Photoessay: Self-Portraits Fueled by Hope and Anger

I started shooting because I didn’t know what else to do.

I started really as a kid, with disposable cameras. Then those little square digital cameras, then a 90s minolta I didn’t understand.

I started because I figured, this is it. I might as well go for it. After a crumpled year with toxic roommates and forming habits that started scaring me, I ended up back in the house I’d risked everything to get out of years before. The list of things I wasn’t diagnosed with yet is long but more than anything I felt stuck, smothered. I would write in spurts then freeze. I couldn’t even read — bookstores were heartbreaks.

What I didn’t realize then was that one of my OCD symptoms was like a brake. If what I set out to do wasn’t going to be perfect, I couldn’t do it. One day I struggled fiercely against it, and another day, after more self-doubt and more frustrations, I wanted to break through — and I won. It just happened, out of equally strong hope and anger.

What I’m saying is not
That art solved my problems but instead
That the strength I found through creating and through fighting back still pushes me forward.

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I’m a self taught film photographer and NYC native. Being genderqueer, Ecuadorian and someone with several mental illnesses contributes a lot to my artwork. I feel like photography helps me translate a lot of emotions into images. Capturing moods and having true feelings come through in images is really important to me. I'm still working on a website, but I post regularly on Facebook and IG: Eli Sleepless.

Eli has written 2 articles for us.


  1. I just bought a DSLR and am trying to teach myself photography.

    This was really beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I’m a long time reader and first time commenter but the profound beauty and intimacy of your essay and images has inspired me to say: thank you, Eli.

    • Ooo I’ve also been on sites for ages without commenting so that means a lot :) thank you!

  3. Eeeeee omg I love these so much. So many feelings pouring out! Also struggling to make art while dealing with OCD is something I relate too all too well…and finally learning to sit with the process of making (mistakes and all) has been one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned. I’m so happy you”re out there makin stuff!!!

    • OCD can be so draining, it’s great to hear from artists who have it too! Cheers to making stuff <3

  4. “…but more than anything I felt stuck, smothered. I would write in spurts then freeze. I couldn’t even read — bookstores were heartbreaks.”

    Definitely resonates.
    Beautiful photos. Love that you’re self-taught. Love that you’re still fighting. Love that art helps you fight. Love it all.

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