What are your secret single behaviors? In the season 4 episode of “Sex and the City,” “The Good Fight,” Carrie Bradshaw reveals that when she’s home alone, she makes a stack of saltine crackers with grape jelly and eats them standing up in the kitchen while reading fashion magazines -- not the most shocking habit, but certainly a bit unexpected.
In a photo series called “Portrait of a Quiet Girl,” artist Chrissie White, in collaboration with Elvia Carreon, zooms in on our secret solitary habits, in all their weird, quirky glory.
The series, first published in The Photographic Journal, might at first seem to be a surrealist take on mental illness; in fact, White has cited “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a story about isolation-induced madness, as an inspiration for the project.
In an email to The Huffington Post, however, White explained that the photos are not necessarily meant to show a mental health condition, but rather the freedom shy people can find to be fully themselves within the safety of their own homes. “Others might see this women as being mentally unstable,” said White of the “slightly agoraphobic” character she created with Carreon. “But she enjoys her solitude and finds comfort in her home where she can play without fear of judgement.”
Though introverts typically shy from the spotlight, introversion has enjoyed a wave of public attention following the publication of Susan Cain's book on introverts, Quiet. Self-identified introverts have eagerly shared listicles like 23 Signs You're Secretly An Introvert and celebrated the recognition that needing plenty of time alone or being uncomfortable in huge groups doesn’t necessarily make you flawed -- just different.
“Portrait of a Quiet Girl” goes a step beyond, celebrating “how strange and unreserved people can be when they aren't being watched,” as White put it. The series invites us to think of our own odd, solitary behaviors from a new distance, confronting us with the reality that we all might look a little absurd if outsiders could see how we act when we are totally alone. “I believe that everyone has some ‘quirks’ that could be diagnosed as illness,” said White. “People are just really good at hiding them when they are out in public.”
If, as the Cheshire Cat told Alice, we’re all mad here, in our own safe, unwatched spaces, the meaning of “madness” becomes far less cut-and-dry. In “Portrait of a Quiet Girl,” White and Carreon invite us to question what we think of as mad, and to embrace the kaleidoscopic range of quirks and emotions we all experience as humans.
See more of the photos from "Portrait of a Quiet Girl" below, and check out White's work on her website.