Survive-5.jpg

One of the leading causes of suicide is silence

And we are ending that silence together.

The Survive project began in 2017 and concluded in 2018. The project documented suicide survivors in Spokane, Washington. You can see updates about it in the projects section. I just wanted to have a page dedicated to seeing everyone in one place online, now that the big opening show has already happened.

I decided to do a project about suicide survivors because the continuing self-portrait series I started in 2013 helped me get through a lot just with visual art catharsis, holding the pain of all that goes with having mental illness outside of my self rather than keeping it locked up. I have concluded that one of the leading causes of suicide is silence and together we are breaking that silence through starting a conversation with this series and the book.

So much has happened throughout the course of this project it’s hard to put into words the impact that has been made through so many sources. Spokane Arts awarded me a SAGA grant to finish the project. Adriana Janovich of The Spokesman-Review wrote articles about the project. Samantha Wohlfeil of The Inlander wrote a great article as well, as did Darin Burt in Spokane Coeur d’Alene Magazine available to read here. I also talked with Stephanie Regalado on She Says Podcast through Spokane Talks, you can watch it on this link. Right before the show, we also got to talk with Verne of Spokane Public Radio with A.J. the Wordsmith of Power2thePoetry, you can listen to that here. I also talked with Cassy Benefield of Spokane Faith and Values as a side note to her interview with my friend Tommie who was a subject in the series, you can read that incredible article here.

So this project has had tons of coverage and the night of the show was just… lit. Yes, we were gathered to discuss a deeply troubling topic yet the sense of togetherness and solidarity was palpable. It was an emotional and beautiful evening of sharing.

Check out this awesome video by Spokane Event Photography.

The evening we all spent together was incredible. There was poetry, a time of sharing among people in the project and others in the community, food and wine that was donated from multiple sources like my agent/boss Jeremiah Sargent and the Downtown Grocery Outlet owners Sage and Jack Dunaway. Ellen and Larry Weiser were also sponsors and my amazing parent-in-laws Craig and Margo as well as my friend Debra who was in the project helped set up everything the day of the show and my friend Julie Gautier-Downes who is the Executive Director of Richmond Art Collective where the photos were taken helped me hang the show (it’s so much better hanging a show with two people!).

This whole event took a small army and lets not forget the 27 courageous individuals who participated in the project to show us what surviving looks like. You can see all their photos below.

This project changed my life. Every person in the project impacted me deeply. When I started to photograph suicide survivors, they weren’t aware that I was personally ambiguous about suicide. As a person with bipolar, getting suicidal can just be a fact of life. When you’re suicidal, ending life is logical. It seems to be an appropriate solution in a very disconnected sense. After photographing people who lost someone to suicide, in many cases people like me with bipolar, I concluded that life is what I want. I don’t want another person to one day photograph my mom, sister, husband, or friend because I decided not to stay. While I have no intent to shame or dishonor those who made that choice, personally the people who were photographed helped me affirm that suicide is not the right option. Others have told me that the book or being in it has saved their life. The very idea of that is moving beyond words. I’ve often felt that art saved my life and that art saves lives in many capacities in different ways. I did not anticipate that this project would become so profoundly impactful to people in it. I hoped for that dearly, and hoped that the viewers of these images who read the text that goes with them would have a similar experience. So far, it’s been amazing. There aren’t adequate expressions to thank all who have been involved. I have so much gratitude for all who have been supportive along the way that helped me see this project to completion. Thank you family, thank you friends, thank you people in the project, thank you Phil and Bonnie and thank you Spokane for being a city that cares about the well being of others.

The book can be purchased here through blurb.com <3

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Survive
Survive
A series of suicide...
By Grace June
Photo book