Photographer celebrates life, and second chances

Celebrating second chances

PHILADELPHIA -- Every photo in this exhibit tells a story -- just not the story you might expect.

Since 2010, photographer Dese'Rae Stage has taken a snapshot of America to talk about an issue that's often treated like a dirty word.

"You hear that word suicide and you think, 'I don't want to go there,'" Stage said. "This project is not about death. This project is about life. And my work is about life."

All the people in the exhibit -- almost 200 of them -- survived at least one suicide attempt. They agreed to let Stage use their names, tell their stories and take a portrait for a project called Live Through This.

"When I woke up after I was in a coma for three days, I realized that 'OK, God, the universe, did not see fit for me to, like, leave here like I wanted to,'" said Nancy Nettles, 50, who tried to overdose with pills.

"What this project does is it gives people permission to talk about it, which is often all we really need," Stage said.

Her technique for all of the photos is for the subjects to look directly at the camera.

"There's something about looking into someone's eyes, there's an intimacy there," Stage said.

Her goal is to get all of us talking about a taboo subject, and challenge assumptions. Twice, the 33-year-old Stage has tried to end her life -- the most recent attempt 11 years ago.

She said she survived from "a lot of love" from her friends.

"I got the help I needed when I needed it," she said.

"There's a real bravery and a courage to live through an experience like that and stand up and go, 'OK, well, I'm going to keep on living now,'" Stage said.

Many of the people whose portraits hang in the exhibit still struggle. But in their photos, you can also see the face of resilience.

  • Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001 and is based in the Atlanta bureau.