exposure for the project is always nice, I decided it wasn’t worth compromising my principles again. Per the reporter, the editors would still like to run the piece—but only if I give them what they want, information which is in direct violation of the Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide (a good resource for all you bloggers and journalists out there). I’d much rather they made the choice to cover this story appropriately, as they claim to want to, but I’d also like to someday pay off my student loans—neither seems likely. I plan on writing more about this later, once I’ve done a little more processing.

In other news, I’ll be speaking at the University of Kentucky in Lexington next Thursday afternoon from 5:30-7:30. It’s free to the public, so if you’re in the area, come on down.

In April, I’ll be collecting stories and presenting at the American Association of Suicidology annual conference in Atlanta, as well as the National Council for Behavioral Health conference in Orlando, next month. I’ll make one last stop in Toronto in May to present at the American Psychiatric Association conference, and then I’m taking the summer off to go on my HONEYMOON!

Thanks again for supporting the project. When I started four and a half years ago, I never thought that I’d have built such an incredible community of survivors and advocates, or that I’d find myself collaborating directly with the professionals, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity. There’s still so much to do, but we’ve made a great leap in this past year, and I’m excited to see what happens next!

It’s 2015! Here’s an Update:

Turns out, I’ve been doing less photographing of things lately, and more talking/writing. I miss my camera, but I’m also excited about finally growing into my identity as an occasional writer, too.

So, in list form, here’s some stuff that’s happened recently:

1. I heard about the Leelah Alcorn story early on, and got pissed off that no one was covering it (which changed quickly). I wrote a story about it for Huffington Post Gay Voices.

2. That led to a guest spot on HuffPost Live’s QueerView with Josh Zepps:

3. I wrote a piece about my complicated relationship with my father, his criminal history, and his death in prison for xoJane.

4. I’m this week’s NY1 New Yorker of the Week! I got to be on live television for the first time! Exciting! Terrifying! Here’s the segment (live interview to come):

2015 is off to a good start!

Jess + Adrian in Brooklyn Bride! | Brooklyn Wedding Photographer

Jess + Adrian’s super cute DIY Brooklyn wedding is up over on Brooklyn Bride. Click to see more!

Want us to shoot your wedding? Head on over to we are for each other for more information.

Jess + Adrian's DIY Brooklyn wedding

Jess + Adrian's DIY Brooklyn wedding

Jess + Adrian's DIY Brooklyn wedding

Jess + Adrian's DIY Brooklyn wedding

Live Through This interactive exhibit at Freeman Space in Brooklyn

I’m happy to announce the first interactive, multimedia Live Through This gallery exhibition, going on through October 2 at Freeman Space in Greenpoint!

The opening party was fantastic! I’m so excited to see the work exhibited the way I’ve envisioned since the beginning. I love that viewers can listen to the raw interviews as they look at the portraits, but there’s so much more to it.

The press release is below. If you’re local, please come out and take a look!

Live Through This at Freeman Space in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NYC

Freeman Space is proud to present Live Through This: a portrait and oral history project. On the heels of National Suicide Prevention Week, the exhibition showcases photographer Dese’Rae L. Stage’s ongoing portrait and oral history series on suicide attempt survivors. Attempt survivors are a group forced into anonymity, shamed, and stigmatized by a society misinformed about emotional trauma and resulting preventable deaths.

By pairing portraits with curated transcripts of the life experiences of attempt survivors, as told to the artist, Live Through This illuminates both the inner workings of suicidal minds and the bodies in which they live. It reveals a depth and breadth of experience of a group not limited by age, creed, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender presentation, professional/academic standing, or socioeconomic status. Live Through This is collaborative, socially engaged art, inviting attempt survivors to come out of the shame closet in an act of advocacy through story telling and own their experiences publicly, using their full name and likeness. Live Through This inspires compassion and underscores the fact that suicide affects us all—no one is immune. It encourages the viewer to look into the eyes of the subject, to fill their shoes and meet them in their humanity.

Stage began the project four years ago and, in that time, has interviewed and photographed 103 attempt survivors in 11 US cities. She has been invited to speak by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Texas at Austin, and the American Association of Suicidology. She has written for xoJane and Huff Post TED Weekends, performed her story for the Story Collider, and appeared on the Glenn Beck Program, Fox News, and BBC World Have Your Say. Coverage of the project has included The New York Times, NPR, Associated Press, The Guardian, and others.

This exhibition peels back the cloak of anonymity and builds awareness surrounding the taboo topic of suicide. It will reveal new portraits that have not yet been made public and prompt interaction around the issue with interactive elements and events, including a unconventional guided tour, an online game called “Depression Quest” (which simulates life with depression, for those unfamiliar), audio and video of subjects’ interviews, and talks throughout the exhibition run.

• September 16, 7P / Opening Party
• Sept 22, 7P / A conversation with the photographer and survivors
• Oct 2, 7P / Closing Party

 

ABOUT THE COLLABORATORS

Dese’Rae L. Stage is a photographer, writer, and suicide awareness advocate. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from East Tennessee State University and is trained in crisis intervention. Her personal experiences with self­-injury and a suicide attempt, coupled with the loss of friends to suicide and a lack of resources for attempt survivors, served as the impetus to create Live Through This.

Isabella Bruno creates pop-­up exhibitions soup ­to­ nuts. Her mission is to bring amazing, educational, joy ­filled, interactive experiences to the general public. She curates subject matter that is hyper-­local, timely, and relevant to make exhibitions with a unique sense of time and place. bruno­design.com

 

ABOUT THE PRESENTER

Freeman Space is an intimate space for work and play in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Our mission is to foster big engagement in a small space through unique topics under the umbrellas of art, culture and social science. We present creative non­fiction through exhibitions and events. We believe more can be done with less.