First Place-Yasmeen Melius
N.Y. Photo Curator: Global Photography Awards- 'Where Photography & Philanthropy Meet' First Place-Yasmeen Melius (Click on image for larger view)
MISSING MAY 1 by Yasmeen Melius
(Click on image for larger view)

Review by curator Frances Jakubek:
"This image exemplifies longing, and as seen in a series like Yasmeen presents, how our eyes can trick and trigger our hearts.
Perhaps there is comfort in recognition, maybe it makes it harder. We begin to ask why one person had to have their life taken earlier than a familiar seeming passerby. I know the person she is missing was too young to fathom being gone and by result, placing every existence into question.
What I feel is the aching of forcing oneself to distance emotion from the every day. But the every day is emotional. The series speaks to thinking about a future that is imaginable but impossible. The reminder of loss is obvious everywhere when the loss is everywhere in your mind.
To me, the snapshot is the perfect format to present these works. They are simple images and when it comes to nostalgia, the ones we reach for. We capture this kind of photograph because we want to revisit them later; and when there is no other chance to photograph this person, they become a tool to try to remember. I find myself looking for this girl with the artist, understanding that empty feeling when the search seems fruitless. The captions to these images aren’t poetic, they aren’t challenging semiotics, they are honest... they are full of the pain caused by missing someone."
Questions for Yasmeen: "How did you begin making these images? At first, did you visualize it as a project, or simply a way to cope?

Yasmeen says, "It all began with the fear of seeing her after her death – inevitable as it was; I was terrified of that particular action of recognition because I knew at that moment in time, I’d be instantly reminded of the reality that I will never see her again. The method arose from this and from there I began to document every moment that I believed I saw her.

This all occurred just before my final year at university in which I was required to create a project and write a dissertation. In order to proceed, I instinctively used photography as a coping mechanism which eased me into handling this traumatic experience.

When thinking about it now, I can honestly say that I do not think I would have coped without making work about my grieving process. It’s enabled me to learn so much about myself, my emotions, the way I work but also how I process situations.

I never visualised ‘Missing May’ as a project and I still don’t; I view it as a visual representation of photographic material that explores my process of grief through this moment in my life.

It was my escape and I was lost in it, lost in trying to comprehend my friend’s sudden disappearance while attempting to keep her close in mind and close to me.

Frances asks,"Through making these images, has it been helpful to deal with your grief? What part of the process has been cathartic, and what has been difficult?

Yasmeen says, "Absolutely! However, I would say that using the photographic medium as a therapeutic tool has enabled me to process the reality of her death.

I think that was probably the most difficult thing to endure and comprehend. Although I’m unable to see her or speak with her, through making photographs and writing I gave myself the opportunity to express the burden, hurt and confusion in which in perspective has turned something so sad and tragic into something rather beautiful and freeing for me.

The process has been both cathartic and difficult in itself and suicide has a complicated grieving process, but I have found that speaking with various people about similar situations, stories, bereavement counsellors and even speaking with her mother occasionally allowed me to feel at ease and understood.

It’s also been extremely humbling and heart-warming to have received emails and speak with others who then shared their stories with me from viewing my piece.

However, when expressing such a personal experience for everyone to see, it can evoke or trigger insensitive responses and opinions.

I have experienced certain criticism and opinions regarding suicide/grief which has been difficult to respond to. With that being said, I believe it’s time to break the suicide taboo and start having conversations about what can be done to prevent or change these circumstances. How can we support those who are suicidal, those at risk and also those who have lost loved ones to suicide?

Another difficult part has involved me in trying to understand that perhaps at one point this ‘body of work’ or ‘piece’ has or will eventually come to an end."

Frances asks, "I feel very connected to the image, as that feeling of recognition is one that so many can relate to. Do you find yourself constantly reaching for your camera when you spot somebody familiar or does the need to photograph come in waves?"

Yasmeen says, "Within the time that this series was shot, I was constantly reaching for my camera.

I would visit the last place we went together and found myself searching for her in the crowd.

Searching for her face, similar gestures, poses, and features, anything that resembled her. I’d be walking up the street and there at a glance she’d appear to me and walk past – it made me feel like she was still close to me. As if she was watching me from afar, almost haunting me, and in those moments I felt a wave of pain and love for her.

At the time, I needed to document every moment it happened and I ended up taking over 100 photographs of candid women throughout 6 months.

I’m aware that the frequency of her ghostly appearances had a lot to do with the fact that she was on my mind (quite a lot!). But eventually, as each month went by her ghosts slowly and gradually stopped appearing.

It is true, every now and then I’ll see or speak with someone that reminds me of resembles her and think “wow, you really look/sound like her” and instantly I find myself staring and smiling with memories of her in mind."

Additional review by curator Fran Forman: 

"Any of us who have lost someone close and dear to us can relate to the images sequenced in this submission for “Grief". We think we see our friend getting onto a bus, walking down the street, disappearing into a crowd of strangers. Where has he or she gone? Are we hallucinating, or are we so bereft that we cannot accept their disappearance from our lives, The pain is too great, the loneliness sometimes too much to bear.

This is the emotional impact of this sequence of images by Yasmeen Meluis, who is courageous enough to explore and visualize her grief, loss and memory of her friend. Yasmeen imagines her friend, with long dark hair, walking away from her, but hoping that she’ll turn around and greet her warmly again."

Yasmeen Melius says, "Viewing 'Missing May,' reveals not only a process of grief but my longing for her and the unspoken goodbye."

Melius’ practice is focused on photography and writing, in which she explores personal experiences, thoughts and questions.

With the influence of philosophy and narrative, her work increases the dynamic between artist and audience through expression, while investigating the duality that develops through different interpretations. The artist's fusion of delicate surfaces, raw subjects and her honesty of being, allow the audience to reflect on both themselves and the subject. 

CV - Education:

2014-2017  | London College of Communication, BA (Hons) Photography.
2013- 2014 | Leyton Sixth Form, Foundation Diploma in Art and Design.
Exhibition & Screenings:

2018 : Letter from Missing May, Letters for Lost Lovers, Kreativ House, London, UK.
2017: Missing May, Allegorical Ghosts - Wave Collective, Carmel by the Green, London, UK.
2017: Missing May, Kind Of, BA Photography Show, London College of Communication, London.

Michael Wilson award for Missing May in London College of Communication, BA Photography Show, 'Kind Of' 2017.
Instagram - @yasmeenmelius
Grief Home:
First Place:
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Honorable Mentions:​

Best Series:

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