Jodie Beardmore is a photographer based in Huddersfield (UK), currently studying in her final year at The University of Huddersfield. Jodie draws inspiration from photographers such as Francesca Woodman and Brooke Shaden and has created an on-going series based on and inspired by her diagnosis with depression. The images are “set in a world bordering between dream and nightmare, similar to what you would experience when you are mentally ill. The imagery follows a narrative of my recovery caught between the world of the imagination and reality.”
What first attracted you to photography and how did your photographic interests develop over time?
I became interested in photography after assisting on a fashion photo-shoot at a huge manor house that my uncle was working at as a gardener. I was ten years old and I remember enjoying it so much that I knew it was something I wanted to pursue.
I started out photographing still life and landscapes but eventually developed my own tastes and style, as I grew older, going on to study photography at college and university. Whilst studying I became inspired by portraiture, fashion, surrealism and the world of fantasy.
How did this series of images come about?
This series began as a coping mechanism. In 2016 I was diagnosed with depression and I lost interest in everything, so much so that I had to defer a year of my university course to recover. In this time I forced myself to go out and rediscover my former passion of photography. I started to create self portraits based around my mental illness. I wasn’t always pleased with the results and my motivation was still suffering but gradually I improved and my work became something I was really proud of.
What is it about surrealistic photography that excites you?
The fact it can be anything you want it to be, there are no rules or expectations. You can just let your imagination run wild. Through exploring the extraordinary I am able to understand the ordinary. It’s been comforting in how others can understand what’s going through my mind by depicting these emotions in imagery.
How has creating these images helped with your experiences of anxiety and depression?
It’s helped me to understand myself a lot more, not just as someone who suffers with mental illness but also as a person. Before my diagnosis I would limit myself to photography I wasn’t particularly interested in as I was worried about what people would think of me, if I created the pieces I wanted to. I had an unhealthy desire to be liked and to fit in which prevented me from being myself. However since I’ve become less concerned with this and become completely open about who I am, I’ve noticed a significant improvement in my photography, had a lot more opportunities and I’ve even had people come up and tell me I’m inspiring, which is a fantastic feeling.
What is your creative process like? Talk us through one of your images, from the idea to execution.
Many of my ideas are inspired by locations, or a feeling, emotion already within me. For my piece ‘Nest’ which is one of the first images I created for this series, depicts the lowest point in my depression. I wanted to portray my vulnerability and comfort within my nest (home), hidden away from reality. The wings protruding out of my back, lay broken representing the fight or flight of anxiety.
I spent weeks with my mother collecting sticks over the fields near us and then stitching them together at home to form a human sized nest. My dad then helped me transfer the nest over to a studio in Manchester where two photographers (Tonie Moran & Anthony Moran) who I worked with on my placement year helped me to setup and execute the image. I was originally going to pose in a nude leotard but the image just wasn’t working so I bravely removed the clothing, revealing my body which is something I’ve never been happy with. I wanted to do it though as this work is so important to me and in assisting the reduction of the stigma of mental illness being a weakness when it is actually more a strength.
What do you hope your work stirs in viewers?
I hope it makes people understand mental illness more, as not only can your mind be a terrifying place to live but it can also be one of the most wonderful. These worlds I have created allow me to face my inner demons, however they allow me to see the beauty in my mind as well. Photography has become a form of escapism from reality for me but also a way of dealing with it.
What are you working on now?
I am still currently working on this project as part of my final major project at university. You can follow my progress of this series of work on my Instagram @jbeardmorephoto_. The end product will be a photo book, which eventually I am hoping to publish.
Jodie Beardmore Photography on Facebook
@jbeardmorephoto_ on Instagram