Naomi Woddis

This is a guest post from artist Naomi Woddis on how the power of photography has transformed her experience of living with Lyme Disease. Her current project Whoever Was Using This Bed is an exploration of the relationship to our beds through photographs and text.

Light. Shade. Colour. Line. Shape. And love.

Some years ago I was at a pub celebrating a stranger’s birthday. Afterwards we ended up at a mews house in Camden that was small but sparsely decorated with a magnificent altar in the corner adorned with brightly coloured cloth flowers, half burned candles, incense and a large golden Buddha. I forged a temporary friendship with the woman who owned the property and we chatted most of the night. I was impressed by her candour, warmth and the seeming ease of her relationship with her new husband, and how this small house was beautiful in its own carefully chosen way. There were no superfluous objects and like the life she lived appeared entirely tat free.

Although I had spent a great deal of my later teenage years writing and taking photographs, here I was in my early thirties working my way through a handful of working to live jobs, hungering for both intimacy and purpose and here was a woman who seemed to have it all. Outside daylight was yawning in to view. She told me about all about Feng Shui. By the time I left I had a plan and that plan was going to change my life. I knew it sounded crazy, but if it worked for her perhaps it could work for me. I would no longer be the whirling dervish at the centre of my own existence.

The next day, with a roll of black bin bags I set about getting rid of everything I didn’t need. Clothes, chipped crockery, stained teaspoons, paperbacks, vinyl from my days at Virgin megastore that had come with me from flat to flat to flat, and finally the folders of negatives and contact sheets, the lovingly printed ten by eight portraits were all put in to the bin bag, along with rotten food and cigarette ends and teabags, then taken away with that week’s rubbish collection.

It happened again. This time with a charismatic self-appointed therapist. I never knew exactly what his qualifications were. He also ran a therapy group whose members I mistook for cool, well-adjusted types with perfect unstained cutlery and clothes that never ran in the wash. There was a lot of pillow punching and guttural vocalising. We would go away for long weekends and it was, at times, exhilarating to share our mutual madness. After a pretty detailed guided visualisation he told me that the ‘guidance’ was for me to burn all my work and I leapt at the chance.

The next day, under the bemused eye of my then flatmate, I dragged the wonky three-legged barbecue to the centre of the patio and began to burn my work, my juvenile poems and diaries, teenage anxieties captured with urgent scrawling pen, my later work after taking creative writing courses, short stories from my early twenties, the last year’s work – my writing, myself – the sugary smell of burnt paper and charred flakes of black and grey carried away by the breeze.

After a period of unremitting depression I crashed in to writing again, much the same way I crashed in to photography. I had no desire to garner status or a career. It was a breakdown that enabled me to pick up a pen again. I even had my own radio show and was part of a community, at last. I was a writer. From the rooftops – I WAS A WRITER. My gluey depression was finally becoming less sticky. I was also taking portraits again and had an exhibition.

Then something happened – the Gods of getting rid of things stepped in. I contracted Lyme Disease, which has left me feeling exhausted and in pain for long periods, sometimes housebound for months at a time. Along with the Lyme came short-term memory loss and word finding difficulties. At first it was near impossible to either read or write. Remarkably my ability for visual language and composition has increased. I don’t know if this is because I had to find a home for my creative expression or whether the Lyme bacteria has just ignored a part of my brain. Either way I am very grateful – photography has saved me from falling off the cliff and drowning in a sea of despair.

I’m still working, less on a recovery, more on an extended remission. In my worst moments of ill-health I have been bedbound for months at a time and at last I am able to venture a little further than my immediate environment. Pure stubbornness has kept me going, that and the prevailing idea that everything is worthy of the camera lens.

Most of the photographs here are from a project called The View from Here, which initially began as a result of being too ill to even sit up in bed. I started by taking photographs on my phone, playing around with various apps in order to edit them. The project now has expanded to include the tiny flat I share with my 88-year-old mother and is as much about our relationship in our differing states of physical frailty as it is about my illness.

Some years ago when I was a yoga devotee my teacher explained the purpose of a regular practice, whether it be meditation, going for a run or walking the dog. The practice remains the same whenever we engage in it but it is us who changes. The fluctuations reveal our own seasonality as human beings, the good days and the bad days. This project has meant that I have had to re-visit the same subject repeatedly. It’s taught me about seeing the new in the familiar.

Lyme Disease has stripped down my life and my creative practice to the bare bones. Instead of throwing away many of belongings in the hope of living an exalted life, or burning my work in an attempt to curry favour from a heavyweight patriarch, this pared down life has been gifted to me by fate. It is entirely out of my control. Winter reveals the skeletal beauty of a tree without leaves. This stripping down has allowed me to see the essence of my work. And that has been invaluable. Light. Shade. Colour. Line. Shape. And love.

@NaomiWoddis
@NaomiWoddis (Instagram)


Dianne Yudelson

Dianne Yudelson is an award winning photographic artist from San Francisco. In her project Lost Yudelson documents the mementos of the children she lost, breaking down the social stigma of miscarriage.

Above: Lost: Bryce

Miscarriage is still very much a taboo subject. What brought you to create Lost?

Last July, after helping a friend through a painful loss I reflected on my own personal experience. These thoughts propelled me to take down the big white box in my closet which safeguards the mementos of my lost babies. It had been quite a while since I last took each item out and as I laid them on my bed I felt their story needed to be documented. I have read the assertion that meaningful art occurs when you share yourself and create from the depths of your soul. So I shared. Hopefully, in sharing the images I can touch the lives of numerous women who have experienced or are in the midst of experiencing the painful loss of a baby. They are not alone in their journey.

Lost: Charlie

What role did your photography play in providing closure or resolution (if any) to these experiences?

When you share a deeply personal experience from your heart and soul, you will find that you touch the viewer of your image on a more profound level. They will identify with the human truth within the message of your piece. It is said that in giving you receive. I have found this to be true, especially when you give from the heart. In helping to heal others emotional pain from pregnancy loss, I have lessened my own.

Lost: Gwendolyn
Lost: Jane

I'm curious about your thoughts as you were making the work. Was it important to emotionally detach or was each session devoted to the individual loss when shooting?

When gathering the mementos for each individual image, I began with a real sense of devotion to that baby. When I stepped behind the camera I worked to maintain a balance of my emotional connections to the mementos and the technical and artistic eye necessary to capture the image.

What was it like to work with and handle such personal and emotionally invested items?

Working with my most private and precious items was humbling. I arranged these items in a manner I felt told the narrative in a humble and pristine fashion in direct correlation to their short and pure lives. When dedicating myself to creating something humble and pristine I decided to produce the images in black and white (white is the color of purity and innocence) using natural late afternoon light– those last bright moments of light before evening begins.

Lost: Jeff
Lost: Mary and Vivian

What personal barriers did you overcome in order to share it?

Personally I found that overcoming the pressures to stay silent about this type of loss is beneficial to a great majority. I believe everyone knows someone who has miscarried, be it mother, wife, sister, friend or coworker they simply have never spoken of it. When experiencing this type of loss other people can, in the hopes of being helpful, make insensitive comments inferring your grief is unreasonable-- so you keep it private and locked away. Never hearing a conversation about miscarriage sets up a social, culture taboo.

Lost: Violet

What do you hope viewers take away from Lost?

I have received emails and messages from around the world from both women and men who have reached out to tell me their experience. What I hope evolves from the creation of my images is a broadening in the conversation and understanding of miscarriage, both physically and emotionally.

I would like to add that just last week there was a woman who spoke to me announcing that although she never suffered a miscarriage she was touched by my images. She said she thought my Lost series was important as it allowed me to document what might have been. I asked her to consider that it allowed me to document what was.

dianneyudelson.com


Marta Beltowska

Marta Beltowska is a photographer originally from Sweden, of Polish descent, currently based in London working as a technician at an arts university. Marta's main priority throughout her work "is to tell something through my images, regardless of if it's through a candid street photograph or a staged composition." In her project A Partial Print, she examines the change in family dynamics after her father became ill.

How did A Partial Print come about?

A Partial Print originally came about when I was handed my first self-initiated brief at university. During the same time I went back home for a month in the spring, the first time since my father had become ill the previous winter. I had also just ended a very long relationship so with all of that going on, I was in a rather sombre place. With the freedom of a self-initiated brief, it felt very obvious for me to focus on something personal like the state of my parents.

Was it instinctual for you to pick up the camera when you discovered that your father was ill?

When my dad became ill, I was bottling up a lot of emotion - my relationship with my father was always very distant as he was (and still is) a major workaholic, and he's never been very talkative. Then all of a sudden his mortality came into focus, with this sort of emotional baggage unresolved. To express what I was dealing with internally, it felt like a natural reaction, but also like it was the only way for me to express anything at all. Photographing at this point was like the only way for me to focus myself - my feelings and my energy. Anything else feels as if I would have exploded, if that makes sense. The camera was my tool to catharsis.

Did photography enable your family to bond at all over the shared experience of your father's illness?

I can’t say that it did. My family is very awkward with showing affection, and weakness of any kind. Even if this work revolves around my parents and family, it’s like this very remote thing that doesn’t read on the family radar.

How do your parents feel about the work?

Even though my parents have seen the work, I’m not totally sure they understand what the work is about or what it’s trying to deal with. It’s partially my fault, I think - I’ve never explained it to them bluntly. I think they would take it as a personal criticism, which I can understand.

You cite science fiction as a great visual inspiration for the project. Can you talk a little bit more about that?

I've always found film a major inspiration, and with this work I really wanted to tell a story - without the presence of people. Classic science fiction films often depicts the presence of something unfamiliar and alien in the form of a disembodied light, and I felt that use of light fit with the mood I was aiming for. At the time I was really into story telling and narratives, as well as heavily staged scenarios - some images involved rearranging existing rooms in my parents house completely - watching sci-fi wasn’t just inspiring but also comforting.

There's a real sense of absence in the work, despite it being about family. Was that intention?

That was the intention, yes. Looking at family albums and incorporating these as props into the images, there is absence in what these family memories show and what was going on during the beginning of my father’s illness. I couldn’t use family members in my images because the situation was much too new and raw to handle, but in the end it suited the purpose of the work.

What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I’m mainly working on two longer projects, one looking at the history and meaning of neon signs and the other about the significance (or insignificance) of a certain South London building to the people that work in it. I'm trying to turn my focus to external stories and the experiences of others rather than my own nowadays, but I am planning to expand A Partial Print as my family dynamic continues to change.

martabeltowska.co.uk


Elegia

Elegia is a self-taught artist from Scotland, currently residing in Manchester, working with analog and mixed media processes to explore body dysmorphia and her bipolar disorder.

How did you initially get into photography?

I got into photography in a roundabout way via modelling in late 2011; in an effort to get more comfortable in front of the camera. I know that it sounds contradictory for a model to struggle with having their photograph taken, but most models that I know and have met have issues with how they look. Photography was what really got me interested in modelling in the first place, because I came from an artistic background and I saw this a creative outlet similar to that. I wanted to be a good model and to feel at ease with the camera. I quickly discovered that my main issue was with having my face photographed and so I started shooting some basic self-portraits with a little compact camera that I had at home. I didn't have a tripod, so I'd just tape it onto a lamp stand and do the best that I could with the tools I had at the time. I probably produced little more than a handful of images in those first few months that I was happy to upload anywhere, but they were enough to get the attention of other models who then asked to work with me. Soon after I was pretty much only shooting other models and put my self-portrait work to one side, whilst I tried to improve and gain more experience behind the camera. I came back around to doing self-portraits a couple of years ago and it's now the bulk of my work.

Can you explain a little about what body dysmorphia is and how it affected/affects you?

Body dysmorphia is a mental disorder which affects how you perceive your appearance. It works in the same way in which my OCD does, in that it create obsessive and compulsive thoughts. The main effect that it has had on my life is that I have problems with being looked at which creates social anxiety and panic attacks, and in my teens I was very much housebound for most of the time. During this period I developed Trichotillomania, which is another obsessive compulsive disorder that involves hair pulling. I have never recovered from the Trichotillomania, but I have found physical ways to deal with it like shaving my hair off.

What is it about the photographic process that results in catharsis for you?

Photography has enabled me to tackle, manage, study, but also document some of the disorders that I have. It has helped to desensitise me to my own image because I have had to look at so many photographs of myself from so many different angles. Whilst I still perceive myself as flawed and the things I see wrong about my appearance still very much exist, I'm able to see past those in order to create work. I think one of the huge things that it has given me is the desire and want for something, a sort of sense that I'm aiming and working towards a goal. I've had to travel a lot to shoot with people. and that's meant I've discovered ways to manage my disorders away from home and around strangers. I enjoy photography so much that even things that scare me I find that I can face in order to further my work. In my teens I wasn't able to leave the house just to go to the shop without four hours of preparing myself, whereas now I can get on a train or an aeroplane on my own. Even though I still have the same fears and anxieties, I am able to take them on in order to do the things that I want to do.

Is there a particularly poignant time where photography has served a therapeutic purpose for you?

I got myself out of an abusive situation in 2012 and soon after suffered a complete mental breakdown. Whilst I was dealing with and recovering from that I had my photography to focus on. Models would be emailing to ask to work with me, and so I'd have shoots booked in that meant I had something to look forward to each week. In a very basic way it gave me a purpose and an outlet for what was going on in my head at that time. I think it would have been very easy for me to shut myself away during that period, but photography kept me outdoors and out meeting new people despite all of the anxiety and depression I was fighting with. I didn't realise that this is what was happening at the time, that I was stopping myself from getting more ill. I just knew that I had found this new thing that I loved doing and nothing really seemed scary enough to stop me from wanting to do it.

What is it that draws you to analogue and alternative processes in photography?

The only camera I had when I started photography was a broken compact that I'd taken with me during a trip to America. The screen was broken and the back was held together with a hair tie. So when I used it on my very first model shoot, I couldn't even check on the screen to see how the images looked! I didn't have any real funds to buy myself a DSLR, but I found so many used film cameras on Ebay that were within my budget. So I gradually bought a few and taught myself how to use them. With film photography you have to know what you're doing in order to get anything out of the equipment, so it was very much a learning curve for me and a method that I still thrive from. I love the hands on element of it all, from developing my film at home to then printing from those negatives. I guess it goes back to my background with painting; I love tangible imagery and the physical experience of seeing and touching a picture. Making something with your hands is such a wonderful experience.

Image by Elegia

Image by Elegia

How do you see your photography practice developing?

Learning is my favourite aspect of photography and I feel like I'm a million miles away from where I really want to be with my work. However, to me that means there is no limit to what else I can do and can learn. I've been working with moving film, although I don't have anything that I feel I'd want to show anyone just yet! I think this a format that I very much want to get better at and hopefully I can use as another way to express myself and my own experiences.

elegia.co
@iamelegia


Dan Wood

Dan Wood is a self-taught photographer from South Wales, UK. His video piece Hypnagogia consists of black and white hand printed photographs that predict a post-apocalyptic world, representing his anxieties and insomnia. Throughout Hypnagogia — the transitional period between wakefulness and sleep — Wood preys upon our inherent fears to create an unsettling world of dark dreams and haunting nostalgia.

How did Hypnagogia come about?

The series came about a couple of years ago when I was searching for some negatives in the darkroom. I don’t have any sort of filing system, so when I need to look for a specific negative I have to look through them all, which can take hours; I always find it exhausting but very beneficial. This particular time I started seeing several images that had been overlooked and never printed; so I decided to print them to see what they would look like. Very soon after I realised that a pattern was presenting itself to me and that the pictures were cohesive. I knew that I was trying to say something but couldn’t quite figure out what. It was a serious departure from what I usually do, so it was a case of trial, error and experimentation.

The images often play into common fears: ominous waters, dark open spaces, strange figures etc. Do these directly relate to your own fears and anxieties?

Unconsciously, and now consciously, yes. I’ve always been a fan of horror movies, death metal music and the darker side of life in general. Becoming a parent for the first time and the responsibility that comes with it was massive inspiration for the series, too, and I suppose a lot of my anxieties were brought on by parenthood itself. Open water, especially the sea, scares me, even though I’ve never had a bad experience involving water. It must come from a horror movie called Shock Waves which I saw when I was quite young; I remember that being pretty disturbing. Lone figures in the landscape is something that has always made me feel some unease too, although I have no idea of the origins of this particular fear, even though it’s something that has been there since a young age.

How did you come up with each image and its concept? What is your process?

The pictures themselves date back as far as 2004, so I guess that this whole series is a documentation of my own life over the past 12 years. Each picture had to be relevant and also tell a story, whether it was dream/hypnagogic related and/or anxiety/depression driven. It's all about different periods of my life and how I was feeling during these periods. The main period fuelling this series was 2003-08 when I was going through a decisive transition from old life to new. There is also a supernatural element to some of the pictures as the house I lived in for 16 years was undoubtably haunted.

Sleep is such an integral part of our well-being. Has there been any therapeutic benefits from working on Hypnagogia?

Absolutely. There has been significant therapeutic benefits throughout the whole process. At the start of the project I had no Idea that I was self medicating, but it soon became evident when the pieces started fitting together; when I made the first draft of the video I knew that this was exactly what I had envisioned right at the start of the work. In regards to sleep, the hypnagogic visions are now expected but have in no way become less horrible; they definitely don’t cause the same rate of anxiety as they used to.

I found the video both oddly soothing and anxiety provoking at the same time. What was the reasoning behind presenting the images as a slideshow with sound?

Once the series of photographs were made they just sat in a folder for a while as I didn’t really know what to do with them. Something was missing. I needed to find a way of presenting the work to complete my expression, interpret what I was trying to say and conclude the series; randomly putting the pictures up on my website just didn’t feel right. One evening I had an epiphany to make a slideshow with music and the search for a soundtrack started. I tried many different types of music from light jazz to roaring death metal, but nothing seemed right, until I stumbled upon the work of Simon Wilkinson (via You Tube). The subtle science fiction-esque creepy horror music that he makes fitted perfectly and really brought life to the series; it was the best 79p I ever spent.

What are you working on next?

After that delve into the darkness, I’m now back working on more documentary/topographic based projects. I’ve just come back from shooting a mini series in Wick, in the North East of Scotland. My Father in-law’s family live up there and we try and visit bi-annually. It's such a great, unique and interesting place that’s rich in history and I really felt that I had to make some work there. Another project which I’m currently working on is ‘Bwlch-y-Clawdd’ (Gap in the Hedge) which is a mountain pass that connects Bridgend - my hometown - to the South Wales Valleys. This is going to be a long term project which documents the villages each side of the Pass and also the Pass itself.

danwoodphoto.com
@danwoodphoto


Amy Colebrook

Amy Colebrook is a photographic artist who focuses on the concept of the family, using her own family photographs, documents and objects. With mental health having a long-standing effect on her family throughout generations, it is an important theme within her work. A BA Photography graduate from the London College of Communication (UK), Colebrook looks at how her personal family archives can communicate and stimulate discussion about current societal issues through the use of archival images that offer a historical comparison in there own right.

I came across your work at the London College of Communication end of year show. Your project A Staged Equilibrium is a response to your great grandfather's suicide. Can you tell me a little about how this project first began and what it was like to work around the subject of familial suicide?

Granny Gill sat me down in her front room with a wooden writing box on her knee, and I knew what she was about to show me... Her father's suicide letter.

I knew about his suicide growing up as she spoke of it with a sense of distress. She gave me the facts; he was diagnosed as schizophrenic, and often had psychotic episodes where he would experience auditory hallucinations. She was 16 when she found him in there family home. Although we are very open family I knew this was always going to be a sensitive subject.

I was angry, and I got angrier, they don't get it, but they pretend they do! Some days you wake up where you think 'give people the benefit of the doubt', big mistake! And that's when they make comments like you're 'too mature' (2008) 'hysterical' (2009) 'Attention seeking' (2010). 2010/2011, I began to self-harm, and self medicate with a combination of prescribed medication, citalopram (for anxiety) and paracetamol/aspirin, I felt like the screeching pains in my tender stomach and my sore scratches were the only real thing I could feel, and like everything one day it goes to far. Nobody really knows what you've done other than family, yet there was this sickening paranoia that everybody must have thought I wasn't brave enough.

6 months later my mother took an overdose, she suffers with deep depression that can come in bouts of highs and lows, she drinks to deal with the past, she’s done that ever since I can remember (no comment).

Working around the topic of mental health whilst suffering yourself is not easy, particularly when you chose to lay bare your family's personal struggles with mental health. When I allowed myself to be completely open to questions and probing it did become difficult. The biggest problem I had when going through the motions of this project was with the lecturers, they didn't think the subject matter was "appropriate for photography"; they actually had very little support or faith in the project, and I took the risk regardless. I'm proud of myself for that, but I did what was right for me, and battled through.

I wasn’t "brave" enough to take my life, and this project began years ago with the fascination and the bravery of one man that was able to stop the hurting, the judging and self-validation.

I'm curious about the project's impact on family relationships. Did it provide an opportunity to talk about suicide and mental health within your family?

Granny Gill talks about how the project, A Staged Equilibrium has helped her to "reconnect" with John Locker, her father. For my mother it's been harder. Her and her brother were not told about their grandfather's suicide until my mother was age 11, and her brother was 14. It just wasn't talked about, and suicide held a massive stigma, it's not as if my grandmother was ashamed of him, far from it, but her childhood was occupied by his illness and she was desperate to make a life for herself. My mother has admitted she has found my project difficult, and says it must have been easier for my grandmother to speak to me about it. That maybe true, and I think the difference in generations are the reason, my generation seem to be a lot more inclined to talk openly. However I do believe it can be down to the individual, for me it's become my fight and I am interested in knowing everything I possibly can to expand my knowledge of dealing with mental health.

Despite being an open family, I know that Granny Gill, after writing an account about her childhood for the project, felt that she wanted to share the account with her children, and I think the project instigated that. I believe that A Staged Equilibrium has been a catalyst within the family, for talking about why John Locker's suicide wasn’t talked about, which in turn has undoubtedly instigated talk surrounding lots of issues as a family.

Has working on the project been cathartic in any way for yourself, or other family members?

For myself, it has certainly been a release but also a very emotional time, particularly being up against a university that offered no support or encouragement, I felt people would keep there distance from me too, knowing what the project was, you do tend to get treated like a ‘its might be catching’ as my family says, In fact, when installing the exhibition, somebody on the course asked my close friend what it was about and if it was a true story, when she was given the answer, she didn’t know what to say, made her excuses and dashed away. That should have probably upset me, but after years of that sort of reaction, in that moment I felt liberated in a strange way, that I was doing something worthwhile, something that would make people feel uncomfortable or awkward.

I know for my mum its been difficult, although she tries her best to conceal it, she isn’t inclined to fight the world, she has her own personal fight going on, and its more about taking each day for her. But I get that ‘fight the world’ instinct from Granny Gill, always wanting to help people and talk to people about the difficult things they might be facing. If the project has been a cathartic for anyone, it’s been it for my Grandmother and I. We have talked at length about all things related to mental health, her fathers suicide, society’s views on it, and how best to articulate those topics through photography and art, but through going through that process, it instigates an honesty and an understanding about the issues I was dealing with within the project.

What was it that drew you to working with an installation of the project? Tell us a little about how the work was installed.

"You have always loved his photo and that in a way helped me love the man he was before I was born and the illness ruled his life (mine and my mothers too)"

I love that photo in particular, such a handsome man, who scarily resembles my grandmother through the mouth and eyes. I ask a lot about the family history, and the photos fascinate me, hearing stories about people that lay on the table in front of me that don't get to come out of the box very often. However, John's photo lives in the piano room at Granny Gills on display above the portrait of his wife, Olive.

Working on any project with my family photos, there is always one component I have craved to give them but have never had the opportunity until, A Staged Equilibrium, a home, a homely space that I have always envisioned them in, and obviously they all have a different 'home' in my head.

John's portrait had to be relocated from the piano room to the 'home' I had created for him so that I was able to display the relationship between him and his daughter (Granny Gill) through the topic of mental health and more specifically, John's suicide.

Working with an installation project was imperative to this work; I needed to create if only a snippet, a home, with certain objects, sounds and personal documents that allow the viewer to forge almost an emotional attachment. The home I had created was specifically for John, made to fit his ideals of symmetry, as he states in his letter he had always wished to live his life in a symmetrical way. With the identical armchairs that set the scene, upright and ready, almost ready to be pulled out to face each other, expectant of talk.

Suicide is still a particularly difficult and taboo subject for many. What do you hope viewers take away from A Staged Equilibrium?

I was true to myself with everything I did with this project. Within an institutional boundary! I created an installation that got people talking and thinking, there's no doubt about that, I watched people at the exhibition opening, and my emotions were fraught that evening with the ongoing battle I was having with university not agreeing with my choice of subject matter. But people reacted only how I could of dreamed of, they allowed their emotions to overwhelm them, there was lots of talk in the area, and that's all I could have asked for. I just hope it sparked something in people to maybe research a little, and explore mental health and suicide. I can’t ask for anymore than that.

Is mental health something that you’ll continue to explore in your practice?

Yes, definitely, there are so many different characteristics in which mental health can take on within the creative process. It's something that not only I suffer with daily whilst going through the creative motions but also something I am unable to leave out of it, I feel a sense of dishonesty towards myself if I don’t articulate it through my photographic process. It's a part of me therefore a my practice.

What’s next for you?

Right now I'm hoping to do some volunteer work or support work in mental health to gain some practical experience on the ground.However my writing is a very important component to the work I produce so that is also something I want to explore further within the creative and journalistic industry.

However I will continue to explore my practice with the inclusion of mental health as an ongoing study, which will help In working towards my goal, to complete an MA in Art Therapy.

I have researched extensively the 'photographs' place within counselling and therapeutic methods to help with dealing with mental health issues, and although art therapies exist and work, I know myself what family photos bring up, when you open the box of photos you don’t know one emotion from the next and often you find the person explaining the people and images have thousands of stories that instigate mixed emotions. I really think the inclusion of family photos in counselling sessions could be really beneficial. I personally have received art therapy, and I found it patronizing and demoralizing toward art itself, and found the sessions I received were conducted in a disjointed, and awkward manner. That doesn’t mean to say it doesn't have a place because it does, and the art therapy I received actually instigated my own thoughts and ideas about how an alternative form of art therapy could be conducted in the form of photographs.

amycolebrook.com


A Tale of Two Fathers

A Tale of Two Fathers, by Julia Horbaschk & Tim Andrews, is the start of a longer term project exploring the themes of loss & memory. In this short film Julia starts to explore her father's suicide whilst Tim remembers a father he never really knew. Julia Horbaschk is a producer, photographer and self-taught film maker specialising in social documentaries, editorial, portrait and travel. Tim Andrews' Over the Hill photographic project has led him to be photographed by over 420 during the last nine years after his diagnosis of parkinson's.

How did you and Tim meet?

Julia: Tim and I met at his Mini Click presentation on 13th July 2013, the day before my birthday at The Green Door Store in Brighton. I went for his talk really as I had just left behind my teaching career after 10 years due to a severe disk prolapse and I was curious about his project Over the Hill and the merging of photography & health. We had a chat after his talk - Alison Palmer was there too and we all exchanged contacts. Shortly after I received an email from Tim asking me if I'd like to photograph him. I said yes immediately and we met up at the Friends Meeting Place cafe on Hove seafront to get to know each other and pick brains for ideas. It's what I like to do before I photograph anyone - I meet them without my camera. You can read further both of our accounts of how we met here and here.

What was the stimulus for making the film?

Julia: The stimulus was to carry on working together creatively after I took Tim's picture for Over the Hill. We had already collaborated on a few short films and wanted to do something a little more comprehensive and meaningful. During a very funny cafe chat at the Bandstand Cafe we looked at all the things we had in common: being silly, stealing in childhood (don't tell anyone!), liking Monty Python, oh and we both lost our fathers when we were young! This seemed to be a topic I never really addressed and wanted to challenge myself with for a long time. I just didn't know how. Tim said he often interviews family and friends about their life and suggested we both write down questions for each other. This is how it started. We then wanted to bring some more artistic elements into the work rather than it just being documentary - not sure how much we succeeded in this but it's a start I suppose!

Has the making of the documentary been cathartic in any way?

Julia: It wasn't intended but I think yes to some extent it was cathargic. It wasn't easy, I had never talked about the suicide of my father publicly up until then and it felt quite vulnerable. I also never made a film so personal to me.
Tim was so bold and frank with his questions - he encouraged me to talk - hiding was no longer an option and I found a certain level of confidence when talking to him. There are hints of me being emotional - a smile from me may actually show my embarrassment rather then suggests that I am laughing. I was/ still am very aware around the stigma of suicide. However, with Tim it didn't matter. I think knowing him really helped me to open up. Tim was never judgemental towards me and my experience, this really made all the difference.

We are both self taught filmmakers, autodidacts and what we produced is quite raw and honest and perhaps not to everyone's taste.

What was cathargic also was the process of making the film, not to worry too much about technicalities or academic approach.
There is value in hearing each other's stories. I come from a culture where "production values" are sometimes dominating the underlying meaning of visual work. I have taken great inspiration from Werner Herzog in this respect and just went with what was there "a straight look". This is not to say I/we don't want to learn more about clever technics or an academic approach but as it stands this is it.

The short film does not tell the full story but it has opened up an avenue for us to explore new ways of working and this is very liberating and exciting!

Tim: Not so much for me but l have seen how much it means to Julia and that has been very gratifying. My feelings about my father are not so painful or unhappy because l never knew him. My life would have been totally different if he had lived but, as it happens, l have had a wonderful life - l have been very happy anyway. l think this is what connects me and Julia, a shared sense of humour and of loss and yet we have survived and enjoyed where we have got to.

I’m curious about what emotions making the film may have brought up. Was it difficult researching into the past?

Julia: Yes and no. As said with Tim it's easy to talk, but then you are always aware of the camera and who might see the film. Will they judge you? What will they think about you? About your opinions, ways to deal with the matter? I started to talk to my sister about it a little but there is still the big crunch point of my mother. She cannot talk about my father at all for various reasons. I hence feel some guilt towards making the film and have not been able to tell her about it. This is very difficult for me. Also there is so little left of my father. Only a few photographs. No one in the family really talks about what happened. There was so much pain, so many other issues: domestic violence, divorce, gambling. Half of the family does not speak to each other any more. Hard to get any truthful facts. I wished I would still have some of the objects he once gave me (a wooden heart) or his passport or see his medical records for example. Just something to work with. That's the hardest the photographs are all I've got. When I found out my uncle had written a book I was half ecstatic, half in agony. The relationship to my uncle broke down at the time my parents divorced. But since the book was available on Amazon I just bought it, every piece of memory to my father is precious. I wished he had written some letters to me!

How do you see the film/project developing?

Julia: I would really like it to continue. There are a few routes we thought about taking this project forward. One is by finding more people who lost their fathers and find out how it impacted on their lives/ what creative ways they may have found to deal with loss/ memory or include them in a continued participatory project. I hope it will encourage people to talk about their stories and although this may be a bit ambitious, I hope it will have a positive impact somewhere somehow helping protect lives from suicide.

The other is personal to me: In 1999/2000, When I was about 23, I produced a large body of work on 35mm slide film following my fathers journey into Europe and travelling mainly by myself. These images were a direct expression of my feelings of loss and seeking stability within myself. They include some long term exposure self-portraits (you can imagine them a bit in the style of Francesca Woodman - just in colour and only I had never heard of her at this time!).

There are over 100 images/ slides taken mainly in Switzerland and Paris. I tried to run through them all once with my lecturer at Brighton Uni but I got so overwhelmed as I could not express why I took these nor find a way to describe/ use/ present them. I was embarrassed about them. I always knew I want come back to them at some point and now 17 years later I may have found the right people to help me look at them again.

www.JuliaHorbaschk.com
timandrewsoverthehill.blogspot.co.uk


Corinne Perry

Corinne Perry's photography is a form of therapy, a personal, emotive and sometimes turbulent struggle with the complexity of emotions. Life and art have become intertwined and to bury this mind set deep within her would only allow it to thrive. But through the use of her photography, she is offered a sense of catharsis. Corinne studied photography at Birmingham City University graduating in 2012 and currently resides within the West Midlands (UK). Her work is currently on exhibit at the Beaney Museum, in Prescriptions, an exhibition of artists books on illness, healing and wellbeing.

One thing that stands out as hugely important to you is process. You often work with film and hand colouring. How did this come to be an integral method in your practice?

I have always preferred the look and feel of traditional photography, so this influence is what really started my use of film. The tactile and sensory nature of traditional photographic methods enables me an intimate and hands on connection with my work. The hand colouring was influenced by my interest in Victorian photography, as it was at the height of its popularity during the period. I enjoy hand colouring as it enables me to add further layers of both emotion and pain upon the surface of the print, until the image is born.

Your projects focus on using art to embody emotional experiences. How do you usually go about starting a project?

Whilst at University and going through an emotionally difficult time, I felt a compelling need to express my emotional state and began producing my project Misery. Since this my projects have started naturally and upon instinct, each project flowing on from the last. Often the first stage of a project is to begin by distressing/constructing the interior, as to enable it to become a metaphor of my pain. The photographs and concepts usually flow on from that.

How important is catharsis in your work? Do you feel you can move on from an experience once a project reaches an ending?

Catharsis is deeply entwined with my work, with it being the reasoning behind its production. The end of a project is always incredibly therapeutic, and I have been able to move on from some experiences. I feel the continued production of my work is enabling my mental state to transform into that of a more positive nature.

What is the importance of producing work in the same location (your bedroom) and putting yourself within the frame?

My bedroom is the keeper of my trapped and repressed emotions. There is a sense of safety within this interior that enables me to feel safe to explore my emotions in front of the camera. It feels very natural and instinctive to place my body within the frame, as without this physical act I would not experience the same sense of catharsis.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

My work both conceptually and aesthetically is deeply inspired by Charlotte Perkin Gilman’s Victorian novella The Yellow Wallpaper. A gothic novella, that tells the story of a women’s descent into madness after she is confined to a bedroom. Emotionally I feel a connection with the novella and would say it has influenced my work more so than any other photographer.

How do you see your work developing?

At the moment I am continuing work on my ongoing projects Wallflower and Melancholia until I feel these projects naturally come to an end. I then hope to produce work that builds upon the exploration of my childhood, focusing on how I feel my emotional state is entwined with this period of my life.

corinneperry.com
@corinne_perry


Laura Hospes

Laura Hospes is a photographer from The Netherlands using self-portraiture to connect with the world around her. In her project UCP-UMCG Hospes documents her stay in a psychiatric hospital, using photography to illustrate her emotional experiences.

What initially drew you to photography?

When I was 15, my cousin took some photographs of our family with a Sony Alpha 230. The pictures that came out where so beautiful! I asked if I could try making some photos, too, and it was a magical thing to do. For my 16th birthday I asked money to buy my first camera, the exact same Sony Alpha 230.

Is the process of photography (in particular self-portraits) therapeutic to you? If so, is there a process behind this?

It is quite a discussion what is ment by therapeutic. If it means that it heals you, then no, it wasn’t. Making self-portraits is not healing me. As a matter of fact, with the diagnose I got, a personality disorder, it is not possible to heal completely. But it did really help me "surviving" the day and especially the night. The decision to make new work feels like it is not a decision. It just happens, because I feel a need to make photos. Healthy people talk to each other when they feel bad, but that is a hard thing to do for me. So I pick up my camera, watch the light, background and check my settings. Then I just sit and wait till the conversation with my camera starts. I don’t even know I’m clicking my remote anymore after a couple of photos. It is just such a natural thing to do. When I feel lighter, like the big weight is off my shoulders, I put the photos on my laptop and convert them to black and white. I immediately start selecting, because that is part of the proces. It is also the reason I can’t shoot analogue. I have to see the photos after I shot them, so I can close that day.

What was it like making work whilst within the hospital setting? Were you open about your photography with doctors and other patients?

In the beginning I was all a insecure about making the photos in hospital. The doctors knew obviously that I studied photography and also asked sometimes what kind of photographs I made, but I didn’t share them at first. I also was too depressed to do anything with the photos. I just made them and that was it. After a while I realized that the photos could be pretty good, so I carefully shared the first picture on Facebook. People liked it indeed, so I started to share more photos. It helped me to share it. I felt I could do something I was good at and I could share my situation where I felt so alone.

What has it been like to share such personal images with the world?

It is very scary to share such a personal story with the whole world, but I keep telling myself that I don’t have to feel ashamed for this period in my life. There are so many people who go through such times. Sometimes, somebody tells me that a photo is exactly saying what he or she feels. It means so much for me to hear that. It means that I am not alone, but also that I can show that they are not alone. I can do something for the people around me. And that at the time I asked myself if I was useful to the world. It gave me answers I needed at that moment.

How does it feel to look back at these images, taken in a dark time of your life, and see the positive recognition that they have gained?

I have seen my pictures so often, I don’t see them like “that photo of that hard time anymore”. But sometimes it’s like they talk back. For example, I’m making a book of the whole period. It’s called UCP and will come out September 23, 2016. While making prints for the limited editions it somehow got me so hard. The picture was staring at me and suddenly I felt all the hard feelings again, but also the relieve that the hardest part is over. I cried. And I hope that it will have that same effect on others.

What do you hope your viewers will take away from you images?

As I said before, I hope they recognize themselves in it. That they can see they are not alone. And for the people who haven’t suffered from something like this, I hope they see how bad it is. How hard life is for people with depression, caused by whatsoever. That the people suffering are not crazy, but are working só hard to overcome the situation. That everybody can get a depression or other mental disease. It don’t have to be a taboo, just ask about it. Many depressed people want to talk about it, but feel uncomfortable because nobody asks them.

What’s next for you?

I am still making photographs almost on a daily basis. But I’m not in hospital anymore. This summer I will start with a treatment that lasts 12 months. I think it will be a hard time, but I hope it will help me in the future. After the treatment I want to work on my first solo exhibition, that would be really cool.

laurahospes.com
@laurahospes on Instagram.
Laura Hospes Photography on Facebook.


Paloma Tendero

Paloma Tendero is a Spanish photographer now living in London. After completing a BA (Hons) in Fine Arts at University Complutense, Madrid, she went to on to graduate from the MA Photography at the London College of Communication.

Paloma is also taking part in our free artist talk with Celine Marchbank, Antonia Attwood & Rhone Eve Clews on June 16th. Book a free ticket here.

Your work blends photography with sculpture — how did this way of working come about for you? How would you describe your work?

I come from a Fine Arts background, and as an artist, I have worked with many mediums. However, my artwork is not based on any specific technique, but in materials that can provide me with an outcome I wish to express.

My work often begins with photographs of my body, contorted through performance into a sculptural form and combined with sculpture and other mixed media like knitting and embroidery. I look for a representation of the internal genetic flaw. I am interested in the analysis of the internal body, exploring beyond the physical structure of the human being. Through photography and sculpture I look for an interpretation of this co-existence of the healthy and the sick.

In Inside Out the photographs explore the relationship between psychological difficulties and their physical manifestation. Can you explain how this work was conceived?

Inside Out started with the exploration of somatisation; how psychological conflicts are sublimated into organic symptoms that are manifested physically. This idea then evolved with my interest in the influence of genetic disorders that are passed along family lines.

My work explores physical and psychological relationships that spring from this inherited determinism. In the Inside Out series, I look at the influence of genetic disease, passed along family lines, which renders the body vulnerable to an unrequested destiny.

What does the importance of placing yourself in the frame hold in your work?
I experience life through my body, a body that holds my emotions and houses my anatomy, my energy and memories. My body has been compromised by its own genetic history and the genetic flaw I have inherited from my mother.

By using my own body as both model and sculpture and placing objects upon it, I am creating images from performance. I am able to investigate the struggle between biological determinism and self-will.

What are you working on now?
My next project is call Célula. By focusing on genetics and organic processes that are linked to us, my artwork weaves in issues arising out of the emotional struggle between good and bad, body and mind, inside and outside, dualities that are the union between two divided worlds.

I am seeking to explore these ideas through the artistic side of science, looking at microscopic views of blood cells and body scans that are able to look beyond our physical characteristics.

palomatendero.wordpress.com
@PalomaTendero