The Purple Heart is a military decoration of honour awarded to the personnel who are wounded or killed at the hands of the enemy while fighting for the country
Rajshree Saraf, an illustrator and photographer throws light on Anorexia, a widespread eating disorder, often a result of social conditioning, and flawed ideas of beauty. She portrays the everyday struggles of an Anorexic being, by putting together The Purple Heart Project and carefully awards the wounded.
On being interviewed, she tells us what drove her to create The Purple Heart Project and what it means to her.
‘The idea is not to show Anorexia as a beautiful thing although, superficially, these pictures look all pretty and peachy. But if looked at closely it’s rather disturbing. Much like the people affected with this disorder. You see them every day and they look pretty normal but what takes close attention to notice are the upsetting secrets and insecurities that they carry with themselves. This disorder is not acknowledged enough in terms of its seriousness. It’s not just about skinny girls simply refusing to eat, its about the series of emotion that lead to this refusal. I hope these pictures offer you, at the very least, a glimpse of if not entirely, their struggle.’
The Fragile Trophy - To win is to break
Tell me a little about yourself.
I always thought of myself more as a designer than an artist. I wanted to design solutions to problems. My work asks questions. I use it to understand the world better, address problems and have people think about it. To me, that is the first step towards solutions and resolutions.
How has your design journey been so far?
This design journey happened by chance. I've been exploring different mediums to figure out my fit - hand drawn illustrations, digital, photography, films etc. I'm still exploring and am living the process intensely. So far, it's been about about giving people a different perspective to look at and trying to make them care about the same things without spelling it out. Wanting to create content that matters and being okay with having no control over what people take from it is the most challenging part.
The Promise - A strand of hair was the symbol for commitment
What does ''The Purple Heart Project'' mean to you?
Purple Heart started more therapeutically - I wanted to help a friend out of Anorexia.
Expressing it visually just helped me understand it better. I realised how utterly misunderstood this disorder is and how important it was for people to see the flip side. It's only until last year that I realised what it truly means to be Anorexic. I happen to have come across few people with this disorder, two of them being my really good friends. I have seen them struggle and seen the way they fought it. It is one of the most difficult disorders to recover from. I can only commend them for having overcome it.
The Fight - Only one player to fight
Your photo series capture the struggles of someone with Anorexia. How would you explain the severity of the social conditioning to be thin and attractive?
Eating disorders are one of the most widespread mental illnesses among adolescents. What baffles me is having a beauty standard, at all, in a world with seven billion people. The same people who can't even agree on their favourite kind of peanut butter.
We can blame the superficial, consumerist media all we want but the truth is, media can only sell the dreams that we're already sold on. It’s hypocritical because the people who body shame are the ones who blame it on the victim’s vanity. It's absurd. The mortality rate of anorexia is higher than any other psychiatric illness.
The Quintessential - Never Enough. What they seek, is what suffocates
What are the other works you're engaged in currently and what's next?
My most recent work would be Point of View, a project on moral anti-realism, something I've always believed in. It talks about morality being subjective. We view the world in black or white. I wanted to zoom out and show a point of view that we're not used to seeing. When there is no right or wrong, there is little scope for judgement.
The project that I've been meaning to work on next is going to be about idolatry and the need for iconoclasm in popular culture.
I believe there needs to be a stop to the innate need of having role models, and there needs to be a stop to letting young minds think that perfection is something that can be attained. Accepting flaws is the need of the hour.
Find out more about her work here.
Text Priyanshi Jain
The Coup - The guilt that takes over every time