Period Portraits

Tara Pokras, an MPH student in Global Health, combined her passion for photography and global health as part of the mini-grant event she coordinated during National Public Health Week (NPHW) earlier this month. The art-centered event, entitled “Period Portraits: Not Back in Time But the Bloody Kind" and sponsored by the GW Public Health Student Association, showcased women’s health issues and experiences of menstruation and body image. Participants shared their stories and were able to sit for photographed portraits.

“I love photography and have been wanting to work on portraits, so I thought it could be interesting to have an event where we talk about this uncomfortable, often stigmatized topic and break it down, and in the process capture the moment through a simple photograph,” Pokras said. She drew her inspiration from photography blogs and campaigns such as Humans of New York and BEHOLD.HER. Pokras has a passion for women’s health issues and recently starting working with her friend’s organization, The Unmentionables, which helps refugees in Greece access female hygiene products.

Between a photo booth and wall of reflection, visitors were encouraged to embrace the menstruation cycle and answer various thought-provoking questions, such as, “What if men could menstruate?” and “Has your period ever held you back from anything before?” People were able to jot down notes about periods on post-its and then stick it to the wall. 

The event took place right before Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of American and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, gave the NPHW Closing Keynote Address and Brandt Memorial Lecture in Women's Health. Richards spoke on the importance of women’s health services and the battles ahead.