Volatile: Exposing Trauma

By Brandon Gage

Photo Used With Permission By The Artist

Photo Used With Permission By The Artist

This selection of photographs documents an effort to revisit a history of abuse.

It is a confrontation with an ugly slurry of complex emotions. It is my tormented soul exposed.

It is undeniably volatile.”

-Zac Miller

Volatile is a one-of-a-kind exposé into the lingering anguish and exceptional bravery buried deep inside Zac Miller. His emotional torment is laid bare for all to see in this collection of photographs, capturing how abuse has shaped his psyche. Zac’s transformative tapestry of bare skin and limited colors underscore the profound and excruciating emotional burdens caused by abuse. In the first image, Zac appears with his mouth agape; not for speaking, but rather as a way of welcoming the outside into his world. Baseball caps and sculpted abs, common symbols of rugged masculinity, are reassigned to roles of pure superficiality. They are the façade which Zac tears down throughout Volatile.

There are no written words, nor are there guides as to what each individual image represents. The incorporation of masks, plastic bags wrapped around his head, and ropes are symbols of both the restriction and entrapment of lingering psychological trauma brought on by abuse. His sense of detachment is enhanced by Zac’s head covered by a bucket with “WASTED” stenciled on the side, simply and powerfully illustrating the way abuse rots the mind and flushes away one’s sense of worth.

Volatile is a journey through one man’s attempt to confront his dark past. Zac’s willingness to display his naked body is both courageous and outrageous. Nudity is the ultimate vulnerability, and by leaving nothing to the imagination, Zac removes the stigma of abuse, assigning its power to a source of triumphant victory. He reaches out beyond himself to all victims of abuse, whether sexual, physical, emotional, or substance. Deep down, we are all the same. We share the same feelings of shame, the same insecurities, and the same potential for healing. Inspiring others to confront, rather than avoid the pains that lie within, is what is so striking about Volatile.