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Max Herridge is a photographer based in London, UK, currently studying for a BA in Photography from University of the Arts London. Max identifies as non-binary and has self-diagnosed anxiety. In Surface Max’s work focuses on anxiety and how reality can be experienced.
You’re a current University of the Arts London Photography student — what is it that attracted you to photography to begin with?
My relationship with photography has changed a lot since buying my first DSLR four years ago. Photography was definitely a hobby to begin with; it wasn’t until about 18 months ago that I realised the power of the photographic image and how it can be used to make a statement. I began taking portraits of my friends and became excited by photography as a way to create interesting aesthetics and things that seemed almost surreal. When I started university, I decided it was time to start making more work for myself, rather than my Instagram audience, and use the creative freedom I have to express my thoughts, feelings and beliefs.
How did your project Surface come about?
It was part of a university assignment in which we were asked to create work under the title of ‘Image and Reality’. My interpretation of this was to explore the way in which people perceive reality differently. I considered how my own anxiety affects the way in which I experience the world and decided to confront the task of creating a visual to demonstrate an issue that is, for the most part, invisible. The Fragmentary site was very helpful in my research for the project as it was great to see what had already been achieved in mental health photographic practice.
What was your reasoning behind asking your Tumblr followers to respond with their own visual descriptions of mental health? Did it influence how you created the images for Surface?
I had put out a post to my 40,000+ Tumblr followers a long time ago, regarding a different project about mental illness that never came to fruition and decided to use this resource again to get a variety of different interpretations of anxieties, outside of my own experience. The responses I received described anxiety as a visual and one theme was apparent in many of the replies: water. The associations between anxiety and water varied greatly with some describing it for its destructive properties of drowning and flooding, whilst others viewed it as calming and relaxing. My own experience of water in relation to anxiety links to the latter idea, as a bottle of water and the movements of its contents calm me when its most needed. The piece of work exists as three sets of three images that begin at a broad landscape and finish on a macro shot of something that appears in the middle image, illustrating how things may intensify as anxiety arises.
Has photography changed your relationship with anxiety at all? Does it provide respite or further understanding of your experience?
This project certainly helped me to look at my anxiety more objectively. Presenting the work to my tutor group at university, not only in the final presentation but also in the weekly progress meetings, was an anxious experience for me and certainly helped me to overcome some of the anxiety I had about talking in front of members of my course. In this sense, it provided a kind of opportunity to triumph and also contributed to understanding my experience, which in itself provides me with some respite.
How do you see your work developing? Are there any themes you would like to continue working with throughout your degree?
At the moment, I am working regularly for an online music magazine photographing live concerts and gigs, which is something that I never saw myself doing, so at this point, I am open to my work developing in any direction. I am comfortable enough within my practice to take on anything that is thrown my way. In my university work, I look to move away from documentary, clean styles of photography, which I have always been attracted to as a comfort, and dive into more abstract and interpretative practices. Since moving to London, I have become more politically interested in things such as feminism, LGBTQIA+ rights, equal rights and the environment. These are all themes that I would love to get across in my future work. I am interested in making work that can mean something to someone and that can tell a story rather than work that is just visually interesting.
What are you working on next?
My next university brief is focused on creating a book about anything that you are passionate about. I have not finalised my concept yet, but I am toying with the idea of creating a piece of work surrounding a theory of the soul that my partner and I have. It follows how the soul is present in a physical body and where it may manifest in different people. I am excited to be in a city with so much opportunity for young creatives and am striving to put myself out there in the creative industry.