Self-esteem issues are a signature aspect of the teenage years and can be difficult for anyone. Fourteen-year-old high school freshman Maddie Meyer is no exception, but her problems stem from early childhood medical trauma.
When she was a little over one year old, Maddie underwent chemotherapy—seven months earlier than medically recommended. Two battles with Retinoblastoma claimed her right eye and the latent effects of radiation too early on have led to cartilage deterioration. In a few months, Maddie must decide whether or not to undergo reconstructive facial surgery. She risks complete blindness and potential brain damage.
Saving Face was completed during the 67th class of the rigorous Missouri Photo Workshop in 2015. Each year about 40 photographers descend on a small town in Missouri and are allotted a week to find, pitch, and complete a story using no more than 400 frames. This story was completed with 251 images submitted for consideration.
During the day, Saving Face can be viewed on monitors inside the ICP Museum and during evening hours, images are literally “projected” onto the windows of the ICP Museum; they can be viewed from the sidewalk outside the Museum and are most visible after sunset.
This installment of ICP Projected was co-curated by Lucy Pike, photo editor of WeTransfer. Listen to a conversation with Melissa on how she explored teenage self-esteem by following 14-year-old girl Maddie Meyers.
About the Artist
Melissa Bunni Elian (b. 1987) is a multimedia journalist based in Yonkers, NY. Since graduating from SUNY Albany in 2010 her work has been published in the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, NBC News, ESPN, Pro Publica, NPR, and the New York Daily News. She has also created content for an array of institutions, such as United Nations Women and Google, for their collaboration with the Equal Justice Initiative's Lynching in America project. Elian’s personal work focuses on stories from the African Diaspora, social justice, and issues of structural inequity. She is a founding member of the Bronx Photo League whose first book, The Jerome Avenue Workers Project, was named one of the top 50 photography books by American Photo Magazine in 2015.
Elian currently studies at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism where she is exploring multiple branches of storytelling. Her master's project, Down Hill, explores centuries of city planning and investigates the relationship between topography and income. Her latest commission exploring modern stories of freedom will be exhibited on permanent display as part of the Underground Railroad Museum, which opens in March 2018 in Niagara Falls, NY.