The Washington Post

A photograph­er’s own journey with painful scoliosis.

- PHOTOGRAPH­Y BY RIKKE MATHIASEN TEXT BY TRISTEN ROUSE

The pain in Rikke Mathiasen’s back was severe and sudden. And, as she would find out, it was permanent.

At age 14, 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 require only 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 the back pain, she said, always become a topic of conversati­on once someone knows. The health-care 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. The photos reveal her pain, her vulnerabil­ity and her resilience. In them we see the story of Mathiasen’s pain as a 14-year-old but it is annotated by the pain she feels as a 24-yearold Danish photograph­er. “Because that is the thing with a chronical condition,” Mathiasen said. “It is always there.”

 ??  ?? Before I had to put my trust in a squinting surgeon, I was sent to the basement of Odense University Hospital in Denmark. In the darkest and most remote corners of the hospital, a middle-aged man was waiting for me with a camera in his hand and big lamps pointing toward X. I was told to get rid of my clothes and bend forward. I do not doubt the necessity of these pictures, but the method still makes me shiver.
Before I had to put my trust in a squinting surgeon, I was sent to the basement of Odense University Hospital in Denmark. In the darkest and most remote corners of the hospital, a middle-aged man was waiting for me with a camera in his hand and big lamps pointing toward X. I was told to get rid of my clothes and bend forward. I do not doubt the necessity of these pictures, but the method still makes me shiver.
 ??  ?? I went from being me to being “the girl with the back.” Now I want to be me again.
I went from being me to being “the girl with the back.” Now I want to be me again.
 ??  ?? I was not prepared for what awaited me after the surgery. I knew that my mobility would be gone and that it would require some serious rehabilita­tion, but I did not know one pain would just be replaced with another. That is why I kind of like my scar. It is a witness of what I have been through, and still am going through.
I was not prepared for what awaited me after the surgery. I knew that my mobility would be gone and that it would require some serious rehabilita­tion, but I did not know one pain would just be replaced with another. That is why I kind of like my scar. It is a witness of what I have been through, and still am going through.
 ??  ?? Loneliness in pain is a given, but the worst thing was that this thing, which I never felt could be a part of me, now was fused with my identity.
Loneliness in pain is a given, but the worst thing was that this thing, which I never felt could be a part of me, now was fused with my identity.
 ??  ?? The profession­als told me that as long as I stayed physically active, I wouldn’t notice my back anymore. I am still waiting for the day that happens.
The profession­als told me that as long as I stayed physically active, I wouldn’t notice my back anymore. I am still waiting for the day that happens.

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