THE WRITER ALICE GREGORY once called anorexia “the impossible subject.” Writing about the disease was difficult, she suggested, because “unlike other kinds of addictions, anorexia disguises itself as virtue.” Accounts of eating disorders tend to use language associated with self-improvement and discipline, and risk romanticising the illness.
While shooting “The Girls of Malawa”—a photo project that documents young women with eating disorders—the Danish photographer Marie Hald realised that illnesses involving aspirations for the body are inextricable from notions of the self. “With my camera as my tool I discovered that anorexia and bulimia has little to do with the actual body but much more to do with control and perfection,” she said.
Her project documents girls with anorexia and bulimia during their time at Drzewo Zycia—Tree of Life—a facility in Malawa, Poland. They spent up to two months there getting treatment and therapy. The space was set up by a woman whose daughter had also suffered from bulimia and had to be treated in the United States because they could not find an adequate facility in Poland.