CLOSE UP: Jessica Hardy - The Running of The Tap

When we launched the call for entries for the GIRL TOWN exhibition early in 2016 we had no idea what would be submitted, but we knew that people would respond with work of strength, beauty and worth. Jessica Hardy was one of those photographers, a recent graduate, with images that spoke a thousand quiet words to the viewer. Using photography as a therapy for herself, and as a means for reaching out to others, Hardy's self-portraits start the conversation and open up a dialogue about Bulimia. Here we've asked Hardy to continue that discussion, and share the thoughts behind her work.

I’m recent BA (Hons) Documentary photography graduate and The Running of the Tap was my final major project but I have chosen to continue it. The work is a form of photo therapy which I have used to help myself whilst I struggle with Bulimia. 

The memory is a gateway into understanding deeper issues which lay beneath the surface and the recreation of memories allow one to reach a deeper understanding of themselves by exploring their thoughts and feelings attached to each moment. Using this technique as a tool of self reflection I began to explore my past focusing on key events which I believe have had a significant impact on me developing my eating disorder. I think that through the dissection of these memories I can help myself understand and accept what has happened to me and move on from it. 

‘Through the medium of visual reframing we can begin to understand that images we hold of ourselves are often the embodiment of particular traumas, fears, losses, hopes and desires’ 

(Spence, J, 1988) 

After recreating memories I have carried the technique of self reflection through to creating portraits of a present self. I was inspired by Jo Spence and Rosy Martin's photo therapy work, as they didn’t believe the portrait should just be used to represent one version of a ‘self’ but that it could be used as a tool to present many ‘selfs’ with many different possibilities. I really like the idea of being able to show different 'self's' through portraiture as I can't compact all of the different parts of me and my disorder into one image. Whilst trying to represent my disorder through the images it has always been important to me not to give out any information that could feed someone else's disorder. 

My goal with this work is to continue to help myself but also to help others. If it allows someone to feel less alone and gets people talking then I think that’s an amazing achievement. The work helps me most because I have to speak to people about my disorder, it cant be a secret. If others can feel inspired to do the same then maybe they can, like me, take the first step to recovering, like I have.

Through this work I hope that other people might be inspired to help themselves through not only eating disorders but any hard times they could be going through. Not everyone can draw or write, I certainly can't, but picking up a camera is something that could really help people express themselves. 


For all of my teenage years into adulthood I worried about my weight and obsessed over food. I didn’t acknowledge that I was struggling until I was 20 years old. I had always repressed what I was going through and had never spoken about it. In order to make this work I had to speak to people about what I was going through, in order to share the work with an audience. I first told my friends, I realised quickly how important speaking to people is. I believe that whether you are struggling with a mental illness or just in a bad place temporarily, speaking to people could really help you come to terms with what you are going through. Without this project I don’t know if I would have had the courage to speak to people, so I am really thankful to this project and the people that supported me whilst making the work. 

I've continued the work daily between making my more complex stage portraits by taking polaroids of myself every night and posting them to my instagram to keep myself in a state of reflection, whilst I go through a stressful time which is me moving back home from Wales and working my first full time job. I realised I was slipping backwards and wanted to help myself. I think it is important to be honest and I can't say that this work cured me of Bulimia because it hasn’t. Although it has just been a very helpful tool in me moving forwards in the right direction to recovery. 

In relation to the image of me lying on my bed: This image represents that feeling of exhaustion, not just physical but emotional. When your mind is fighting against you all day, all week and you don’t believe that you have it in you to stand against it anymore. Out of my attempts of this portrait this frame came out best because I really let myself fall into that mindset, I think it shows. 

The image of my standing in the door of my en-suite wearing gloves: This image shows me caught up in my disorder. I was so paranoid of people finding out when no one knew that I developed an obsession with cleaning my bathroom. Was so nervous about having people round. 




My hopes for the future?  I hope that I can continue this work and create something from it whether it be a publication or for it to become a tool to speak to people through. I would love for my photography to take me to a place where I can speak to people regularly about the work and its subject. To work in the photography industry would be amazing. I feel like I'm so at the beginning of my photographic journey so to be able to support myself through photography would be great. I hope next year to move to a city like London or Cardiff, I think places full of creativity would only benefit me. With eating disorders I don’t think it is as easy as saying you can cure them but instead you can learn to control them so that you can lead a happy and healthy life. I would like to get there in the future.


You can see more work by Jessica Hardy in her Shutter Hub portfolio, here. 


Do you have a favourite photographer you would like to see featured in one of our Close Up features? Or maybe you have a series of work you'd like to share? Send us an email to