When Julia Cybularz's 9-year-old niece, Hannah, was diagnosed with scoliosis, she took a photographer's approach to the news.
Cybularz brought her camera along to Hannah's first brace fitting to offer support and to witness what the family hoped would be a non-invasive cure for her spinal curve. But Hannah's case proved to be more complicated. Over the course of four years, Hannah would be repeatedly and painfully fitted with numerous braces until surgery was necessary.
Cybularz — who also suffers from scoliosis — was there for the agonizing ride. With a sensitive touch, the photographer captured the alienation and disconnect of the physical and psychological constrictions of this disease as well as the enduring strength of girlhood.
The resulting series — Breaking the Girl — is a touching and personal exploration of the emotional and physical connections young women have to their changing, and in this case, failing bodies. By charting the development and treatment of this spinal disease, Cybularz also presents the evolution of a young girl into womanhood.
"Hannah and I have a very close relationship," Cybularz said in an interview. "I think the photographs provided an outlet for feelings that are hard for a young girl to articulate in words."
"I witnessed moments of grace and courage from this young girl that profoundly affected me."
Below, see Cybularz's tribute to the beautiful complexities of girlhood.