Andy Barmer

Abide with Me is a 15 minute film short about three generations of one family – daughter, mother and grandfather. From the perspective of the present, it explores how the past has influence in the family.

The film was shot in the centenary year of the outbreak of the First World War, when the daughter, Beth journeys to France, Yorkshire and Scotland to explore her grandfather’s traumatic Great War history. In a parallel second journey, a metaphysical one, we see that despite the passage of time, each of the family’s psychological issues are subtly intertwined. The grandfather’s ‘chronic mania’, and subsequent incarceration leave a legacy for Pamela, whose own experience of depression shows a vulnerability that Beth, the granddaughter, carries forward into her life.

Racquel Fortuna

Racquel Fortuna's series Overcoming Anxiety places herself in the frame as a way of battling her anxiety issues. Racquel's series of black and white self portraits were inspired by her experiences with writing, encouraging her to look back and 'write about what you know' — in this case, photographing herself as a means to challenging the anxiety she experiences. Fortuna writes:

"I find comfort in the idea that we are all connected through our emotions and experience. Through this bond, we understand more about each other and, more importantly, ourselves. My group of self-portraits portrays my personal journey in conquering my issues, beginning negatively and progressively becoming more positive as the series develops. I desire to share this experience in order to inspire viewers. By revealing my vulnerability, I hope to form that emotional connection with my audience and convey that the struggles we go through in life makes us human."

Jennifer Wells

Jennifer Nichole Wells is a 24 year old fine art photographer out of Jacksonville, FL. She uses a variety of materials- including clay, paint, cardboard, foam and HO and dollhouse scale miniatures to create small-scale dioramas. She then transforms her miniature creations through her camera lens, using various photo and post processing techniques.

She strives for a nostalgic and ethereal or dark and meaningful feel to each of her images.

As far as mental health is concerned, Jennifer struggles with anxiety and PTSD. Her work serves as an outlet for these often dark feelings, while the process aids as a type of therapy.

How long have you been working with this miniature diorama format and what attracted you to this way of working?
I've made 3-D things out of paper, and played with the tiniest of tiny toys since I can remember. The first time I made small items to photograph was for an English project in High School. I illustrated As I Lay Dying. The first time I used miniatures for a fine art project was Freshman year of college. I used quarter machine monkies and placed them in various locations. I didn't come back to this way of working until a couple years later. I had been determined to do dark room photography because I liked the hands on process, and taking digital classes forced me to further explore other ways of working. At first I made large scale 80 - 100 image panoramas, but working in Photoshop didn't quite satisfy the urge I had to work with my hands. I made a series called WWII in 2012 in response to a narrative photo assignment. I fell in love. I liked being able to design every aspect of a scene - to make it as simple or detailed as I preferred, to give life and an emotive feel to these tiny objects, to obscure their scale by the way I shot the image, or the size I printed it, to be totally in control of the lighting. For the purpose of assignments, I still shot non-miniatures off and on for awhile, but as soon as I was able, I settled here wholeheartedly, and I've never looked back.

What is your working process, from conceptualising and building to shooting?
I think about an image forever before shooting it. First I have a vague idea of the scene I want, sparked from something I've heard, seen, read, been considering lately to any degree. Then I plan out what I need to construct the scene. Do I need to order props? Will I be building any specific items? If I'm building something, what is the best material for it - clay, paper? If I'm buying props, where should I look, what do I want them to look like? For props I scan my go- to hobby sites/stores for hours, looking for something that I can use at face value, or modify slightly to fit what I have in my head.

Once I have everything ready, I set up the scene, light it and shoot it. I have a table top studio that's 16" x 16" and came with 2 small studio lights. I typically only use 1 light. I prefer the more dramatic lighting, and often times I'm using the light to emulate the sun. Occasionally I skip the studio and just set up the scene on a table and light it with a desk lamp. For tinier items, I've lit with candles, or LED hobby street lights.

I start with an idea of what angle I want to shoot the image, but as I'm shooting I always end up playing with a few different angles and depths of field, and adjusting and readjusting pieces within the scene and the placement of the light. I aim for symmetry, simplicity, the rule of thirds, interesting/ directional shadows, color play, etc. Once I have a shot I'm happy with, I import it into my computer and begin working on the image in Photoshop. I always adjust levels and color balance, and depending on the shot I may blur out more of the background, spot edit out a few things, crop, etc.

What is it about the process of working in this way that you find therapeutic?
I always have an urge to create and creating helps me feel like I'm doing something productive. On top of that, working with my hands, and creating something from almost nothing is a fulfilling process. Sometimes I even surprise myself that I was able to achieve the final product. I can have confidence in my skills as an artist, even on days that I feel unsure about everything else. On my lazy days, I bring all my supplies over to the couch, and build on top of a laptop lap desk, cutting, gluing and molding while I binge, uh listen, to Netflix.

Where do you draw inspiration for each piece?
I like to draw inspiration from everywhere. When I see something that intrigues me, I make note of it. I try to figure out why I think something is beautiful or interesting. Being able to analyze what I like and don't like better informs my art.

As far as artists that inspire me, I really enjoy the work of Edward Hopper and Gregory Crewdson, and greatly appreciate the work Laurie Simmons and David Levinthal have done in the world of miniature photography.

For your most personal piece, Awaken, has the process of making work surrounding such sensitive emotions transformed the way you look upon that period in your life?
Yes actually. It's helped greatly. It forces me to work through those emotions and thoughts, but in something outside of myself. It's like a release into that clay as I mold the ocean, as I add paint, as I press the figure into the waves. A letting go of sorts. I think I'm able to look at that period in my life a bit more objectively than I was able to before.

John Keedy

John William Keedy's series It's Hardly Noticeable is the visual epitome of neurosis and anxiety. John describes the work as an exploration of "the world of a character who navigates living with an unspecified anxiety-based mental illness. He negotiates situations constructed to highlight the impacts and implications of his differences on his thoughts and behaviors, and by doing so raises question of normalcy." The series provokes us to question what is normal, and how we define normality.

What was the inspiration behind It's Hardly Noticeable?
I've been working on this project for about a year and a half, and in a way it grew out of a previous body of work that examined the creation and maintenance of a personal identity. Issues of psychology have always been a point of interest and influence for me and my work, though this project is much more personal, and the first I address the ideas of pathology and normalcy. My undergraduate degree is in psychology, and years ago I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and both of those things played a large role in creating the images. At the start of the project, I don't think I realized how much I had inadvertently based the character on myself, but soon recognized he is like me in a number of very real ways, and though it's not my main intent by any means, I realized the series could serve as a method of personal investigation. When creating the images I pull both from my own experiences and from writings by psychologists and those experiencing these symptoms firsthand.

What brought you to exploring mental health in your photography?
I have always been drawn both to psychology and photography, and so it feels natural for my work to bring the two together. The specific issue of mental health was one that came later as I thought back on my own experiences, and considered how common these experiences are. I think there is a stigma that accompanies mental pathology, and because of that it is something that isn’t as openly discussed. This can cause those with these illnesses to feel isolated; I hope in some way my work can help open a much needed dialog.

You have a BA in both Psychology and Photography — is It's Hardly Noticeable at the intersection of these two interests?
My work very much is a combination of my two degrees. The images draw from my personal experience, but also from my academic study of anxiety. I have always been drawn to the photographic image, to the point where it has become the language through which I am most comfortable and most able to explore other interests, including psychology.

What was the creative process for these images? From conception to construction etc.
Each image starts with an idea, experience or symptom that I want to express; from there I made sketches of several possible visual representations of that abstract idea. I pick one or two of the sketches that I feel best represents the idea, and begin constructing the scene to photograph. Each of my images is highly constructed and staged, which can take several weeks to complete. I tend to shoot and re-shoot each image several times, making changes to the construction and altering the lighting. Finally, each piece has a fair to significant amount of digital editing.

What have responses been like to It's Hardly Noticeable?
The response to the work has been truly touching. The series began and remains very personal to me, and so I’m honored to have so many people connect and identify with the images. A number of people who have first-hand experience with pathology, either experienced themselves or by a loved-one, have reached out and shared their stories, and I am extremely flattered and honored, and reminded that I am in no way alone.

How have you felt about sharing such personal work — has it been cathartic or helped you come to terms with living with anxiety?
Admittedly I was apprehensive about sharing the work at the beginning. By the time I started making the work, I had learned to manage my own anxiety, but was still slightly hesitant to share such a personal aspect of my life and myself. However, I realized my apprehension was adding to the lack of open dialogue and continued stigma that the work was trying to counter, and so I felt it was important to share the images.

What's next for you?
I am continuing to create work for It's Hardly Noticeable, expanding on the still life images and moving into the moving image. Because the work is so based in performance and accumulation, it seems a natural extension of the series into video.