Feminist photo book creates art in trauma

By Brittany Tiplady

23-year-old San Francisco native Jamie Oliveira has turned her personal trauma into a documentary-style book powered by feminine energy and collective healing.

(more than) dust began as series of Tumblr and Facebook posts by Oliveira, of self portraits paired with poetry and a list of destructive phrases that had been said to her in toxic past relationships. The response brought together a community of women that were eager follow suit and share their own experiences.

“In 2013, I had just gotten out of a seven-year toxic relationship and I was really trying to digest and work through that. Throughout the year after, I was sharing a lot of creative work about my experiences with emotional abuse and the ways I had internalized that toxic treatment and it was a really healing process for me personally, to be able to share my own experiences with people online,” said Oliveira.

The title (more than) dust acts as a repossession of identity when faced with minimizing statements. The book acknowledges that we are more than those harmful comments, and through the process of creation, allowed Oliveira to enter her own growth with conviction.

“It happened really organically. I put a [call for submission] on my social media and put up posters around Oakland and San Francisco, too, and there [were] a lot of people that reached out and wanted to be a part of it.”

A graduate from San Fransisco State University with a degree in Documentary Film Making, Oliviera began the Kickstarter campaign for (more than) dust in February 2015. She received overwhelming amounts of positive feedback and encouragement for both the project and her creative tenacity, and was eventually able to bring the book to life.

“It is a really natural account of a woman’s point of view. All of the quotes in the book are quotes that were directly said to the women in the portraits,” Oliveira explains.

The main intention of the book is to bring awareness to the ways that we communicate with each other.

“I wanted to focus on women in particular because emotional abuse does happen to all genders, but I think manifests in particular ways for women. And there [are] also other intersections in the book in how that manifests for trans* women and how it manifests for women of colour. By being able to be aware of these things and reflect on what is problematic about the treatment we give to people in this this book, we can hopefully create safer spaces for all of us.”

Continuing her journey as a travelling artist, Oliveira is jetsetting to India this month to finish off the final touches of her poetry book The Calming, published by Portland’s Where Are You Press.

“My last project was very past orientated and how I had internalized a lot of these experiences, and how healing it was to work through that, and now the calming is more like, ‘Now what I am doing with my life after?'” she said.

“The narrative arc of The Calming explores different experiences with emotional abuse with my family in particular and how this kind of transitions from those experiences into some feelings of darkness, and then it goes more into mysticism and then how I start to follow my own path ,and align my own self and intuition, and so not only is it a reclamation of my own identity but a reclamation of my own direction. It’s almost post-healing.”

You can find (more than) dust on Amazon for both paperback and Kindle.