exploring vulnerability and transparency one bath at a time

Month: October, 2016

Mark Williams Hoelscher

Mark Williams Hoelscher


Date of Interview: October 20, 2016

Name: Mark Williams Hoelscher

Age: 24

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Location: Washington, DC


What are you passionate about?

I’m really passionate about telling people’s stories. I think that finding people whose life experiences are representative of larger social economic or social issues and telling those stories in a engaging and beautiful way can actively make social change. I think that there are people out there who are trying to make the world a better place, but don’t necessarily have the audience to get their message to the general public. One reason is because a lot of people who are doing important work are so focused in on what they’re doing, that the communication side isn’t at the front of their mind. I think it’s really important to have someone whose job it is to try and make people’s stories engaging, and to try and produce them in a way that people will want to pay attention to.

How do you go about telling these narratives?

I’m a photographer and filmmaker. Images are so important to the public consciousness, and it’s possible to make stuff that has real impact. I think that in the age of social media, where people are constantly bombarded with imagery, the only way to break through and make people interested in what you’re doing is to create something immediately eye catching, beautiful and cohesive. You gotta get people to stop scrolling down facebook or instagram and take a second to really look. One thing about Instagram and Facebook images is that they appear authentic and raw, but there’s something valuable about a well crafted and well produced story

Do you think there’s a difference between photographers using media and taking photos for the memories?

Everyone who takes photos is a photographer. The device that’s used (whether a cell phone or an expensive DSLR) isn’t really what makes someone a photographer. It’s the process. Photography is about intent and purpose. There’s a difference between going around snapping pictures without thinking, and giving considering to what you’re taking a picture of, why you’re taking a picture of it, and what information you can deliver through your photographs. When you’re taking pictures in an intentional way you’re crafting a story.  You can use story and process to make social impact.

What is your story?

I’ve always had this innate desire to document. I think that photography is less about showing a moment and more about showing the perfect moment, the decisive moment. I think my story is my search or desire to find perfection that doesn’t really exist in real life. Trying to capture this one frame that shows who someone is or shows what an event felt like to be there. I think I’m looking for truth, but have strongly come to the conclusion that all photographs are lies. Photographs don’t tell the truth, they show the world through one person’s perspective. Photographs document what you wish was true.

What do you think of relationships? Platonic, sexual and otherwise.

I think that relationships are how we learn about ourselves. Having them and losing them are how we learn about ourselves. I think you don’t know truly who you are until you go through a really nasty breakup. We’re really social creatures, so having that give and take with having relationships and losing relationships is how we end up knowing who we are.

What is something that you struggle with?

I constantly struggle with the thought that everything I’m working towards is totally bullshit. That nothing I’m doing is important. There are some days I wake up and feel like what I’m working towards is good and positive and meaningful and other days I wake up and I think that nothing is real, art is bullshit and meaningless, and that is no way that I can make a difference. I also struggle with the idea that deep down, all my work is all about me. I want to say I’m out there making art because I want to make a difference but I worry about the fact that I might just be super selfish and everything I do ends up being all about myself. The reason I worry about it is because I don’t want it to be true, but when I find myself posting photographs on my website or social media and getting likes and getting new followers and I get excited by that- I worry that I’m on this self obsessed quest for self validation.

Clove Roses

Clove Roses


Date of Interview: October 14, 2016

Name: Clove Roses

Age: 23

Pronouns: They/Them

Location: Philadelphia, PA


How often do you bathe or shower?

Ooh, I’ve been showering every day recently, just because I wasn’t like, living anywhere for the past month. So being able to take a shower in a house that’s mine has been super exciting. Umm, and I don’t know I don’t bathe as often, but I probably will more now.

If you were an underwater sea creature, what would you be?

I’m thinking a manatee. ‘Cause they’re like these beautiful fat like mammals that people think are mermaids. Or a siren, because they lure men to shore with their songs and then kill them, so…

What are you passionate about?

Umm, a whole lot of things… I think recently I’ve been trying to find a way to focus my passion because I care about all these different things and then overload myself and can’t really do anything effective. And I think what I’m really trying to focus on is holistic healthcare. People don’t have access to basic understandings of how their bodies work, and basic health knowledge.  Concerns get dismissed all the time, like when fat people go to doctors who ignore all of their health concerns and try and get them to lose weight instead, umm… and you know, women, queer people, people of color for various reasons have hard times getting their bodies taken care of.  And when you go to professionals, they ask you all these questions and give you no understanding of why they’re asking you them and I want to develop like a practice where people are learning about their bodies as they’re accessing health care that sees them as a complete individual not just a list of symptoms, like herbs, or whatever sort of medicines they want.

What ignited this passion?

Umm, when I lived in Olympia I volunteered at an Herbal Free Clinic there, and there were just so many plants in the Pacific Northwest and I had no idea that these things growing in the wood could heal me. And there was something that was really satisfying about like understanding what makes a plant work and how that plant can interact with my body in beneficial ways. So yeah, I don’t know, it was just really empowering to find that I could find things in the forest to heal myself and I wasn’t relying on going to like doctors that are fucking scary to be around.

Do you think herbal medicine correlates not just with healthcare in the sense of body but with mental health?

Oh, absolutely. I definitely first got into it more for using things like Passionflower or like Anemone for anxiety umm, and I think that like Western medicine is very reliant on the idea of a mind body split. Like you go to doctors and you go to psychologists and they work with diseases and disorders instead of an overall body system, like your symptoms exist in isolation from your environment, emotions, history.  And herbal medicine is something that’s been used in like really every society ever before industrialization, because that what people had access to.  Plants can grow and evolve with humans and with the bacteria that infect us, plants have these vast bodies of knowledge that I don’t think humans can even fully understand.  I read yesterday, in this book on Adaptogens by David Winston, that 25% of modern medicines are still derived from plants used in traditional medicine.  They take one specific phytochemical and then like try to boost the intensity of it, instead of seeing a plant as something that has a lot of different chemicals that all work together.  Modern medicine refuses to see human or plant bodies as complex systems that work together in ways science can’t account for.

What is something that you feel is a big accomplishment that you’ve achieved in your life?

Umm, to stray from plants… I think the biggest thing I’ve achieved is finishing hair school. ’Cause I dropped out of college and kind of felt like I was never going to be able – yeah ever going to be able to complete something.  I’m great at getting things started, but I’m not so good at follow through, so yeah 1500 hours of hair school has been a big deal.

What are you afraid of for yourself?

Uhh ::laughter:: I guess um, kind of like where I’m going now. Because like for the past year I’ve had all of these really clear goals, like I wanted to finish cosmetology school, I wanted to move to Philadelphia, and I was doing this Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) program that was pretty intense, and I wanted to finish that.  I did all these things so now I’m like, “Shit, I need new goals! I don’t know what I’m doing at all!” ::laughter:: so, yeah I guess just afraid of, of figuring out what to do next.

What are you afraid of for the world?

Capitalism… ::laughter:: Umm, industrialization, I’m afraid of the world, you know? Like I’m afraid of things that happen day to day and unnoticed and unchallenged. I’m afraid of prisons and mass incarceration, I’m afraid of how institutionalized violence isn’t something most people think about, or even recognize exists. Umm, I think it’s really scary how the world operates in this way where like, we basically still have slavery in the U.S., but like it’s so layered under all these different facades that it’s really insidious.  People, liberals, think we like in this like “post racial society,” but our economy is still built on the forced free labor of incarcerated black people, and destroying indigenous land.  So, yeah. I’m afraid of the world every minute capitalism continues.

What do you think of relationships? Platonic, sexual, or otherwise.

Uhh, they’re difficult.  Yeah I don’t know, for most of my life I found all my self worth through my partners, through people finding me sexually or romantically attractive, because as a person with a fat body I was taught that I’m like “lucky” if I can achieve those things, if I can achieve that desire.  More recently I’m like, “fuck that.” I’m like, not trying to just be a thing that only exists for other peoples acceptance, I was celibate and single for like six months last year and like… I think that was a really good space for me to like try to deepen my intimate connections with my platonic friends, with friends that I don’t sleep with.  I’m like trying to learn to value different types of relationships, as well as one with myself.

What is something that you wish you would have known when you were fifteen?

Ooh. Uh, that the assholes you go to high school with don’t fucking matter.  That I should have been pursuing my own interest instead of being so anxious and insecure about what other people thought of me.



Brittany IRL


Date of Interview: Oct 8, 2016

Name: Brittany IRL

Age: 28

Pronouns: She/Her

Location: Toledo, OH


How often do you bathe or shower?

I try to take a bathe at least 3 times a week. I shower sometimes every day, depending on if I go to yoga or no But yeah I try to take a bath 3 times a week, its really important for my mental health to be in water. In the past I lived in crummy college apartments that didn’t have bathtubs. I definitely felt like I was missing something from my life.

Do you feel like there is a ritual with mental health and bathing for you?

Yes. Even though I do keep my phone near, I find that it’s a good space for me to sort through whatever it is that’s bothering me. I also really like, you know, aromatherapy, essential oils, Epsom salts, that sort of stuff. I find that it’s clearing for me.

What are you passionate about?

Hmm… that should be an easier question than I’m making it. I’m passionate about embracing and reclaiming femininity as a source of strength. I think that when I was younger I did a lot of things to sort of cover up or ignore my femininity. I used to be very insecure and uncertain about my, you know, my secondary sex characteristics. And simple things like umm, I didn’t think it was cool to like flowers, to have long hair, or to like little things that because they were quote-unquote “girly.” I thought I had to sort of squash that part of myself to be cool and for whatever reason being cool equaled being accepted by the boys in the music scene or whatever. So I’ve become passionate about like reclaiming those parts of myself that I have previously ignored or shut away because of a fear of not being taken seriously. Femininity or being girly was seen as childish, which I think is unfair.

What do you mean by secondary sex?

Oh secondary sex characteristics? You know like when I hit puberty and got boobs. I used to be this really rail thin little stick-figure kid, so when I got hips and boobs I felt awkward like all teens to. But I tried really hard to conceal everything. I wore only boys’ clothes. I used to like essentially strap my chest down. I would wear like sports bras and really tight t-shirts and conceal everything and wrap everything up, partially because I was uncomfortable with it, and then partially because of reactions to it. I had a large chest when I was like 14. And people in my school spread rumors that I had like a boob job and stuff. It was really bizarre because I was this poor kid that lived in a trailer, but somehow I came up with eight grand or whatever to get a tit job. So I just tried to conceal that sort of stuff, because I wanted to be the like waif-thin 90’s heroin-chic model thing, like that was what seemed admirable to me and being curvy wasn’t really part of that ideal.

Do you think your passion for feminism and reclaiming spaces goes into your art?

Yes, because along with previously being uncomfortable claiming femininity in general, I used to also be uncomfortable embracing feminism and associating myself with feminist theory. When I was in college- I studied literary theory in grad school- I was really self-conscious about not being pigeon-holed as a feminist literary critic. Because that ends up being kind of like this ghettoized, like kind of you’re put in a corner with those theorists and you expected to only go to certain conferences, and like it’s not integrated fully into mainstream academia. So when I was creating stuff too, at that time, I was really careful and purposefully did not proclaim anything as “feminist.” I was really trying to be as androgynous as possible in my approach to everything. And that involved like, suppressing like emotional responses, and things that are like typically, traditionally, stereotypically feminine… So with trying to take all of that back and trying to be comfortable being femme, I really brazenly try to involve my feminist politics into the zines that I produce, my social media personalities, any art that I’m doing, and I mean daily life in general. I think of myself when I was 20 and I was so disinterested in feminism and I thought it would make me less interesting to other people, and now I’m like, what would 20 year old me think of what I’m doing now? And I don’t know, but 20 year old me was also very insecure and small. And I think that embracing femininity and learning what femininity is has made me more comfortable and I can exist and have a presence without feeling like I have to apologize for it.

What do you feel accomplished with in your life?

So I did this exercise, two days ago actually, where I was dealing with this like inferiority complex stuff. And I was thinking, “OK, if I wasn’t me, what are the things I’ve done that I would think are cool?” Because since it’s me I don’t think they’re cool, so like I started this as like a twitter thread and then some other people like jumped at it, they were like, “Oh this is a great idea”, it’s self-affirmative and you know it’s like a good perspective test. Because I’m afraid of bragging, afraid of seeming full of myself or whatever, and that all serves to make me feel bad about myself unnecessarily. So some of the accomplishments that I wrote were like, “I have a masters degree,” which I used to be really proud of, but now I realize that school isn’t really that… I mean I don’t want to lean on that. I self-publish zines, I travel for zine fest. And that is probably the most important thing that I’ve done in the past couple years. Because I think it getting over the hurdle of being afraid of someone else consuming your work without you there, putting out a finished product, that was like a big mental block I had for a while, so that’s like my most badass accomplishment. That was a really long-winded way of getting to that, but yeah.

What are you afraid of for yourself?

Oh shit. For myself at my core, I am afraid of being alone. I mean even in physical spaces I don’t really like being by myself for long, and that is something that I’ve worked on. I do everything I do because I want to connect with other people. So my writing and my art, my goal is to hopefully connect with someone who’s felt the same way, and that makes me feel less alone. Even if it’s someone in Chicago who picked up a zine of mine at Quimby’s and wrote me a nice email like, “Wow you hit me with that line.” That makes me feel less alone, even though I’ve never met the person. But also I’m afraid of being alone in like, a long term relationship sense. The fear of dying alone, that kind of shit…

What is something beautiful you’ve seen this week?

So… Tuesday night, it was uh, I think we had a dense fog warning for the next day. And across the street is this community garden, and across the street from that is the river. I mean, it’s the port authority, but it’s the river. And I took my dog out at like three in the morning so there’s only moonlight and the fog was like creeping in from the river. And it was cool like the light play with the fog and the open space, it felt like kind of like… kind of like Silent Hill, but you know it was really quiet and there was a stillness, and it was beautiful

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