Saturday, February 19, 2022

Life with Endometriosis

PhotoArt Book | Brian Rope

Life with Endometriosis | Margaret Kalms

Endometriosis is an illness where cells similar to the lining of the womb migrate onto internal organs. It can cause inflammation, chronic pain, and adhesions that fuse internal organs together requiring surgery. It affects 1 in 9 women and trans men. That is about 500,000 people in Australia!

When a friend told her about endometriosis, Margaret Kalms was so shocked by the fierceness of its symptoms, she decided to use her art to raise awareness. Seeing it as a social justice issue, she wanted to help. Whilst not having the illness herself, she had experienced similar symptoms. She is inspired by the biblical account of Jesus healing a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years.

So, how can art help with a social justice issue, with awareness-raising? People have always used images to communicate - think hieroglyphics and cave art. Visual art can explore concepts and ideas. It can promote specific viewpoints. It can challenge assumptions, support causes, and explore deep personal questions. The word “art” is also used to describe any communication that can be valued as to excellence. 

Sometimes artworks employ elements we might not immediately notice - the choice of colours, composition, or how forms are combined or fractured. Art often explores broad ideas or themes, some more obvious than others - and often reflects on the time period in which it was created, whether as a statement of support or a reaction against something.

Kalms’ photo-art is designed to show how endometriosis feels. It's informed by what people with endometriosis have said to her about their experiences and life impacts. They inspired Kalms to produce her artworks and this book using them. She makes excellent use of colours, graphic elements, double exposures, and editing software. Some may not find all the photo-art easy to look at, but it is nothing compared with the brutal and debilitating reality of the disease. The opening artwork used, Continuous Spotting, will immediately stop viewers/readers in their tracks.


Continuous Spotting © Margaret Kalms

Another artwork, Scratchy Nerve Pain, very clearly shows a woman in pain pressing her fists into her body which is overlaid with lines depicting shooting, searing nerve pain that punches in the abdomen.


Scratchy Nerve Pain © Margaret Kalms

And another, Half My Life, shows just one half of a woman’s face clearly. The other side is obscured. This illustrates that a woman loses half her life when she has bleeding for 2 weeks each month.


Half My Life © Margaret Kalms

All the images are intriguing for people interested in photography and artistic expression, with some vital facts. They provide a valuable tool to aid in communicating how endometriosis feels and its impacts on everyday life.

The photo-artworks are bold, quirky, confronting, expressive and poignantly beautiful. They make endometriosis visible. They are very different from the traditional images of Jesus healing a bleeding woman.

Words overlaid on or placed alongside the artworks in the book provide much information. Negotiations are under way with a gynaecologist who is willing to translate the words into Arabic, and she is planning for Arabic copies to be available at the book launch. Kalms is very pleased about this as she understands there is a limited amount of intimate information available for the Arabic speaking community.

On 3 April there is to be a book launch, with three guest speakers and refreshments. Each attendee will receive a copy - not intimidating to give a family member, friend, colleague or even medical professional. Money raised from the launch will be donated to the Canberra Endometriosis Centre and a local support group hosted by QENDO, a not-for-profit organisation providing support to anyone affected by endometriosis and other pelvic health related conditions. Kalms is to be commended for her artworks and her awareness-raising.

Book to attend the launch at

This review is also on the author's blog here.

Life with Endometriosis is now live.

What’s next?

View PostAdd New Post

Convert to audio

Seamlessly turn this post into a podcast episode with Anchor - and let readers listen to your post.

Create a podcast episode