Not a trace of me
It's not just the striking lack of care, the human rights abuses, the inhuman and degrading treatment, the stench, the filth. One of the fundamental things an institution does to you is to rob you of your identity, to erase who you are, to steal the I from you, to deprive you of substance, to crush you and leave you a hollow shell, to take away your face and replace it with a mask, worn by everyone around you. In an institution you don't enjoy your own life, as life's not on the menu. On the menu is tea. Bread. Cabbage. Medication. Mere existence. And that's about it. And it's not even your own mere existence, as in an institution you don't own anything. The clothes, the shoes, the sheets, the spoons, the plates, even you – are not yours. You are generously allowed to use them.
These are photographs of beds – in four institutions for adults with intellectual and mental health disabilities in Macedonia, but they could be from almost any other institution around the region.
Beds are storytellers. They tell the story of dehumanization with a rusty, squeaky voice. Having no lockers or wardrobes, all someone’s belongings would be on, or around, the bed. So, when you look at a photo, you see everything this someone has in the world. Usually you see nothing.
These are not portraits of beds. They are portraits of people. People stripped of identity. Often locked inside forever. People, to whom the bed is their coffin.
The full investigation is here - humansnullandvoid.wordpress.com/
All photos by Yana Buhrer Tavanier.