Courtney Lowry

Courtney Lowry (USA) is a photographic artist from Baltimore, Maryland. Her series Generalized Anxiety Distortions depicts her world and experiences after being diagnosed with GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder) in 2017.

What is your background in photography? How did you get started and how would you describe your practice?

I started photography when I was in high school. The arts program in my high school was really well-funded. We had darkrooms, cameras, and even film accessible for everyone to use. I’ve always been a storyteller. I used to write short stories all the time as a kid and then I found that you could do the same with photography, which is why I wanted to pursue it. I got my first camera (a Canon Rebel T3) when I was my senior year in high school. I was just shooting on vacation. I only had one lens with that camera. I was also shooting YouTube vlogs with it but then when I got to college, I upgraded to using lights, different lenses, and cameras. I never thought I’d get into studio photography because I’d always photographed outside with natural lighting. My practice is very introspective and it’s a reflection of where I’m at in my life. Each of my projects has a foundation of issues that I am passionate and about issues that I feel like I need to be spoken about. I like to get to know who I’m working with. Each time I shoot, I sit down with the person or people and I jump into deep questions just to get to know them on a personal level before we shoot, because I feel like bringing that human connection aspect to each shoot will translate into the project itself. I’m never going to just have a person pose for me and that’s it. I always take probably 20-30 minutes talking to them, ask them where they’re from, and ask them about their life. It’s not me photographing you and you posing for me. It’s us working together to share a story.

What brought you to Hong Kong?

What brought me to Hong Kong was actually a friend. She had told me how studying there changes your perception as a woman and as an American. So, I thought “I’m here. I’m gonna go take this moment.” I wanted to change because I’d been studying in Atlanta for a year and I was comfortable. And I loved it and I was just like “OK. I’m too comfortable now.” That’s the thing about me is if I’m in a situation for too long, I want to get a change and see life from a different perspective. But I soon realized, after being in Hong Kong for about two days, being comfortable is not a bad thing. I’d been in Savannah for quite some time and it wasn’t the best and then Atlanta really changed my perception of the city. Then, going to Hong Kong and feeling as if I was an alien was a bad transition. Already feeling alienated and isolated because of being black and then being female and then there wasn’t a lot of photo majors studying abroad--it was a lot of little things that built up into big giant barrier against me. In Atlanta, there’s a tightknit community. The campus is predominately black. I was really happy and comfortable. I had friends that I could talk about issues that affected the black community. To go from that to being like one of like six black students was incredibly difficult.

What was it about making these images that allowed you to ‘heal’? how did the process affect you?

These images allowed me to heal because for the first time I was addressing my mental health outside of myself in the form of a photo. My struggles with anxiety, depression and low self-esteem combined with physical health issues, like having the early stages of psoriasis and then getting a viral infection twice, I was finally able to come to terms with my struggles. I understood that I was going through a hard time. But being able to put those feelings on paper allowed me to heal because while I was photographing I was very anxious. Every little sound seems to set off another panic attack. For a while, I was just in this state of pure hypersensitivity: abrupt, quick, and loud noises. People getting too close. People being too loud. Certain smells. The thick, hot air clinging to my skin. If I wasn’t able to find something (I always got lost), I’d have another panic attack. If somebody didn’t speak to me that day, or if I didn’t do well on the test, I would crumble. These images stabilized me and allowed me to face the fact that I was struggling with my mental health, but it was possible to get out of that. Right after those images were created, I entered a state of self-awareness and rebirth. But I couldn’t stop turning over in my head that when I was presenting these images to the class, nobody gave a shit about them. It really bothered me as I stood up there and talked about the images and cried because I was putting my soul into them and people were talking over me and texting on their phones. It was the “perfect” way to end it because I, at that time, felt as if no one cared about me anyway.

How would you describe your relationship to anxiety and what role does photography play in helping you deal with it?

My relationship with anxiety is an interesting one. I remember having early panic attacks in elementary school because I was overthinking my projects and my assignments. Growing up, I’ve always been lanky, and I’m still lanky. In middle school, people would always comment on how short and little I was and that created a lot of insecurity and doubt in my appearance. Then high school brought the the pressures of having a boyfriend and going to prom and getting straight As. But if you got straight As, people would tease you about that. I never had a solid group of friends, and floated between groups of people. Most were toxic in high school. I knew I didn’t belong in my small town, so I spent free time reading and researching know to improve myself, but that wasn’t as cool as going to a party. I used to question God as to why he made me this way. I have always struggled with anxiety and never feeling good enough, but just when it comes to other people.

With myself, I know my capability and my drive and work ethic. I don’t know where I’d be without photography because it makes a different person. I was talking to somebody earlier today and they said, “you know it’s so funny that you’re so quiet in class,” after I told them about my process of creating new work. I don’t tolerate lateness. I don’t tolerate models being on their phones. I don’t tolerate poor attitudes during a shoot. I’ve even told models to go home. Photography is my life and to just have life wasted on other people is tragic. Photography gives me a sense of confidence that empowers me. I may not be good at everything but I know I’m good at this thing (photography). Photography silences the nagging voices in my head and makes me feel as if I have a place in this world.

What are you working on now?

So right now I’m working on a project about black male masculinity and that the stigma that comes with it. I was inspired by two films, Moonlight by Barry Jenkins and Mid 90s by Jonah Hill. I knew I always wanted to do a project about black men. It took me two years to take to get the project going on to where I could execute it in a way that I was proud of. It’s been such an amazing journey. All the men I’ve worked with have been absolutely fantastic. I thank them for allowing me to craft my vision. It’s enlightening--bringing my own perceptions of black men and combining them with actual black men and hearing how they view themselves. What I’ve been studying in the last few weeks is the contrast between the hardness of the male and the softness of the fabric. At first, I didn’t know how to really get a grip on it. I felt lost, and it was an emotionally draining experience because I felt like a failure. For all of March and into mid-April, I was just grinding my gears trying to figure out what I wanted from this project. But overall, I’m seeing a new vulnerability from my friends I’d never seen before and it’s beautiful.
@courtneyllowry on Instagram

Gabriel Isak

Gabriel Isak is a Swedish photographer currently based in Stockholm. His dreamy and otherworldly photographs stir feelings of loneliness and melancholy through his use of isolated and anonymised figures within surreal landscapes.

How did you get started in photography and how would you describe your work?

I began exploring photography about 12 years ago, when I faced depression as a way to express my state of mind. I picked photography up again to make it a profession in 2014 after I had battled the depression during a seven year long struggle. From there on it has been a medium I use to document the internal and external world we live in working with themes inspired by the human condition as well as psychology, dreams and mental health. 

I would describe my work as metaphors for experiences of the soul, a body of work that is surreal and melancholic, while depicting an introspective world of being human and facing the existential feelings that comes with.

A lot of your work focuses on [solitary] figures, elements of disconnection and loneliness. How much of these ideas relate to your own experiences?

Most of my ideas has developed from experiences from my own life (and subconsciously made themselves into my photography) whether it has been my depression or other form of experiences that has broken me, shaped me or made me question life in general and the path I’m on. I never like giving details away or showing the faces of my subjects, but to keep the photos transparent and opaque so the viewer can develop their own personal relationship to the image they encounter from my portfolio. 

Your work is rooted in surrealism, minimalism and an element of mystery. Where do you draw inspiration from for ideas?

I grew up in a very gloomy and blue city. I spent the first 21 years of my life here in Sweden and was always inspired by the Scandinavian nature that is very minimal and cold and transforms into a surreal landscape that is very perfect and graphic in its visualization. After my depression I went to art school and became very interested in the surreal era that involved some of the greatest artist of our times like Magritte. I also began to do a lot of research on psychology at this time and explored the work of Carl Jung who has also inspired my work. Lately I’ve been very fascinated by Sartre’s work, probably cause it related a lot to my current life experiences and the project I’m currently working on. 

I’m curious about the process of making. How long does it take from conception to the final image being ready? Is making something you prefer to do alone or are others involved?

Most of my work is made by myself unless I have a model or team involved in making an image. I work a lot with self-portraiture, but it’s always anonymous and abstract, for the reason that my work is so personally inspired that I know exactly how I want the subject to look in an image. I’m also always available and will do anything to get the image I want wether it is to travel to white dunes and taking self portraits or stepping into an ice cold lake or snow field. 

I always visualize the image before hand in form of a sketch through brainstorming and decide 90% of the visual elements of how the image will look like. This makes the photographic process fairly easy and fast unless something goes wrong on location and I have to compromise. The rest of the time is spent behind the screen where I finalize the image in post-production. 

What challenges have you faced when creating images?

Weather changes have been a big obstacle in many of my shoots as I mostly work on location. Also I haven’t been doing this for very long, so sometimes my ideas have been too complex for me to figure out how to photograph them, but I keep pushing myself and learning so I can create those works as well. 

Is there any one image that stands out that is a personal favourite and why?

A personal favorite fram the last year is an image titled Existence from my latest and ongoing series Entities. An image that perfectly depicts how I’ve been visualizing a lot of the world around me in the last year and that is very personal to me. Felt really good to get that image out of my system and look at it from the other side. 

What do you hope viewers take away from your images?

I hope they will step away from all the disturbing duties and notifications we have in our society today, and allow themselves to reflect deep inside themselves and interact with the internal figures represented in my work and in turn reflect back on their own journey in life. I think we spend so little time today just by ourselves without phones, people or other factors that I think it can be really healthy to just take a moment for ourselves and look deep inside of what’s going on in our life. I never like to give away the meaning behind each image as I work in an abstract and conceptual matter and think that each person will have a different opinion or experience with my work. 

What are you working on next?

I’m currently working on a long term project on existentialism named Entities as well continue to explore new directions in my work. Also working on new future exhibitions and an upcoming book that will be released in the near future.
@gabriel_isak on Instagram

Christina Riley

Christina Riley is a Canadian photographer based in California. Previously we interviewed Christina about her book Back To Me. Here Christina shares works from her new book, Born, exploring her relationship to childbirth and her experience with postpartum depression.

Can you say a bit about the impact that becoming a mother had on your mental health?

Becoming a mother was really tough. It impacted my mental health with postpartum anxiety and depression. The weight of responsibility to keep the baby safe and healthy was intense. I worried non stop, because so much was out of my hands. Out of control. At times I felt so disconnected from her, but felt the deepest love for her as well. It was quite confusing, especially because I was never told that those feelings can be very normal. I felt very alone and overwhelmed. Throughout the pregnancy, I stayed on my medication for bipolar disorder, because the risk to me was considered higher than risks for the baby. I am so happy I did because I think I would have been in much worse condition after birth if not.

Is documenting the every day a usual practice for you, or did Born prompt you into documenting your new life as a mother?

I am constantly documenting myself and my life. It is part of who I am. I knew ahead of time that I wanted to photograph my daughter's life, as a gift to her, for her future. I believe it’s very important to have pictures of your childhood since a lot of that time is lost. So by obsessively taking pictures of her, I was able to document myself, and my emotions as well.

Postpartum depression is still something that’s very difficult for parents to talk about. Why was it important for you to create this work and secondly to share it with the world?

By sharing my experience in an honest way, I’m able to connect with people who have gone through a similar struggle. My hope is that the work could help others feel less isolated in their experience, and that it will open the minds of people who haven’t been through it. I think there is an expectation people have about becoming parents - they expect for everything to be beautiful and for love to take over completely. When things don’t turn out that way and postpartum hits, it’s easy to feel like a failure - to feel guilt and shame. It’s important for people to know that their experience, however mild or extreme, is very normal.

What prompted you to produce the work as a book?

I knew that I wanted to do something with the pictures I took. It felt like an important and interesting story to share. Getting feedback from others really does help me feel connected in my experiences. It's important for me to have the closure of a final physical product of my work. It allows me to start a fresh chapter. My close friend/mentor, Tony Fouhse, sort of got me on the path of making books when his company Straylight Press published my first book, Back To Me. He has been very helpful and encouraging.

In contrast to your previous book Back To Me all of born is shot in b&w. Was this a conscious decision when making the work and why?

Back to me was all shot on super high iso, with a ton of grain, so the images had a strange color cast, and felt more dreamlike. The decision to make Born black and white was done more instinctively, but since the subject matter is so “traditional” - birth, baby, motherhood - it worked perfectly. I wanted the book to look kind of traditional, even though the photos are not.

What would you say creating the work has achieved for you in terms of reconciling the difficulties and pleasures of becoming a mother?

By documenting my life through that time, I was able to reflect on the pictures and could see things how they were, and in the end where it all led me. I went from feeling like the worst mom, a stranger to myself, with a new stranger in my house (the baby), to seeing myself as a great mom to my daughter. It was a very emotional trip. I did not expect it to be as unsettling as it was, but it was worth the struggle.

Born is available for $30 through Christina's website.
@mechristinariley on Instagram

John Eugene Panic

John Eugene Panic is a photographer born in Houston, Texas. John shares with Fragmentary Anthology, a series of images shared through an interview about his photographic practice.

Anthology consists of images selected from pre-existing portfolio’s or collections. Sometimes the images are connected by transitional images that mark the transition to a new theme. The first three images deal with dominance and submission. Dogs are the common motif. The motif of a bench connects the third and fourth images. In the third image, my agitated dog is standing on a table between two benches in the vet’s office. In the fourth image, the bench next to the garbage can is an example of hostile architecture- the center hand rest is intended to prevent the homeless from sleeping on the bench. As such, it is an expression of dominance and exclusion. The building in the background is a public High School that four generations of my family have attended (inclusion). The image of the pharmacy door with a keypad lock and the digital landscape display continues the theme of exclusion and contains an artificial, romanticized landscape. The landscape of sky/clouds/trees/roof framed by an arch is a reference to Christian Iconography and suggests that nature and home are sacred. This may be viewed as a romanticized take on nature and home- but it contrasts with the artificial landscapes that preceded it. The still life of the silver creamer and card continues the motif of an artificial, romanticized landscape (card: bike and forest). In the dark interior landscape, the family dinner table is in the foreground (inclusion), and the portrait of the romanticized, anthropomorphized, fantasy parrot on the TV is in the background. The headless portrait of my father in our kitchen conveys a sense of estrangement. My 88-year-old father is mercurial, and I never know when age-related cognitive decline will affect his behavior. Plus, he is often in physical pain, so I am constantly aware of his body language in order to get a sense of how well he is doing- hence the isolation of his body. The landscape with the children crossing caution sign reflects a sense of caution related to eldercare as part of aging is becoming more childish. The still life that follows is a ghost bike- a memorial for a bicyclist who was killed close to the bike’s location. Part of elder care is dealing with death. Death of the person one knew and impending physical death. The dead topiary angel blowing a trumpet is my editorial comment on a belief in angels, heaven and the hereafter. The grass seeds highlighted by the sun is a comment on the resurgence of life after death and the bright green tree is life in all its glorious vibrancy. The still life of the broken fluorescent tubes shares the motif of grass with the preceding images and is an approximation of a hallucination. The still life of my therapist’s day planner is a reference to therapy. The last four images are references to aspects of therapy and function as self-portraits.

What is your background in photography?

I was born in 1954 and studied photography and film during the 1970’s-80’s. I worked as a custom BW printer and floater in a commercial custom color lab around 1980-86. My altered SX-70 work was exhibited I n 1986 in a multi-gallery series dedicated to promising new Texas artists. I co-produced an observational documentary about a homeless career criminal/alcoholic/street singer and poet that aired on the local PBS station around 1987.

In the late 1980's, I faced a choice between devoting myself full time to the production of art or being full time father to three children and a good husband. I chose to give up art.

I was ill between 1992-2006. Most of my early work was lost or destroyed during this time. Between 2006-11, I wrote about my recovery and my experience with all aspects of my mental illness. I am currently polishing the first draft of this autobiography. It has a rough title of “Mental Illness: Lockdown.”

I began teaching myself digital photography around 2012. In 2017, I began submitting images for publication. Three of my images, with accompanying text, were featured on The Broken Light Collective’s website in 2017. Three more of my images are currently on exhibit as part of The Houston Center for Photography’s 36th Annual Juried Membership Exhibition.

How would you describe your work?

I think of myself as primarily a documentary photographer because my work begins with a documentary image of a place, object, subject or space. I use documentary images incorporating various photographic styles to form compilations of compelling images, narratives, commentaries, editorials, and visual diaries.

Sometimes your work uses or juxtaposes a variety of photographic styles. Can you explain why?

My interest in a variety of styles has its’ origin in the stylistic range of the personal and avant-garde films I saw in my youth. Using a variety of styles is also a pragmatic response to the limited range of subject matter I photograph. Also, rather than being tied down to one style, I am interested in developing a lexicon of styles.

Juxtaposing styles in a portfolio can be a variation of cinematic storyboards- instead of action my storyboards reflect perceptions, feelings, perspectives or ideas. Also, using different styles is consistent with how symptoms of my mental illness alter my perception of reality. Finally, juxtaposing unrelated styles can be a surrealistic method that brings subconscious meaning to consciousness.

How has mental illness affected your work?

I am 64-years-old and have dealt with the symptoms of mental illness for 52 years. My current medications effectively control my bipolar mood swings and psychotic breaks. But, past bipolar episodes and psychotic episodes leave lasting scars that affect the aesthetics of my images. For example, elevated bipolar moods increase the saturation of colors and increase my sense of depth perception. Psychosis can make things seem hyper real, fantastic and imbued with special meaning. My images reflect these, and other, altered perceptions of reality.

I also have other symptoms I deal with every day. These symptoms include- amnesia, anxiety, overstimulation, dissociation, paranoia, and hypervigilance. These symptoms determine the how, what, where, when and why I engage in photographic processes.

Amnesia is particularly problematic. I tend to forget my past, new learning, social interactions, and procedural memories after 3-4 days. On bad days, I may forget within hours.

Sometimes, focusing my attention on photography can help reduce anxiety, overstimulation, dissociation, paranoia and hypervigilance. Other times, these symptoms can interfere with my ability to engage in photography.

Is your photography therapeutic?

Every step of the photographic process is therapeutic for me. Some steps help manage symptoms and other steps function as occupational therapy. For example, hunting for images instead of threats turns hypervigilance into an asset. The aspects of photography that require organization can be practice for organizing aspects of daily living. The aspects of photography that require following procedures can be practice for achieving goals and problem solving.

While I do not publish images of family members and family get togethers, they are also therapeutic. Among other things, they help me see family members more clearly.

You talk about hunting for photographs. Can you explain this further?

Humans were hunters and gathers for a very long time. I think of my hunting and gathering as a primal need that began being expressed in early childhood. Photography is just the latest iteration.

I use the term hunting in the dual context of searching and pursuing a prey. For example, searching can include searching for correct camera settings, searching for portfolio images, and searching for the right settings to produce a compelling print.

Pursuing prey means looking for a specific, previsualized image or something that fits into a pre-established taxonomy. An architectural photograph that requires specific lighting is a good example. In this context, the roads I travel are game trails.

Hunting for photographs usually begins by picking a time to take pictures. I can be anywhere, but most often I am running an errand in my car. So, a large percentage of my images are taken from the driver's seat. Objects in the location I am in shape what I hunt for and the photographic style I use.

You don't seem to post images of people. Is there a reason why?

Yes. There are personal and technical reasons why my work tends not include people. Personal reasons include- interacting with strangers makes me anxious, the process of getting release forms makes me even more anxious and my family members don't want their images published.

Technical reasons include vision issues and a medication induced hand tremor. I can't use glasses and see the entire viewfinder- plus the viewfinder frame scratches my glasses. So, right now, I don't wear glasses when I photograph. The image I see in the viewfinder is so blurry that it is hard to make out subtle facial expressions.

I use the manual spot meter function of the camera to set the image focus. This takes time- making spontaneous portraiture problematic. Using on-camera flash takes even more time.

My hand tremor poses three challenges- preventing motion blur, making precise compositions and using a computer mouse. To prevent motion blur, I set my camera on manual and the shutter speed to 1/800th of a second. I alter the f stop to provide correct exposure. Digital editing software enables me to correct composition errors. Sometimes, I need to use two hands to control the computer mouse. The hand tremor can also make using a tripod problematic.

Some of your work includes images of dogs. What is your rationale for photographing dogs?

Dogs play a significant role in my life. My mother, who is an invalid, has a Shih Tzu (Spot) that I take care of. Spot was abused as a puppy and has adult behavioral issues. For example, Spot was slapped in the face and will bite hands (including mine) when Spot does not wish to be touched. I work with Spot a couple of hours most evenings. His behaviors have slowly improved over the years.

I am also interested in how dogs move through space and around people- I call this "dog ballet." I'm also interested in photographing what I call "the unseen."

What does "the unseen" mean to you?

The “unseen” began with photographs of details of telephone poles. I then started photographing debris I found on the ground, in parking lots and construction sites. I eventually realized my photographs of debris dealt with psychological issues of use, abuse, abandonment, transitoriness, loss, and transformation. The "unseen" category expanded to include other places, spaces or things not normally photographed. It further expanded to include automatic photography- taking bursts of images without looking through the viewfinder and selecting the most compelling images.

What do you want people to take away from your photography?

I produce compelling compositions, portfolios and prints despite my limitations. I hope interest in my photographs will translate into an interest in my writing. My photography and writing can be found at my website.


Daniel Regan

Artist, founder and editor Daniel Regan shares his recent project Threshold. Originally commissioned by Science Gallery London for HOOKED, an exhibition exploring addiction, Threshold explores his experience with non-suicidal self-injury.

Below is a reproduced piece written by Naomi Pallas for BBC News.

Daniel Regan self-harmed at secondary school, at university and at times during his career as an artist. In his most recent artwork, he confronts this personal history.

Daniel sits at a table in the health centre in Kentish Town, north-west London. The centre has an art space, where he works as a curator. Dressed in bright red dungarees, the haphazard scarring on his left arm is visible from under the sleeve of his striped T-shirt. Speaking with a quiet, careful determination, the 33-year-old explains that his scars are not something he feels he needs to hide.

Instead, in Threshold, his latest art project, he uncovers the stories behind them. Daniel began to self-harm at the age of 14. Self-harm is when people intentionally hurt themselves, usually to cope with difficult or painful emotion.

It can take the form of hitting, burning or punching, but for Daniel it was cutting.


As soon as he hurt himself for the first time, Daniel realised what he was doing wasn't what most people would find normal. "I remember thinking from that moment onwards that I'd crossed over into a different world," he says. "I thought that I wouldn't be able to talk to my friends about this."

There have been some periods in his life when Daniel hasn't self-harmed at all. In others, he's harmed himself intensely. He tries to take each day as it is, telling himself, "You haven't done it for two weeks, so don't do it now."

Because of this struggle, he sees his behaviour as addictive. "The thought gets stronger and stronger and stronger, and so I get stuck in this cycle of responding to the thought, and then engaging in it, and then being embarrassed and ashamed."

It ends up with him getting stuck in a cycle.

So when the Science Gallery London put out an open call for art to go in an upcoming exhibition about addiction, Daniel knew what topic he wanted to cover. Although different from the traditional idea of addiction such as alcohol and drugs, he believes that self-harm can become a habit. This has been especially true for him when he has used it as a way to manage difficult emotions.

He realises now that it is also a negative and self-destructive behaviour.


The images in the exhibition were made by projecting moving lights on to Daniel's body. He chose to focus on certain areas, the chest and the throat, because of their vulnerable location on the body.

Daniel describes himself as a very placid person. There is only one person he ever gets really angry with, and that's himself. By projecting red light on to his face, he is representing the feeling of rage he directs at himself when he self-harms.

"Self-harm isn't a positive long-term coping strategy, but for me it has served a purpose," says Daniel. "I'm aware it's not a positive purpose, so I don't want to describe it as a positive act because it's not."

For Daniel, the desire to harm himself comes and goes, and the glowing and fading lights projected on his body represent these changing emotions.

"It's a very complex subject," he says.


Creating this work is important for Daniel for a number of reasons.

A survey of 11,000 14-year-olds by the The Children's Society, released at the end of August, found 22% of girls and 9% of boys said they had hurt themselves on purpose in the year prior to the questionnaire. Based on these figures, the charity estimates around 33,000 boys had self-harmed over a 12-month period.

Daniel can't remember seeing any men who self-harm sharing their experiences in the media, which meant that growing up he never felt his were properly represented. And from his time spent in group therapy, he knows that other men feel this way too.


Making his artwork was also an opportunity to change the kind of images that can be seen around self-harm.

Social media sites such as Instagram and the blogging platform Tumblr feature graphic images of self-harm. A study from last year found that around 60% of posts about cutting on social media contained explicit content. Often these images romanticise self-harm.

Daniel has first-hand experience of this. He's been contacted by people who want to show him their Instagram profiles, full of photographs that he considers to be explicit.

In his work, he made the decision to only show images of recovery and healing. "That was a very deliberate move. I don't want people to feel overwhelmed by something that feels excessive."

Creating his artwork has given Daniel the chance to talk to his friends and family about self-harm on his own terms. Although he knows the people around him are willing to talk openly about mental health, Daniel believes sometimes they struggle to know what to say to him.

"It's another way for friends and family to interact with my scars without having to ask me about them."


Although Daniel says he can't rule out self-harming in the future, he has since found other ways to manage his emotions.

"I just put it down to something I've experienced, it's who I am. It's just part of who I am."

Daniel Regan's art will be on display as part of the HOOKED: When Want Becomes Need at the Science Gallery London until 6 January 2019.

John Mannell

John Mannell is a London based photographer using photography to combat depression and anxiety. Portrait Per Day sees him interacting with strangers on the streets of London in a personal project that highlights the therapeutic nature of photography.

What first attracted you to photography and how did you get into it?

When in secondary school I had a few friends that loved the film Clerks by Kevin Smith and we watched it over and over and wanted to get into making our own films. We looked at the local college and aged 14 signed up to the closest course we could which was black and white photography. And although not cinema, I was hooked and to this day haven't actually shot anything other than still photography. Since then I have taken various courses from GCSEs, A Levels and City and Guilds. It's been a great way at any age to meet new people and have a project to keep me creative when I really need it.

When I was at night school my final project for my city and guilds was a look into my experiences of depression. The image is a metaphor for so many experiences in my journey. When I started to use photography as therapy I took photos at night when no one was around. It felt like a daunting and somewhat vulnerable task. I had no way to explain this other than a photo of me taking the fear head on. You feel like there is no end or hope sometimes but step by step you can feel progress even if the end goal isn’t really clear.

You’ve been open about your anxiety and its effect on you. How did your anxiety initially begin and what impact did it have on your day to day life?

I have always been an anxious person. When I was younger I would just assume it was being shy. There were times I would throw up with overwhelming anxiousness and couldn't bear being centre of attention. When I grew older it passed somewhat as when I went to university difference was somewhat celebrated and I felt like I could be myself.  At this time I would just get anxious about travelling. Then when I left university I had a rare bowel disease and had a significant amount of my small intestine removed and some of my large intestine removed too. I felt half the man I was before as even simple tasks became more effort. Unfortunately after this I would regularly get angry or anxious and never dealt with it properly. Eventually I had a bit of a break down and despite not wanting to admit it was diagnosed with depression and put on medication. At this point I couldn't leave the house unless it was work. What I have never been able to understand is I could attend work and carry out my daily tasks but the moment I got home the outside world was so daunting. It was like I had safety between the walls of my own home and the walls of work. Repetition of the same daily process felt like I was doing well but in fact I was just forcing myself to do nothing but work, eat and sleep. Eventually I managed to get counselling via the NHS and after getting angry and frustrated when having one on ones I then got offered group therapy. The first time I had openly spoke to others suffering from similar emotions, and it made me realise i wasn't the only one that felt that way. We used CBT as way to manage problems and due to my love of photography it was suggested I went out to take a photo each week and then go back to show the group. This was immediately rewarding and I had instant progress. This was my vehicle to getting out in the world and without it not sure I would have managed to stop taking anti-depressants or in what I feel is to have beaten the crippling side to anxiety.

In Portrait Per Day you’re stopping strangers in the street to ask for a portrait. This can be a challenge even for the most out-going of people. How do you approach people? How do you manage rejections?

So when I started taking photos for anxiety it was not an easy process. It also wasn't of people which is most ironic. I would actually go out on pre-planned trips to take photos of the country side or even London in the anti-social hours when no one was about. The fear always was that people would be able to tell I was depressed. The fact is no one ever knew. But by hiding behind a camera I felt comfortable to get outside. As I broke my routine slowly but surely the anxiousness disappeared and so did the medication. I remember taking photos of people and always wanted to do a project but never had the guts to do so. In 2016 my now wife suggested I took on a photography challenge as I was so stressed with work and couldn't get on a course that taught me what I wanted. I came up with the idea for Portrait Per Day and not quite sure I appreciated what a huge task it would be or my wife. Luckily she supported me from start to end and it was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. Anyway, that is a the side step to the question about how I ask for a photo. When the project started it was awful. I couldn't look people in the eye and found asking elderly people far easier. I explained I had a portrait challenge as I couldn't study it at a college and the best way for me to improve was to take a photo every day. An honest photo that wasn't over edited or pre planned and most people were really nice. That said when I started I would regularly get ten or more people in a day say no. As the project has evolved I have either got far better at judging people that would say yes or better at dealing with people. You learn very quickly that rejection is not necessarily personal. You also learn that every time you meet a person that is rude or judgmental you will meet ten or so that are lovely. My days are enriched by the stories of others and the interaction of each photo I take.

This is Giorgio or as he is known Big Ginger Beard. You meet a lot of positive people and this is one of them. Always smiling and always cheering people up. It isn’t the best photo of him but took a lot of effort to stop him smiling for all of five seconds.
Every now and then I take a photo of someone that shows them as I saw them not just visually but personality too. I had a really long day at work and had messy hair, dirty jeans and scruffy top. You could think I’m on the sympathy vote but the reference is to try and show the contrast between me and this man named Devine. He is a security guard and has worked as equally a long day as I have but looked unbelievably smart. His demeanour was proud yet calm and he spoke gently. He was kind enough to walk along the street to pose near some light coming from the Morley’s chicken shop to help take the photo. Anyway, I like this one as from the brief chat we had shows himself as I saw him.

Why has it been important for you to share your story and the photographs with others?

Well I never planned on sharing my story to be honest. The first time I told my parents was when my dad had gone through a difficult time himself and I wanted him to know that I related to what he was feeling. In my final year at college in 2015 — 2016 I decided to complete a project based on my experiences with depression. I shared this with my dad and for me was a weight of my shoulders, that he knew how I had felt and how I no longer suffered from depression. I was very lucky to meet Reverend Kate Bottley from Gogglebox and BBC Radio 2 and we had a great chat about my project and her project she had about the time celebrating women. I am not quite sure why I mentioned about my experiences with anxiety and photography but I did. Perhaps I was nervous and verbal diarrhoea took over but I did. We spoke for probably less than ten minutes but it made her day and she shared the story with others too. This led to the BBC asking me questions about my project and a great article for Mental Health Awareness Week. I genuinely did not want my project to be about mental health awareness. My project was about helping me grow and get better at photography. The fact it is it's now become more than I could have hoped for. When I joined group counselling it helped me that others felt many of the same feelings I experienced. The article by BBC was that to many others. All of a sudden people related to my experiences and gave them comfort. I guess I never appreciated the need to be open about it until the day I helped others and am very lucky that I stumbled into this. Some people have made a far more conscious effort to help people, mine I guess was for selfish reasons that just somehow became public.

Have you got any particular favourite portraits? What’s the story behind them?

My favourite portrait to date is of an elderly lady called Evelyn. It was the first day she had left home on her own after her husband had passed away. She had been really nervous about going out on her own so had arranged to meet some friends in Sutton. I saw her in a cafe and decided to pop in and ask for a photo. We chatted for about 45 minutes before her friends came to meet her and I learnt about her love of photography, her husband, and how she could tell her daughters she had been chatted up by some young man. I made her day and she made mine. I also have met an amazing range of talented or generous people who I am blessed to have met. One of which is Patrick who later made mine and my groomsmen's wedding suits.  Oddly my best photos perhaps technically are not always my best photos.

This is possibly my favourite encounter so far. I had a day in lieu and tried to make the most with some DIY, a little run and then a pint in the local pub. On my way back I walked past the "Delight Cafe" and saw the lovely and smiley Evelyn completing a cross word and hesitated as didn’t want to disturb her so I walked on. After getting several no's and walking several steps down the road I thought why not just ask.

I popped in and she kindly said yes. She soon told me the very sad story that this was the first day out with friends since she lost her husband. When she said that I couldn’t just grab a photo and as I had time I got her a cup of tea and we had a chat.

Turns out she is a bit of a photographer herself and told me about how every year she has a green bird with red neck come and visit and she gets a photo every time. Her daughter found out it was some sort of wood pecker. I said the problem with cameras is that they are too heavy to carry around but she said she just uses her phone. She is more up to date with technology than me.
When I was there she saw loads of people and had several people come try help with the crossword.

She said her children wouldn’t believe her that she got chatted up by a young man so I gave her my card and said they can email me for the photo.
I hope she had a fun day out, I did as not many people laugh at what I say and she did.

I had two photos, one posed doing the cross word as I saw her and the other her laughing looking out the window with her wedding and eternity rings still on.

What impact has the project had on your anxiety?

Yes I get nervous and anxious but I have learnt by use of CBT that when anxiety takes effect that I am challenging my comfort zone. When I approach a person I always get nervous. But the feeling I use as a reward. Does that make sense? I guess what I mean is by feeling anxious in a situation you choose be in means you are pushing yourself. That feeling that once would feel crippling you can use as liberation. I might be talking what seems alien to others but it makes sense to me. I haven't suffered from crippling anxiety for a number of years now but by constantly challenging my comfort zone I have learnt that in general people are so kind. Yes we will meet a angry or rude person but also you have think logically. How would you deal with someone asking for a photo when you've had a bad day?

What does it feel like when you’re looking for people to take part, photographing them, and editing the images?

So I now treat this time as my down time. I rarely get a proper lunch break, I often don't get home until late or am trying to please too many people. It's who I am and I take comfort in spinning plates. But for me, having a project that people enjoy and can associate with, forces me to get that time to relax and do what I want. I often look for a "friendly" looking person. This may be a little smile as I walk past or see them laugh when speaking to a friend. It may just be a person that looks amazing and I know will take a good portrait. By amazing it may be clothes, hair, a nice elderly person that wears glasses, or smoke can make for a great shallow depth of field. There are so many things that makes someone stand out but their stories are what lets me connect to them. When editing photos I want to do them justice and I guess I get a buzz when the photo shows what I saw in a person.

What have you learnt since you started Portrait Per Day?

That more people are often good than bad, that a lot of people suffer with anxiety or depression. That talking helps. That people generally want to help. And most importantly by being creative I have an outlet which stops me from feeling anywhere like I once did.

One of my favourite photos not just because Yasmine had the most amazing red hair but equally impressive attitude to fashion at a young age. She said that people often judge her for what she wears and how she looks but to be and do what makes you feel yourself is a skill/quality that some people can never achieve. I saw Yasmine having some lunch with her friend and rushed to ask for photo. Glad I did and despite still being a student reckon this one can far with her positive approach to living. Well that and her near unrivalled ability to keep a straight poker face on request.
As I was driving along earlier I saw Julian sat in the horribly cold weather and he looked and smiled at me and gave me the thumbs up as he could hear my music playing. I thought not much more of it but then when I went on my coffee break I thought I would walk around the corner to see if he was there as I knew he would make a great portrait due to the white on his face but when I got closer the match sticks in his beard too. At first I felt bad asking for the photo as you are making an image which to some extent plays on someone’s misfortune by being homeless. But by the same coin to not ask him as I would ask anyone else would be excluding him from what has become a people led project. I sat and spoke to him and we had a cup of tea together as he told me how he used to be a professional dancer and his days back in Jamaica when he was younger. Its horrible that he has ended up on the street but I guess what makes it worse is how so many people walk past and just ignore (me included on so many occasions). He was such a nice guy. Christmas is not a nice time for anyone on their own and I guess if we can just give that one cup of warm tea it might help them feel that Christmas spirit we all love.

Are there any other ideas/projects you’d like to start that combine photography and mental health?

I would love to talk and encourage other creative people to carry out their own projects. Being creative is an incredibly helpful way to deal with mental health issues. If I didn't have my creative outlet I wouldn't still have the great group of friends I have or family, new and old. My wife who has the patience of a saint. By being creative I am less anxious, less angry, and far more able to deal with life on a daily basis. My project was not about mental health. It was about me. It's become more than I could have ever hoped. But If I could help others be creative, and help children be open about their feelings then I would be so happy. We live in a world full of great people that often are too shy to share about what they are proud of. If I can share their story or raise a single smile then that's good enough. Anything more is a huge bonus.

@portrait_per_day on Instagram

Julian Johnson

Julian Johnson

Julian Johnson is currently an undergraduate Studio Art major at Wesleyan University, based in Austin, Texas (US). His practice involves photography, music, and creative writing. In this interview Julian shares his work Hi, How Are You? and discusses how photography relates to his experience of anxiety and depression.

What is your background — how did you get started and what attracted you to photography as a medium?

I’m born and raised in a Catholic family in Austin, TX. I’ve played the drums since I was kid, so I guess art has been a part of my life since I was little, but I didn’t get into photography till college. I was back home over winter break working as a food delivery driver, depressed as hell. I would spend my time roaming around my hometown taking pictures on Snapchat, and it was pretty soothing. I had a lung cancer scare round that time – it ended up just being built up scar tissue from when I had bronchitis a couple of times that year. So when the test came back negative, I blew my money on a used camera and just kind of ran with it ever since. I had a lot of social anxiety at school, but I took my camera out with me as a social crutch, shooting at parties and concerts. I was thinking about dropping out of school for a while because I felt like I was too depressed to keep up, but I got into an intro photography class for the next semester, and decided to stick around. And now I’m an art major at Wesleyan. It’s been a medium that has kept me going, and it’s functioned as a diary to some degree, capturing the feelings I can’t really put to words.

You grew up with Marfan Syndrome, a genetic condition that affects connective tissue. How did this affect you growing up and what impact has that had on your mental health?

I was diagnosed when I was five. I wore a back brace for ten years to help with scoliosis, had a spinal fusion when I was fifteen, and had jaw surgery when I was eighteen. I’ve had a few hernias and a ruptured appendix, and I deal with chronic pain on a daily basis. But I essentially grew up not feeling comfortable in my own skin, and recoveries from surgeries made me feel really isolated. It has no cure, and most of the time I’m fairly chipper, but it tends to eat at me existentially. I broke off from the church at sixteen, and that’s really when my mental health got bad. I developed some self-medicating tendencies to deal with it, occasionally leading to self-harm. I guess it’s just an ongoing mind-body connection, dealing with pain that won’t really go away.

Your project Hi, How Are You? is shot in China, a place you cite as having a huge impact on your mental health. What was it about your first trip in 2017 that played a positive role in your mental health and what role did photography play in that?

I got a grant from my school last summer to go to China to work on a project called I Country, I Uncountry with a butoh-esque dancer named Monica Sun. She writes, “From birth, the child of the immigrant suffers from a sort of sea-sickness. Oscillating precariously between her native country and her adopted country, her center is in chronic flux.” I photographed her performing around eastern China, navigating this liminal space and dealing with “a deep sense of confusion and pervasive longing.” She was a huge support system for me because she noticed I was struggling a lot with mental health, though I myself was in denial about feeling depressed and suicidal. I felt very isolated because I didn’t speak the language and knew few people in Shanghai. It was also my first time being relatively sober in a while, but it was really that summer that I started working on myself. I’ve started therapy and got on medication since.

When I first came to China in the summer of 2017, I got my first tattoo on the forearm where I used to burn myself – it reads, “Hi, how are you?” It’s a reference to some graffiti art in my hometown, a way of checking in with myself, and a translation of the only Mandarin I knew when I arrived to Shanghai. As time goes on, it also symbolizes the amount I debt I owe to this country for my progress in my mental health.

Can you say a bit more about how the series came about and your involvement in Lifeline Shanghai?

I was in Shanghai again this summer staying with Monica and her family, and I reached out to a few non-profits to see if I could volunteer and take photos for them. Lifeline is the only English speaking hotline in China (though they speak many languages), and it’s a huge resource for both locals and expats. The director, Coreene Horenko, was super welcoming to me, and since I wasn’t in Shanghai long enough to qualify to volunteer on the hotline, she gave me an assignment to shoot abstract photographs that they can use for social media and to sell at a community event in the fall for World Suicide Prevention Day, trying to raise money for their organization and to keep their important work going.

The images feature a real graphical quality with layers and lines — what were you looking for when making the work? Have you got a favourite image and why?

I usually have a hard time making photos without people in them because I feel like I need a protagonist for it to be a good shot. I was really looking for visual motifs that kept popping up around Shanghai, things that referenced place and loneliness at the same time. Advertising language kept popping up for me too, and I’d come up with little tag lines like, “Hanging in there?” and “Need some support?” But I think the graphical quality comes from my instinctual composition for the assignment – I felt like each picture should work as a piece of art and an ad in the subway. 

In regards to a favorite image, I guess it’s the watermelon peels. I kept seeing peels around the city, so I bought a watermelon at a store a few blocks from my apartment. I ended up throwing out my back in the process. I’ve had a hard time coming to terms with the fact that I can’t do the basic things anymore without hurting myself, like carrying groceries or bending over to wash the dishes, even though I’m 21. But we ate it with my neighbors, and I scattered them out the next day as a little memorial for my body. I also just like how the big peel in the middle looks like a smile – a little dose of sweetness.

Is this the first time you’ve explored mental health in your practice — do you think you’ll continue?

This is the first time I’ve consciously explored mental health. Looking back at the pictures I’ve taken the past couple of years, a lot of them reference mental health to some degree, but it was subconscious. And I’m definitely going to continue. My professor at school, Sasha Rudensky, tends to say that we all pretty much just have one story to tell as artists, and I think mental health is a part of my story, and will be for the rest of my life.

What are you working on next?

I’m working on my senior thesis, Chronic, which is about living with a chronic condition, either physical or mental. It incorporates still lives like these, but also interviews/portraits of patients, western doctors, alternative medicine doctors, healers, exercise classes, and other systems of support. There isn’t an easy answer or solution for a lot of people, and it tends to be an invisible struggle. But it’s proven to be very cathartic so far. For most of my life, I’ve felt alone dealing with my pain, but there are a lot of people out there, and that sense of community definitely helps in the healing process.

Taken from

Aaron Tennant

Aaron Tennant is a British photographer currently based in Lisbon, Portugal. A recent graduate from Middlesex University, Aaron shares his work Bacon from Cows, a project highlighting his mother's mental health difficulties and the impact on his family.

The title of this work originates from an event that took place at a happier time in my life when I was younger. My family was still together, and we were driving back home from Wales when I asked my dad what would happen if a cow fell off the hill and was hit by our car. My mother instantly responded that we would have a lot of bacon. My dad, my brother and I immediately laughed. My mother was confused, and didn’t understand why we were laughing until one of us informed her that bacon doesn’t come from cows. This moment is a memory I keep from a certain time when everything was happier. Everyone felt safe and loved because we had each other.

My mother is a figure in my life that I am both scared of, and love. Her life is submerged in depression and suicidal tendencies. This project explores the growing isolation my mother experiences due to her past.

You’ve just graduated from Middlesex University. How did you get into photography?

I've always loved getting a disposable camera when I went away on trips and at family events I would borrow my grandad's camera and take portraits to document the night. Since then I just fell in love with capturing the moment and the story you can tell and how you can use photography in so many different ways and forms to explain what it is that your work is looking into. I feel that this openness to the possibility of freedom allows people to express themselves.

Your project Bacon from Cows is a study of your family, primarily your mother’s difficulties due to her “depression and suicidal tendencies.” How did the project come about and has it always been natural for you to photograph your family?

This project is something that I’ve thought about for a long time as it's always something that I’ve wanted to learn more about from my mother, but never had the courage to ask my mum about this part of her life.

My mum doesn’t like being in front of the camera and she never has, so getting her to be involved with this work was a little hard to begin with. At first she said that she didn’t want me to do this project. I showed her the work that I had done perviously and told her that this work isn’t for myself, it's to open the door for more conversations about mental health. It took me several weeks of me shooting her environment and slowly adding her into the image before she felt comfortable to have her portraits taken.

Taken from "Bacon From Cows"

If possible, can you say a little bit about your mother’s difficulties and how that has impacted the family?

My mother suffers from clinical depression and suicidal tendencies and has done for as long as I can remember. My mum has been on antidepressants since I was growing up and my mum had several [suicide] attempts. I can’t remember all of them but I remember the time I spent at my grandparents' while she was in hospital. When my dad left my mum 6 years ago it was possibly the worst attempt, as me and my brother Elliot had never seen my mum try it [suicide], but Elliot found my mum when she overdosed when he was 14. My mum doesn’t have much family left but her friendship group is also small and they talk perhaps once every 2 months so the people around her seem to try to get her doing the best they can but it hardly works.

What difficulties have you faced (if any) in making the work? What positives have come from the project?

The biggest difficulty of this project was the emotional toll.  I didn’t think about my mother's attempts as much as I do now. This project caught me at my downs and amplified them, creating something that I found hard not to think about — anything else but what my mother was going through and what lead her to this.

The positives is that I get to see more into my mum's life as this is something that I have known about but not had a reason to start a conversation with her about what she has done in the past. Me and my mum are close as we have chats about things that she feels she can’t talk to anyone else about and it's nice to be able to do this with her as it allows her to get some of her concerns of her chest at the time.

Has your mother seen the work? How did she react?

Yes, my mum has seen the work. She is an important part in the conveying the truth and what it's like. I show her everything I shoot and everything I do with the work. Her reaction differs from what I’ve shown her most of the time she’s says that her place looks a mess and has a little chuckle or gasp. But I feel that she feels the same way about this project as I do. People need to know so they can understand better...

What are you working on now/next?

For me Bacon from Cows isn’t finished so I will be continuing this body of work, as there is a lot of this project I am yet to explore and expand upon. But while in Lisbon I am going to continue to document the everyday life of the people that live in Lisbon.

Jo Chukualim

Jo Chukualim is a photographer currently based in Cambridge, UK. Jo shares her personal project Growing Pains, a form of visual diary helping her to come to terms with different moments from the past.

You’ve just graduated from Middlesex University. What first attracted you to photography and how would you define your work?
I always say that my interest in photography came about quite randomly, in the sense of being interested in it as an art form and not just something you do to document a moment in your life. I had finished my GCSE exams and was trying to figure out what I wanted to study for my A-levels. I had always been interested in art and had a dream of going into fashion design but didn’t feel confident enough to pursue it. I then came across a short fashion photography short in London and quickly fell in love with directing models and photographing people in general. So, my work at the time was based mostly on fashion editorials and figuring out how I worked best, acquiring contacts in the industry and just gaining experience wherever I could.

My focus right now is mostly on creating strong narratives and I think my work is usually quite direct. It can sometimes be frustrating to look at art in a gallery, read the artist’s statement, and still not understand what’s going on. Even if people don’t connect with the work emotionally, my hope is that they’ll be able to understand what I’m saying or how I’m feeling.

Your project Growing Pains is a deeply personal work about some of the difficulties you’ve faced in your life. What led you to create such personal work and what has it been like to share those images?

Honestly, I never imagined myself doing something like this for a project. I was dealing with some personal battles at the time, which I kept very private but it was the only thing I could think about. Since I began my final major project, I decided to use the opportunity to look at my situation in a different way and offer myself some form of self-therapy. One of the things that has helped me over the years is being able to keep a journal, whether it’s in the form of a poem or just jotting down my thoughts. Growing Pains was simply another way to journal.

I tend to talk about things I’ve gone through in quite an objective way at times, with little to no emotion. It’s a way of distancing myself from those experiences as I try to make sense of them. I think this is also reflected in the way I chose to shoot for this project. The images are constructed and abstract with underlying emotion. It’s my photographic journal.

Do you have a favourite image from the series — can you walk us through what it represents and where the idea came from?

I’ve spent so long with this project but this image always gives me a rush of emotion from a hard couple of years. The model’s expression and her face being hidden in the darkness was a constant state for me - It felt like I was drowning in my own mind. I’ve learnt a lot from going through these experiences and I value my growth and my ability to move forward but this image takes me back so quickly to that scared vulnerable person before I get a chance to put up a wall to defend myself. That’s why I appreciate it. I want to move forward but I don’t want to ever forget what I went through.

Has making the work helped you to move on from any of these difficult experiences? Is there a therapeutic element to your work?

There’s definitely a therapeutic element to my work. I was in the thick of it and needed a way to make sense of what I was going through. I was able to grow from the experiences because it helped me start many conversations. But they weren’t just passing conversations, they were good, honest and open ones that allowed me to work through a lot of it.

What do you hope viewers take from the work?

I wanted my work to be as open as possible from the start but it won’t connect with everyone. I have a quiet and sometimes guarded personality so it has been hard for me, in the past, to be open with my emotions. So it’s a great feeling when people take a look at the images and are able to tell exactly how I was feeling when I created them. They have been very passionate about the way they responded to it and, as an artist, I really cannot ask for more.

What are you working on now/next?

Right now, I’m preparing for my graduation. I want to continue creating photographic projects that are meaningful to me and get back to working with more amazing artists. I’ve been lucky enough to meet so many inspiring people along the way and, for the first time in a while, I’m just excited for what the future will bring.
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James Schofield

James Schofield is a British photographer based in Manchester, England. James shares his work Against the Dark, his first book project. The work "explores and reconciles my own struggles with mental illness and the ever increasing notion of feeling disconnected" from the world.

What is your background in photography and how would you describe your practice?

My background in photography came about mostly through my school being an 'art college' so I was able to take it on as a subject at GCSE level when I was 14. I subsequently studied it at A Level and for my degree at Manchester School Of Art but for the majority of my time in the education system it never felt like I was doing the right thing, or, maybe I was of a different opinion to my tutors of what photography should be. There seems to be a notion that because photography is the closest medium to the human eye in appearance that it is therefore 'representative' but personally I saw it as a great way to showcase the 'perspective' of the artist.

How did the project Against the Dark come about? Where have your inspirations been drawn from?

The project itself was quite chaotic and was produced over a period of 3 years. During this time I graduated from a university course I was deeply unhappy with. I was (and to this day) struggling with and coming to accept my disposition towards anxiety and depression. I was also stuck in my hometown of Bury with no seeming potential future on the cards from which I could do something of meaning and contribute to society. Also my inability to hold down even basic retail and bar jobs was proving a problem which was in relation to my mental health issues. Ultimately, with the proverbial hurricane that was going on inside my own head Against The Dark was just a response to all that pain. When trying to figure out what was the best way to market the project I threw around all these ideas that it was this big extravaganza about existentialism but in all honesty it was all linked to the numbing pain and solitude that you can experience when your mental health has such an impact on your perspective. It can cause you to lose all faith in yourself and the reality that you know around you. Just total anomie.

Inspiration-wise I've always loved abstract art over photography easily. I was devastated in my art class at secondary school when I found I didn't have the capacity to visually represent what I wanted with a paintbrush or pencil. It was probably also to the detriment of my later tutors, employing photography as my creative outlet was liberating but I erred away from the framework we had at Manchester School For Art for example where documentary work like Martin Parr and Stephen Shore were the status quo. It wasn't for me. I love the artist Stanley Donwood. He's mostly known for his artwork for the British band Radiohead and his work led to me exploring more artists work like Jason Pollock or Franz Kline where I really felt I was seeing the complexity of the human mind laid bare for all to see. This multifaceted, complicated mess of ideas and feelings.

What is it about the black and white aesthetic that attracted you to working in this way?

I just can't help but feel that colour is dated and that no matter what happens, styles will change and the colour images produced now will be less relevant in the future. Black and white work however just feels very immediate, more stripped back and concise in its' own message. That and also that with a black and white image people can understand that what they're seeing isn't entirely representative which I feel is what happens with most modern cameras and colour photography.

You’ve produced Against the Dark as a book — what made you choose this format and did you learn anything in the process of making it?

I figured a book would be suitable for the project as I wanted it to be a genuine stream of consciousness that was being made real, the static noise/blips are there to outline the fragmented way of thinking you can go through when your mind is in conflict with itself with intrusive thoughts. In the end I think the book format for photography perhaps doesn't have the same issue of individual images having to be overly dramatic, everything can just be part of what's going on in this little world I've created for myself.

The images are broad in subject, from portraits to disorienting landscapes. The images seem to form part of a visual diary — how much planning goes into making each photograph and what you you looking for when you are making an image?

There was very minimal planning in all honesty. I'd think of a particular isolated place that had an aesthetic value to me, maybe it's the sea or a deserted forest or the chaos of the city with all its' activity and then I would hone in on a particular feeling which I would probably say was pain. I wasn't able to properly organise and manage myself during this time, even though the project is finished and there's a big component of documentary photography, towards the end of the project I became sick of wandering around looking for a possible good image. For further projects I want to create a dogma that will be more consistent and less erratic (which I should be able to do as my life is in much much better order than what it was 12 months ago).

Is there a therapeutic element to your photography?

There is a validation in making a photograph that shows what is going on with your own life and shows your viewpoint, even more so because people tend to accept ideas about more darker aspects of life more easily in art than in real life. It's all enveloped in an aesthetic that is appealing to the human eye but as much as these projects can be helpful to understanding your own condition, it's so so important to talk and open up to the people you trust about your struggles. There's no substitute to that.

What are you working on now?

I'm currently trying to find more opportunities to showcase Against The Dark at the moment. I'd love to put on a show in my home city of Manchester. I really want to get the project out as much as I can into the public if possible. I'd love to see more work on mental health, fragmentary was an absolute godsend in being able to see the work of other creatives that could perfectly outline the feeling of being afflicted with a particular condition.

For work in the future I'm currently listening to a lot of the Atoms For Peace Album AMOK at the moment. I want to photograph the end of the world in a way. It'll definitely be more abstract as I'm finding more and more abstract art that really excites me.