Photographer Debbie Castro’s Who Gave You The Roses?
Photographer Debbie Castro traces points of continuity and discontinuity between people, places, and generations through her work that transcends the category of documentary, entering into a far more nuanced area… combining narrative, intimate series with a topographic elements and a social meets photographic documentary aesthetic to explore issues of power, Othering, and objectification as well as emotional struggles and self harm. The England and Ireland based artist uses her photographic DNA to explore her own place as author and the complexities of distancing. We spoke to Debbie about her series Who Gave You The Roses?, which explores one woman’s battle with an eating disorder through black and white photography paired with her subject’s personal diary entries, which she so generously shared for this powerful series…
"It refers to the fact that it is always possible to fail. This is the fear that keeps all of us working. In this case, with a disease like anorexia it will always be with you, like an invisible gift."–Debbie Castro
CM: How did you get into photography? The moment you realized you wanted to follow it as a career?
I started seriously taking photographs in my 20’s. I found it very interesting that some people you can meet only for one shoot and yet you feel so connected. What's more interesting, that connection can become stronger without any further contact with that person.
Through my experiences, I realized that I had a very deep interest in feeling this connection through my documentaries by exploring how to acknowledge and allow them to grow with time.
CM: How would you describe your overall aesthetic?
In all of my work, I like to project a sense of distance, distance as in the comforting space that exists between creator, author, subject and object. But, distance as difficulties within day-to-day life. Sometimes there can be no room for distance because as soon as it is created something unexpected is likely to fill it.
Also, I was born and raised in Ireland; this encourages passionate and abandoned interaction, along with a fighting spirit.
CM: What inspires you?
Lifting the veil and healing the scars, being lured forwards into something new.
CM: Can you tell us more about the background of the text?
This text was written over a period of 6 years when the author Francesca aged 12, was battling against anorexia, bulimia and later recovering in a hospital facility in England. Francesca was very close to dying, this was a journey that she could neither foresee nor refuse at such young age so she decided to document it.
She was kind enough to share her diary with me. When I read the text for the first time I understood better how a brilliant mind can fall and settle into holes that can lead to self destruction and salvation.
CM: What does the title of the project refer to?
It refers to the fact that it is always possible to fail. This is the fear that keeps all of us working. In this case, with a disease like anorexia it will always be with you, like an invisible gift.
CM: What motivated you to make this series? And from beginning to the end result, did something change personally for you, something cathartic for example?
It began with that invisible aspect of your life that sometimes you refuse to acknowledge. As a girl, I know what it is like to grow up with secrets and how unhealthy but creative it can be.
You know, it's very funny. After reading the text I realized that I have never met a subject, in such a way as I met Francesca, from the inside, the essence, to the outside. I also learned that progress in life is a series of going-back-to-square-ones. What Francesca went through with her illness is not too dissimilar to what we all go through.
CM: What are you hoping people will take away from the series?
I would like to portray the rawness we search for as humans. Human beings are always beginning again. We are ungraspable. Francesca, instead of interposing things between herself and the rawness and suddenness of her reality, instead relished and learned to use that rawness as a guide to overcome her suffering.
CM: Can you give us a glimpse into the full book? What else might we find in it?
The book is full of little secrets, every time you look at it you will find something different. I like to think that if the work is alive it will always be changing and developing, in form and shape. I like to think that real secrets stimulate the heart, not the mind.
Photo © Debbie Castro
All Rights Reserved © Creative Mapping