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In one very dark moment of my life, I was told by someone very dear to me, “Your pain is a gift”. At the time that phrase seemed so trivial, and honestly shook me to my core. How could someone fail to understand the reality of what I was currently experiencing? In all truth, this person understood something deeper than I was even aware of. I needed to hear this statement in order to pull through that pain I felt. That simple phrase carried me through the ups and downs of my physical discomfort, eventually encouraging me to pursue my art and life more deeply despite the surging ache I often feel. I have looked back on this moment often, and found a fascination with the ability to communicate on a deeper level, both with others and within our own internal dialogue. All Pain is the Same is a representation of my own and several others’ stories through film photographic transfers onto mirrored surfaces.

I believe we currently live in a society in which suffering in individuals is consistently compared. In hearing these comparisons through everyday conversation, I have come to question why we are fighting to prove our pain is greater than another’s instead of reaching out a proverbial hand as if to say “I may not understand what you’re going through, but I can appreciate it”. All Pain is the Same is designed to reach out this hand. Each person that experiences this exhibition will look upon seven unique stories of mental, physical, and spiritual torment, but in doing so, they will also see their own difficult experiences physically reflected back towards them. The photograph connects the subject with the viewer in silent appreciation for each other’s trauma. We all will or have experienced hardships within our lives, and I believe it is time to stop the judgmental evaluations and instead recognize how we can heal through having an open dialogue about this suppressed topic.

I quickly found a home in studio portraiture and film photography when it was introduced to me around three years ago. I love the studio for its ability to isolate the subject, and feel a strong draw to film photography, especially when using the 4 x 5 camera, for its intimacy and slow process. This combination has quickly become my preferred method of photographing. Through this process I am allowed to get close to my subjects, both in a physical setting and in spending the time to truly understand their story. I am fascinated with traditional and alternative photographic printing methods, and have always loved the unique look of wet plate collodion prints. The reflective nature of the glass plate and imperfect photographs produced by the process drew me in, and I found a desire to reflect this stylistic approach within this exhibition. After photographing each subject, I digitally printed their portrait onto an ink transfer material, and then transferred the ink onto a glass mirror. Due to the printing process, the final image is beautifully imperfect, and the result is the ability for the viewers to see themselves integrated into each image. Therefore, no two perceptions of the images will ever be the same. By allowing the viewer to see himself or herself physically within the image, they will create a shared experience with the subject in the photograph.

Throughout my life, I have always had a desire to understand how the individual plays a role in the community around them. I believe community is necessary, and in today’s world we are often focused on our own individual path and forget to look back to see who might be falling behind. When I was at a low point, I had a hand reach out to help. In hearing the stories (some for the first time) while photographing my models, I found that the way each one healed was by having someone else reach out that same hand. We need community, and we have a desire to communicate on a deeper level with one another. Let us look at these photographs in this light, and let us walk away with a deeper understanding of those that are portrayed on the wall and those that are standing next to us.


This is a metadata-only record.



  • Content length or size
    • jpeg

  • DPLA rights
    • © 2019 Hannah Gilliam, All Rights Reserved

  • Date submitted

    19 July 2022

  • Keywords
  • Is format of
    • Photographic Mixed Media