Everybody has a story. What’s so powerful about this series of people with eating disorders is that they are normal people. People like you and me. Women and men, young and old, thin and curvy, from healthy families and dysfunctional, of every race, color, and creed. Whether a person looks like a Hollywood waif, or like a healthy forty-something, they have secrets, stories, history.
If these photographs and stories of people with anorexia and bulimia have been meaningful to you, tell me about it. Leave a comment at the bottom of this page. And then come back to see what others have said. I’ll bet you’ll find that you are not alone.
Also, if you have found an excellent resource that has helped you or someone you know to heal, please share that here as well.
Fritz, this is powerful work. The comments here alone testify to its ongoing impact. Thanks for bringing secrets gently into the light, with dignity and inspiration. Thanks for busting myths and cliches. Particularly touched by Katie’s story, and how you told me she had subsequently died. Sigh…but this is a life-giving book. Thanks. God bless.
Wow Fritz! This is amazing work. In high school and college I had an eating disorder. These photos and stories are a fantastic treasure. Knowing you aren’t the only one struggling, that there are others like you is a powerful healing tool. Thank you for this!
Wow, your works have been extremely inspirational. I’ve been anorexic (though that word bother me) for almost a year now and currently weigh 101.4 lbs. But these stories have showed that I’m not alone on my path to recovery and I am eternally grateful.
I used to be very thin when I was 15. I can’t say if it would have been anorexia. Maybe yes… Yes, definitely.
Now I’m 22/23. I’m still quite a rush but a green one.
It isn’t a matter of bones and skin, it’s a matter of mind. I have gained healt since I excaped the system of calculating calories, the day in wich my mouth touched a surprise chocolate without the brain alerting itself.
Now I heal completely.
This photos (and all your work) are a marvelous hymn to imperfection, that is the main (underrated) ingredient of beauty.
(Sorry for the english, I’m Italian)
I am in tears and chills right now from your site. I haven’t look at it all yet, but I’ve watched the video and read some more of the stories, and I just now read the Introduction. IVE SEEN THINNER. Thank God that is how you started your introduction. It is so true, how often we hear that, when we are SO SICK, yet we are of normal weight, so no one thinks we are sick. I’ve had both anorexia and bulimia both, so I’ve been in all places. I am just now entering a good state of recovery. I am weight restored, I love my body and myself, which is an amazing feeling. I was sick for 12 years. I”m 30 now and its time to start living. My therapist posted a link to your page on her facebook page and I’m so glad she did. She loves your site and so do I. It will help many people. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for doing this. You are amazing and courageous to do this. God Bless you for overcoming your own eating disorder and now trying to help others. Good luck with everything. 🙂
I found this link through my old treatment center’s blog (Shoreline). Your work is absolutely stunning and really captures eating disorders. Today I was just put on a new weight gain meal plan (after three years in residential) and today I found your site. I emailed my dietitian the link, it’s a very powerful website.
Laura, thanks for writing. I took a look at your Things We Keep Hidden series, and it’s powerful. An intriguing combination of text and image; very thoughtful.
My dietician told me to check out your work after hearing you speak at a conference. It really hit home with me. I have been working on a photo project of my own, some of which has to do with eating disorders as well. It’s called “The Things We Keep Hidden” and you can see it at http://thingswekeephidden.wordpress.com. I’d be honored if you checked it out. Thanks so much for your really meaningful work.
…Thank you. I turn away things that I feel are even a slight facade, misunderstanding, lack of entire representation of my monster in culture, and in the way it makes me feel or not feel. But this, this is the most real, truthful, naked, honest and understanding representation of what the struggle is, where it comes from, and who we are who have lived with and do live with it. It’s the loneliest disease I feel and finding this made me feel a little less lonely if even for a fraction of time.
Thank you, thank you for making me feel less alone. Thank you for making what I struggle with seem to matter.
Dear Fritz, Your work is profound. Thank you for capturing the authentic struggle and pain of an eating disorder.
Thank you so much, Rachel. It’s been an absolute delight to be at the IAEDP Symposium, meet so many wonderful people, and be able to share the Skeleton in the Closet series. Let’s talk about how we can bring the series to Long Beach!
Hi Fritz – Thank you so much for showing your work this weekend at the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals meeting in Phoenix. Your work is so moving and so reflective of the struggles that are being faced by those in recovery all over the world. I hope to bring your work to Long Beach someday soon so that more people can view and understand the project. Thanks again, Rachel
Your work is beautiful. Five years ago I had every test done because I couldn’t stop getting sick. They discovered the problem, which resolved itself in time. When that happened I don’t know, but it kept happening-only now I make myself sick. I finally admitted to myself and someone else a couple months ago in a drug rehab that I am bulimic. I am taking steps to heal so many facets of my disfunctional life: PTSD, bipolar disorder, ED, drug and alcohol addiction…Sometimes I throw my hands up and say, “what’s next?” But then I remember that I have to work through all these things to heal. Behind all these labels I am a beautifully scared and empowered woman. When I close off my heart and mind I stay stuck. As long as I stay open and honest and talk to the people I trust I make progress. Progress rather than Perfection.
Thank you for creating this beautiful project! I love it because not only does it share a large amount of a wide variety of stories, but it does so artistically. Hopefully this will reach people who have small-minded views of eating disorders and will help them to better understand.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. Everyone should see your work, it could help so many people understand the depth and breadth of ED. This is a remarkable piece.
I am truly touched by this amazing piece of work I secretly struggled with an ED for 7 years and can see a little bit of myself in every story. It brings back so many bad memories: the isolation and self loathing the anxiety the exhaustion that purging brings the guilt…
I am now in my thirties and in a much better place I have gained control back over my life. I’m not 100% better but how I’m feeling about myself today is far from what I felt like in my twenties; I am living proof that it is possible to heal and live normally again.
These stories and photos are a great reminder of where I come from and what I never want to go through again–thanks for that.
Wow this is just amazing. So beautiful and so true. I can totally relate to and understand what nearly all of the pics depict…
In my own life. it’s the grace and love of God that has kept me alive but yeah i still do fall back to my old secret habits..
Thank You for this beautiful project I absolutely love it!
Your latest photographic documentary in the latest Slivershotz is quite
amazing, emotional, and personal.
Talia’s photograph and statement rang as true as any bell.
Thank you for including these individual’s statements. It gives so much
more to the photographs – even though photographs are amazing. I’ve
seen many photo essay’s on physical and mental illnesses and rarely do
they let the individuals photographed express their feelings about
Fritz, you took my senior portraits last fall and I don’t think you ever knew that I have been struggling with anorexia and bulimia for 5 years. I love this series because it doesn’t glamorize eating disorders at all. It shows the real pain that people go through and that it’s not a choice, it’s a disease. I have a love-hate relationship with my eating disorder and am trying to get help. I know that it is the hardest thing I have ever done and will ever do. I have my doubts about whether it’ll be worth it or not, but I keep going if not for myself, for my family and friends. I glance at this page occasionally and am always reminded that I’m not alone. And I’m not crazy for thinking the thoughts that I think, and for feeling the feelings I feel. Thanks so much for that. <3
So much of me is in those images and words. I get fear and hope from what is portrayed. It’s so easy to stay trapped. My family history is full of self-destruction and mental illness. I still wonder why I would be different. If I can be different. I am 40. I need to change. I still pretend otherwise but I know this can kill me. When I got serious about recovery I thought, “this time will be different”. Those words scare me, because I’ve said them before. This time is different though. When I look at this series, I see myself, when before I would have denied. I see the painful trap of eating disorders but also the possiblity and strength of recovery.
The Skeletons in the Closet series is extraordinarily powerful and
intense … I suffered from eating disorders for years, as did my
mother, who was a fashion model. I think it’s a much more prevalent
disease than statistics show. I became an active feminist as a
teenager, joined Riot Grrrl meetings, and wrote zines to raise
awareness about body image issues and the role of the media. I was
briefly hospitalized for anorexia, then got very fat out of protest!
I had a breast reduction because my breasts looked so “fat” to me, and
now it is my sincere hope that I will still be able to nurse a child.
I tried every therapy under the sun just to get the stupid voice out
of my head that monitored everything I ate, or was obsessed with how
my butt looked. Long after my weight stabilized, the toxic voice
inside continued to obsess on every detail. The story of the method
that finally “cured” me is a little epic in itself.
First off let me say that it is very refreshing to see a straight man
raise awareness of these issues. I read that you had suffered from
anorexia as well and I appreciate your honesty in coming out with this.
I guess what I found so fascinating about the photo series is the way
that you alternately did and did not reveal the body behind the voice.
I’m just wondering what your intent was – did the subject of the
photo control the revealing (or not) of the body? Or were the
concepts your ideas?
I’m asking because the common rant of feminists is that the media
sexualizes thin bodies to sell products, or to promote insecurity
about physical imperfection so that women don’t claim all the power
available to them. So I’m just wondering if you were thinking about
how easy it is for thin bodies to be sexualized as you were editing
the photos … Sorry if I’m rambling, I’m just still digesting the
content. I guess I’m wondering about the choice to show a whole
figure – when we have all been trained by the media to identify a body
as fit or not fit, thin or fat, attractive or ugly … if I thought
the women in the photo was attractive than it was easier for me to
ignore the text about her suffering.
I thought the photos that only revealed a portion of the body were
more evocative, because they suggest the mystery of the body – the
mystery being that it is always morphing, changing shape, that it will
appear different to different people, and that it is eminently
manipulatable with a camera lens and editing techniques. But then
again I liked the full-figure photo of the women in bikini and cap and
gown, maybe because it was unintentionally ironic – suggesting a
weight loss ad in the back of a magazine.
Sorry, I guess you hit a nerve – I’ve long dreamt of writing a
first-person novel in which the main character obsesses over her
weight, but the reader is never actually sure what she looks like,
because she is described variously by other people as skinny, fat, and
normal looking … which to me describes exactly the experience of
being a woman in this culture – disconnected from any real sense of
our own bodies, and dependent on others for information about our worth.
Well, I think the series does a wonderful job of showing the spectrum
of anorexia and that it doesn’t strictly afflict “model” types. I
guess I’m just wondering if there was an overarching idea in how you
depicted these bodies with your camera – since media images are really
the source of the disease in the first place. Really fascinating and
I will try to make the show in Portland!
I just looked over your skelton series again, it’s a been few years since I first saw it. Your work on that project was so incredible. It was deeply moving. You did an incredible job at getting into the heart of the people you photographed. The way you lit the portraits and connected with each of the people you photographed was so tangible. Just wanted to let you know how valuable I think your project was. Brought tears to my eyes and touched my heart, gave me an even of deep compassion for humanity.
This is just an incredible piece of work – thank you for the time you put into the photos and the stories of 65 people struggling with an incredibly difficult illness. I have two sisters who struggled with ED for years; one still suffers from low self-esteem and body image. I believe this had much to do with her husband leaving her. I also had a friend/business partner who struggled with a deep affliction of anorexia and alcoholism – we finally had to part ways when I couldn’t deal with the incredible (self-imposed) feeling of needing to “save” or be responsible for her well-being. At several points during our partnership, she almost died and I couldn’t handle the daily stress of wondering if she would show up for work or if I’d have to visit her in the hospital that morning. She is currently sober and working hard to stay that way. My guess, based on her appearance, is she is still a practicing anorexic. I try to encourage her recovery through cards and short phone conversations, but I continue to keep my heart at a distance because it is too painful otherwise. The strain that various forms of this illness has put upon me and other family members has cut deep into our relationships, own self-worth, etc. By nature, I am a thick-skinned soul, so it took me years to understand the effects that careless words can have on people and I have become much more careful with my own word choices when dealing with women friends, girls in the neighborhood, my own child. I find that, because of my many experiences with ED victims, I tend to be a little less “in control” of my own habits – not faithful to an exercise regime, usually 5 lbs or so over my “ideal” weight, always having that extra glass of wine or having one more bite of cake – almost as a reassurance that I will not fall into the same trap as my sisters and friends. One of your photography subjects talked about turning off the tv, cancelling magazine subscriptions, etc. What a smart, smart young woman! I think she cut right to the core of one of society’s main negative self-image influences and I was really happy to read that she is now so much healthier since she shut out that part of our culture. My prayers and hopes go out to all of your subjects and to the many, many people out there who struggle with eating disorders.
I just looked at your works in the gallery at WSUTC. You nailed it in your introduction when you wrote, “In a society saturated with shallow, narrow definitions of beauty…” I am one of the fat people in society. I can say from personal experience that many do not care about the health issues when “appreciating” the female form. I have lost 80 pounds and have 45 to go. There is a world of difference in the way I am viewed now as opposed to 80 pounds ago. What I-and I believe many fat people-do have in common with many of the women in your photo essay is we are never good enough, no matter how much we overcome and “fix” our perceived imperfections.
i have just started dealing with my anorexia and have days when i fee like i’m going crazy. i get so scared sometimes. i know i should eat, but a lot of times i just can’t make myself. ed is too strong. he beats me up quite a bit. if i do eat i feel like i’m going to throw up. somedays i’m very hopeful about recovering from this, but most days i’m depressed and feel like it will never work. i’m 41 and i can’t eat like a normal person. i just want to be able to eat food like normal people, and not feel guilty, or like i shouldn’t even need food. looking and these pictures and reading the stories makes me feel not so alone.
Thanks Fritz for such an inspiring project….
It is so encouraging to see the interactive skills of the written text and photographic images interlacing to portray challenging issues in such a creative way. Will share with friends. The comments on the blog – say it all….
I am 19. I cry inside from the picture I have seen and the stories I have read. I feel a little less alone today. Still confused, still struggling, but a little less alone.
I sit here in awe. It is late. I am tired. I am always tired. 20 yrs of bulimia & anorexia – 7 yrs since inpatient at Remuda. 37 yrs old. I am inspired by these. I am saddened and heartbroken by and for these ones. for myself. how did WE get here? questions, many times, which will never be answered, really. truly. fully. Is recovery truly possible? yes and no. like life, complicated. but, am i healthier? yes, of course. It is subjective. all in the eye of the beholder and the knower. only i truly know how well i am doing. whether i am caring for my heart and soul and thus my physical being. Awareness. now i just seek awareness. awareness is knowledge. knowledge gives me the power to make split second decisions every day to be better or be sick. why is that – even though healthy, i always wonder, if get back to 84# people will love me just a little more? why is it that i am not good enough to be loved just as i am? i work on that everyday, but always fall back to the idea that sick = love. health = abandonment. life = pain. death = peace.
It is always wonderful to see how even the pain and struggles of life are still part of the overall amazing human experience. A series like this shows us the complete spectrum, and the beauty of the absolute truth.
Reading through the bios and looking at the pictures helps me to somewhat understand a very confusing disease that I have no experience with. It helps me to understand a little bit of what some of my friends have gone through, even though I’ll probably never really know what drives the condition. I guess it makes me sad to see what some people have to deal with, but I am glad that your project has offered a source of healing, reflection, and rehabilitation. Keep up the good work.
My eating disorder was endured for years in silence and shame. When I finally began therapy at age 24 I began to talk. Later participating in Fritz’s project “Skeleton in the Closet” I was able to tell my story and join with others that had similar stories of suffering to tell. But what Fritz points out is that we are more than stories of suffering — we are stories of heartbreaking vulnerability, strength, and beauty.
Since the time I sat with the doctor and was diagnosed with anorexia and depression I have been on a path of redemption — turning the wreckage into beauty, hopelessness into hopefulness, and shame into healing. Being able to participate in this project was a meaningful and tangible way to celebrate who I am and the story I have to tell. Thank you.
I spoke to you on the ‘Face The Issue’ message boards quite a while ago. I remembered it the other day and stumbled across the website for your photographs. I just wanted to say that I think you have done a wonderful wonderful job.
Reading the introduction, with the line “I’ve seen thinner” seems to sum it all up. No matter what people expect or feel, there’s always thinner. I think you have shown-in such a beautiful way- that people suffering from eating disorders aren’t always thin and are definitely not always people who are obsessed with how they look or how much they weigh.
Everytime I look at your photos I find another quote that I relate to, the words match the photos in both their beauty and complexity.
My name is Jamie, and I guess I’m bulimic. I stumbled upon a link to your work, and I found it to be very powerful. I am 30 years old, and it made me feel a bit less alone with having an ED at my age when I saw the photos and read the stories of your subjects.
I came across your photographs in “Skeletons in the Closet” and I wanted to congratulate you on how well you portrayed the suffering of eating disorders. I am in “recovery” (however, each day is still a struggle) from bulimia and anorexia and found these photos to be very well done. When most people try to portray eating disorders, they show only the 80 pound, near death girls, and this really puts a real face on the disease. The women in the picture could be anyone- teenagers, mothers, daughters, friends, teachers, doctors, etc. Job well done!
Thank you so much for the beautiful artwork. I could see a slice of my life (or a slight variation of my own pain) within all your portraits of the women and men that are suffering from various manifestations of the eating disorder. It was sort of walking through a simultaneously very poignant, ugly and beautiful, scary but all too familiar hall of mirrors.
I wanted to contact you to let you know that I think what you have done
with ‘skeleton in the closet’ is beautiful. It tells the truth about
eating disorders, & shows that not everyone with anorexia is a waif-like
model or looks to be out of a concentration camp. Shows that healthy
looking people are victims & that it comes in all shapes & sizes. Maybe
I appreciate it so much because I have suffered from anorexia and
bulimia for the last 10 years of my life.
You are doing a beautiful job with the project, & if you ever need
another participant, I would be more then willing.
Best wishes & good luck,
This work touches me very deeply, as I am also recovered from over 35 years of anorexia nervosa. Mr. Liedtke’s work depicts many aspects of this disease as well as bulimia nervosa. Not only the photos, but the narratives as well, tell many stories, each different, but each also horrific. Eating disorders destroy life, either by death, or by life-long consequences from the stress it puts on the physical and emotional person. I am especially touched by this work because I have an intense passion to educate and support those who are suffering, as well as their families. It MUST be known that recovery is possible, and my desire is to somehow be a vessel to help instill that hope. http://www.freefromexpectations.blogspot.com
As always, I am impressed and constantly astounded by your magical yet honest view. Thank you for putting this together, sharing a few of the thousands of stories so very like my own, and providing an open and honest environment for communication, introspection and love.
I had the distinct honor of participating in artist Fritz Liedtke’s body of work entitled “Skeleton in the Closet”. The compelling and intimate portraits captured by Liedtke, along with text, tell stories of average men and women who struggle with anorexia and bulimia. The unique documentary includes portraits of those in recovery as well as those still struggling with their disease. The result is a sobering, powerful insight into one of our society’s most insidious open secrets. “Skeleton in the Closet” is sure to earn Liedtke a reputation as a photographer & artist to be both celebrated and admired in the genre of documentary photographic essays.
I was fortunate enough to be a participant in this project and the experience was incredibly cathartic. I applaud Fritz’s work and efforts to reveal the faces and stories behind these issues. As participants we are more than statistics; having the opportunity to present ourselves as individuals and not simply our disorders is powerfully profound. The work also serves as a vehicle to start a dialogue with our friends and family about our experiences; I have shared this project with people who had no idea that I have and do suffer from eating disorders. It gives me strength to open up and help them understand who I am, what I’ve endured, and how far I’ve come in my battle to survive. The whole experience of working with Fritz and sharing my story has had the unexpected benefit of giving me a tremendous amount of courage, and the realization that I no longer feel shameful or alone, that there are others who have walked the same path.