For Brooklyn-based photographer Dese’Rae L. Stage her work has always been driven by a sense of purpose. As she writes on her website, “I picked up a camera with the hope of making more intentional images.” Her latest project, Live Through This, is a portrait series of thirteen suicide survivors that is as much deliberate as it is deeply personal. As a survivor of nine years of self-injury and a suicide attempt catalyzed by an emotionally and physically abusive relationship, Dese’Rae developed the idea hoping that the project will curb the number of deaths by fighting the stigma that surrounds mental illness and the shame that is often felt by suicide survivors. Suicide is a largely misunderstood subject and one that is not often discussed, as the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, responsible for over thirty-eight thousand deaths a year. Dese’Rae believes that by putting names and faces to the statistics, her portraiture humanizes those who have been affected by suicide. Before photographing her subjects, Stage interviews each survivor so they are in the so-called, “experiential headspace,” when she takes their picture.
Due to an overwhelming response, Dese’Rae has decided to expand her project to the national level, and created a Kickstarter campaign, Live Through This: Life on the Other Side of Suicide. As Dese’Rea writes on the campaign page, “I’ve been contacted by survivors all over the country who would like to share their stories. Thus far, the project has been funded directly from my own pocket, which results in slower progress than I’d like, and that’s why I’m asking for your help.” Twenty-six days remain for Dese’Rae to reach her fundraising goal of 15,538, which will allow her to visit and photograph survivors across the US in San Francisco, CA Los Angeles, CA; Portland, OR; Eugene, OR; Seattle, WA; Minneapolis, MN; Chicago, IL; Philadelphia, PA; Alexandria, VA; Washington, DC; Norfolk, VA; Raleigh, NC; Orlando, FL; Miami, FL; and Austin, TX. “When all is said and done, I hope to have enough material to start putting a book together, but that’s a whole different Kickstarter campaign!” Dese’Rae concludes.
If you live in/near any of these cities and would like to share your story, you can contact Dese’Rae directly: firstname.lastname@example.org.