Helena photographer Nicole Stroman remembers when her niece was struggling and attempted to take her own life. “I took it very hard,” she recalls. “I felt so helpless.”
Her photography exhibit, on display through June 24 at the Holter Museum of Art in Helena, explores the aftermath of suicide in an attempt to show who it affects and foster awareness. “This project is my way of not feeling helpless.”
She points out that Montana has one of the highest suicide rates per capita in the nation. “Suicide is the second leading cause of death of our youth and yet it’s still a subject no one is really talking about,” she says.
Stroman teamed up with Jamie Eastwood, the founder of “Breathe, Let’s Start a Conversation,” a non-profit organization in Helena for suicide education and bereavement support. Together, they decided to sit down with individuals affected by suicide. “While they share their stories I photograph them in hopes of capturing the emotion behind their journeys.”
Stroman was born and raised in southern California and has lived in Helena for 10 years with her husband and two kids. She says she came to photography “later in life.”
“I started taking pictures of my kids as all moms do, loving to capture their cute expressions, and then I started to take pictures of friends, extended family and neighbors and I fell in love with it.” Now, as a professional photographer, she shoots “pretty much everything from real estate to high school seniors.”
But the artfulness of her work rests in candid moments and deeper expression. “My true passion is to go beyond the surface and take what some may think to be dark or hard to look at and create a photograph to make you feel something. We have many different parts that make up who we are and I truly believe they are all equally beautiful.”
In conjunction with the exhibit, the Holter hosts a panel discussion for families, “Talking with Your Kids About Depression and Mental Illness,” 2-4 p.m. May 19. For more information, visit www.holtermuseum.org.