Melissa Spitz: You Have Nothing to Worry About

Melissa Spitz (USA): You Have Nothing to Worry About
Inge Morath Award Recipient, 2018


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Since 2009, I have been making photographs of my mentally ill, substance-abusing mother. Her diagnoses change frequently—from alcoholism to dissociative identity disorder—and my relationship with her has been fraught with animosity for as long as I can remember. I am fully aware that my mother thrives on being the center of attention and that, at times, our portrait sessions encourage her erratic behavior.

My brother and I used to leave notes all over the house for our mother, one said, “Reminder: You Have Nothing to Worry About! Be Fucking Happy!” That phrase, You Have Nothing to Worry About, became our mantra, and the title for this body of work.

The photographs are simultaneously upsetting and encouraging; honest and theatrical; loving and hateful. By turning the camera toward my mother and my relationship with her, I capture her behavior as an echo of my own emotional response. The images function like an ongoing conversation.

You Have Nothing to Worry About has acted like a mirror for my mother and she attributes seeing the photographs as her reason for seeking help with alcohol abuse. The project’s Instagram @nothing_to_worry_about has spurred a community of mothers and daughters discussing addiction and mental health in the home. Today it has over fifty-five thousand followers, who contribute their own stories regularly, 90% of them identify as women.