Jamie Oliveira: ‘Telling myself that I was free was a radical act of self-love’

Oliveira burning a statement that was said to her. Photo by Katie Lewellyn.

Oliveira burning a statement that was said to her. Photo by Katie Lewellyn.

Jamie Oliveira’s powerful photo book, (more than) dust. speaks up about abuse and gender inequality. Here, she talks more about the project and how you can contribute to its success…

"I am free to feel all of my feelings. My feelings matter. My needs matter." These were the thoughts going through my head shortly after a rough breakup. Putting this into words sounds commonplace, but this was the first time I had ever recognized this liberation of feeling within myself. After having my emotionality mocked, invalidated, and shamed throughout the course of an emotionally abusive relationship, the messages slowly manifested in my psyche as an internalized form of neglected emotion. I would judge myself for showing emotions around another. Tears would always be accompanied with apologies about them, because my emotions felt like a burden. Emotions and needs were associated with punishment. So, telling myself that I was free to feel was, in my experience, a radical act of self-love.

Sharing these experiences have been a huge part of my healing process and emotional growth. After sharing various reflections on the dynamics of my childhood and that toxic relationship throughout the past year, I posted a portrait of myself next to a list of hurtful things my ex-partner said to me. Beneath the list I wrote:

"Things that have been said to me
[off the top of my head,
the tips of my mind,
and the side of my bed]
to reduce me to a being
much smaller than I am;
I am love and light
[and depth, and darkness]
and will never amount to anything less."

The act of ending my own silence so explicitly felt both terrifying and cathartic (both for myself and for those that have been able to relate). I was acknowledging the hurt that came from my relationship and reclaiming my own identity in the aftermath. A friend encouraged me to expand this idea into a series that would include others, and after asking if others would be interested, people began reaching out and sharing their own experiences with me, eventually evolving into (more than) dust.

(more than) dust. is a photo book that includes a collection of portraits of 20 female-identifying individuals combined with hurtful expressions that have been directed towards them. The design makes explicit snapshots of each person's experiences with invalidation, minimization, misogyny, and various forms of abuse.

We are speaking up about treatment that hurts. We are processing. We are releasing. We are coming together and healing. And now, we need the help of the community to turn this into a tangible, empowering book. The Kickstarter funding campaign ends on the morning of March 19th. Rewards include a copy of the book, and unique poems from me. Thank you for your support.

Support (more than) dust. by donating to Jamie’s Kickstarter campaign here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jamieoliveira/more-than-dust-a-feminist-photobook.

About the author: Jamie Oliveira is a visual artist and writer based in San Francisco, as well as an active participant in women's healing groups. Her degree in documentary film production has provided a strong foundation of honesty and ethics in her approach to art and storytelling. Working primarily with conceptual photography in recent bodies of work, her focus as of late has been on topics of transformation, emotional healing, and various forms of abuse in order to encourage nonviolence in our relationships with one another.

Author's review: