Lorie Novak

Migraine Register

I have used my self-image in my work as a device to look at the world and how we understand photography. In my ongoing project Migraine Register, I turn my camera inward. I am one of more than 1 billion people worldwide who suffer from migraines. My migraines began when I was 8 years old, and when I was a young girl, I was told I worked too hard and worried too much, as if that explained away my pain. So, I hid my invisible illness, but no more. Since 2009, I have been making photographic self-portraits every time I have a migraine attack which average 125 per year. If I am in a semi-functional state, my laptop and phone are my escape, and their cameras have literally become the mirrors in which I can witness my pain. I perform wellness more often than I like to admit. Now for the camera, I perform my pain. I take stock of how I am holding my body, my gesture, reach for my phone and repeat it for the camera. Sometimes using Photoshop and montage techniques to alter the images, I seek to visualize the invisible. With my self-portraits, I honor the long history of anonymous women who suffered in silence from migraine and other invisible conditions, were not believed, were told they were too emotional, or were committed to institutions.

About the Artist

Artist Website

Lorie Novak’s photographs, installations, and Internet projects explore issues of memory and transmission, the relationship between the intimate and the public, and the shifting cultural meanings of photographs. Her work has been shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions, and her photographs are in many museum permanent collections. Awards include artist residencies at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center, Bogliasco Foundation, ArtSway, and The MacDowell Colony. Her web project collectedvisions.net, 1996-present, exploring how family photographs shape our memory was one of the earliest interactive storytelling sites. She is Professor of Photography & Imaging at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, where she is also the founder and director of Future Imagemakers a social practice project offering free photography classes to NYC high school students