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In spring 2010 I received a telephone call from Esther Sabetpour. I had met Esther around a year previously and knew her as an artist and photographer. A few weeks after I met Esther she travelled to Spain; our plan had been to meet up on her return, but in fact she would not return to London for another four months.
I’d heard through mutual friends what happened to Esther in Spain during her holiday. She had had a terrible accident; the circumstances were not completely clear. Due to sever amnesia as a result of a poly trauma, she do not remember the morning of the incident nor or do she have memory of the circumstance (Electrocution and 15m fall) its self. The shock she received should have killed her. She was later told her chances of surviving the voltage that had ripped through her was around one in a thousand.
Esther rang me not to tell me this story but with a proposal. She wanted me to photograph her body, which was now badly burned and injured, as a way to engage psychologically with her trauma. Eventually, we hoped, this collaboration would lead her back to her own practice as a photographer.
Esther’s dilemma was, how do I deal with my body, both as a person and an artist? Straight away we did a photographic session. These questions could only be approached through doing – through representation, through photography, through holding up a mirror to the body and its experience. My approach was clinical. The body is bared on a table. We see its injuries plainly and without comment or context.
The outcome exposes the tensions between the battered body and the refined sensibility within this body. Not everyone would have the guts to photograph their body, to lay it bare in these nudes, as a way of trying to come to terms with what has happened.
The resulting images transcend mere self-revelation or autobiography. They are an encounter of the other as the self, and the self as a transformed physical reality. They are also a document of Esther’s personal journey to inhabit a radically altered body as much as to inhabit new artistic territory. These photographs are a record of a remarkable internal and external journey fuelled by Esther’s powerful will to remain within and engaged with life.