This photographer’s back pain was severe and sudden. It resulted in photographs of strength. – The Washington Post

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The pain in Rikke Mathiasen’s back was severe and sudden. And, as she would find out, it was permanent.
At 14 years old, Mathiasen was diagnosed with scoliosis. The condition, characterized by a sideways curve in the spine, is often discovered in adolescence. Some cases are mild, painless and only require regular monitoring, while Mathiasen’s has caused chronic pain and resulted in surgical intervention. It has had a large and everlasting impact on Mathiasen’s everyday life.
“In the bad periods I can feel very down, angry and sad because I feel like it is holding me back,” Mathiasen said.
It has also left scars, both physical and emotional. Ten years after her diagnosis, Mathiasen still puts off telling people she has scoliosis. Her back and back pain, she said, always become a topic of conversation once someone knows. The healthcare system that treated her left her feeling alienated. In photographing her scoliosis, Mathiasen had to explore her pain and how to express it while retaining a sense of her inner strength.
In that way, Mathiasen said, “the photo series is also a way for me to work with this psychological pain.”
The resulting images create a visual retrospective, made a decade after the inciting event, that reads as an autobiographical diary of Mathiasen’s journey. It imparts her pain, her vulnerability and her resilience onto the viewer. The story of Mathiasen’s pain as a 14-year-old patient is annotated by the pain she feels as a 24-year-old photographer.
“Because that is the thing with a chronical condition,” Mathiasen said. “It is always there.”
In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff members and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.
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