My tumultuous relationship with an ex drove me mad. Each time we “ended” I was fired up with emotion; it was anger, it was sadness, it was rage. I would send a slew of text messages, which were barely met with responses, and then I’d sit in my car or my room or a bathroom stall and I’d cry. After the first few times that we hit these low points, I began to take selfies while the tears ran down my face. I needed a visual of the heartbreak at its worst. I needed the photos to transport me to moments of pain that would perhaps help me think twice before allowing the hope for reconciliation to creep back in.
The same is experienced as you take in every photo in “The Endings: Photographic Stories of Love, Loss, Heartbreak, and Beginning Again.” The book by Caitlin Cronenberg and Jessica Ennis chronicles different stories of heartbreak, with an actress taking on a role and photographed in the midst of living through the peak moments of pain for this character.
Cronenberg and Ennis give us a raw look at heartbreak. With nothing but a title for each story, they allow space for us to reflect on the photos. Your own heartbreak directs your interpretation of each story. The narrative is your own to build.
Such was the case when I observed the series titled “I told him never to contact me again.” Patricia Clarkson lays on a table in the middle of a library that’s empty of everything but books. I caught myself realizing this is how I felt when telling my ex the same thing: don’t reach out to me ever again. It’s a quiet and empty feeling. Will he reach out? Or will this silence be forever? The books filling the shelves around her felt to me like the stories of what could have been. What could maybe still be? That hope; it’s so loud that it’s excruciatingly silent.
At the end of the book, you’ll find short backstories to each photo series. By then you’ve revisited a lot of your own heartbreak. Maybe you’ve even reflected on it more clearly. The stories are your own. The experience is cathartic and one that’s best enjoyed alone. And perhaps the next time I go through heartbreak, I won’t have to take a selfie of myself sobbing to remember how shattered I felt. I can flip through “The Endings” instead.