Annabella Esposito

Annabella Esposito is a photographer based in north west England. When creating her imagery she is highly influenced by states of mind and the stigma attached to mental health. In her series Dissumulate she combines the use of materials within portraits and self-portraits to obscure her subject's identity, aiming to evoke the viewer’s subconscious.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: where are you from, how long have you been photographing and what got you into photography?

My name is Annabella Esposito and I am a fine art photographer based in a small town called Blackpool (UK). I have been fascinated by photography throughout my life, but initially gained interest at the age of 16. This came about when I had to select my GSCE subjects in high school; creativity was always my strong point so selecting photography as one of my subjects enabled me to explore my creativity and discover my passion for art and photography.

How did Dissimulate come about?

Dissimulate first started whilst studying photography at college. I got given a project based around 'identity' and decided to place myself in front of the camera and experiment with in-camera techniques and a variety of materials. This was a whole new experience for me and it was something I had never attempted before. I felt content within my environment and was excited at the prospect of producing a body of experimental works.

You've mentioned you were initially very private about your mental health. Was there a turning point that led you to being more open about your experiences with anxiety and OCD?

For me the turning point was in 2014 when my mental health was very bad, I was in the 2nd year of my photography degree and decided it was time to revisit Dissimulate. When my peers questioned me as to why I produced such imagery, I could never give them a clear answer. I felt like people didn’t understand my photography and decided it was time to explain the real reason behind why I created such works. This gave me an opportunity to raise awareness of mental health and allowed me to explain the real concept behind my images.

The use of materials to obscure and trap the subject helps to create a sense of interiority and leaves me wondering what each person is thinking and experiencing. Was it important to work with people that had experienced mental health difficulties themselves?

It wasn't necessarily important, however I did ensure the people I worked with had an understanding of mental health and the reason behind my project. However some of my models had experienced mental health difficulties and it helped bring real emotion to my images.

I'm curious about the relationship you have between your photography and mental health. Does the creation of the work serve any therapeutic purpose for you?

As much as I enjoy producing experimental portraiture, I don’t feel it serves that much of a therapeutic purpose for me. I get great pleasure producing different bodies of work, and you could say Dissimulate has given me the opportunity to talk about mental health more freely. So in a sense it’s therapeutic talking about my practice and engaging with practitioners who produce similar works to myself.

What do you hope the viewer will take away from Dissimulate?

For me it is important that the viewer connects to my photography and deconstructs the images in relation to themselves. I hope the viewer, when witnessing my imagery gains a unique understanding of coping with mental illness and importance of raising awareness of it.

What are you working on now?

At this current time I'm in the process of updating my website and arranging some photo shoots on location. Dissimulate was primarily self-portraiture, so I aim to start a whole new project and take models out on location, obscuring their identity and experimenting with low angles and crops.

annabellaesposito.com
@espo_photo
instagram.com/annabellaesposito


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


Kev Hawken

Disorder by Kev Hawken (midlands, UK) came about during his studies at Nottingham Trent university in 2012. Tasked with a visual practice brief called A Subjective Approach and drawing upon references from photographers such as Antoine D'Agata, Nan Goldin and JH Engstrom, Kev initially shied away from creating such personal work. Suffering at the time with generalised anxiety disorder he finally found the courage to share work with his class, despite his fears surrounding the stigma associated with mental illness.

Kev's work highlights his frustration, despair and sense of isolation from living with anxiety for the past twelve years, using his student accommodation as the site for Disorder.

kevhawken.com
@kevhawken


Samantha Pugsley

Samantha Pugsley is a fine art and commercial photographer from Charlotte, North Carolina (USA). Samantha's photography stems from her experiences with anxiety and throughout her work she creates conceptual and self-portrait images around living with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD).

You're very open about the relationship between your anxiety and photographic practice. Can you tell us a little about what drew you to photography?

I have always been fascinated by photography but I never really understood how powerful it could be until I saw an article on Kyle Thompson. He was creating images like I'd never seen, something honest and personal. In the article, he talked openly about his battle with depression and how photography helped him cope. At that time, I had been recently diagnosed with GAD. Things had gotten really hard for me. My panic attacks were coming more and more frequently. I'd have them at home, in the grocery store, in class, while driving. Some days, I couldn't even leave the house. Reading about Kyle made me wonder if I could somehow use photography to work through my anxiety.

In what way has your photography practice been therapeutic?

More than anything, I think it allows me to step outside of my anxiety. Seeing something through the lens often helps me put it in perspective. It can be conceptual like when I create a scene that explores my feelings of loneliness or it can be literal like when I take a picture of a scrape on my knee after suffering a panic attack about potential health risks like infection or death. Photography is incredibly versatile. It can be whatever I need it to be in that moment. Sometimes it tethers me to reality during moments of panic. Other times, it's an escape to another world when this one is too overwhelming.

How do your images come to fruition? Where do your ideas come from and how do you execute them?

Anxiety has a tendency to make your imagination run wild. My mind often spirals out of control into a constant barrage of 'what-if's' and worst case scenarios. I always keep a sketch book nearby because ideas are born from moments like this. Insomnia is a big one too. I used to hate the nighttime because I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep and it was prime time for my anxiety to flare up really badly. Now, so many of my ideas come when I'm lying silent and sleepless at night. That's not to say I don't still get anxious but it does seem more controlled since I started creating. More generally I'm also inspired by daydreaming, hiking, exploring abandoned buildings, listening to music and driving around aimlessly just looking at the world around me. Once I have an idea, I figure out the best way to photograph it so the theme comes through. Once I have theme, concept, and location, it's mostly a lot of running back and forth between camera and scene (much of my work is self portrait based) and finally, post work in Photoshop.

I'm struck by the loneliness in your photographs, both in the locations of solitude and singular figures.

Loneliness, isolation, and solitude are all prevalent themes in my work. Anxiety is unique in that you simultaneously want to be alone and don't want to be alone. Oftentimes I yearn to make connections with others but anxiety makes me physically incapable. On the flipside, sometimes I'm in a social situation and want nothing more than to be alone. It's a dichotomous relationship that made no sense to me until I started exploring it in my work. I've come to learn that there are many different types of 'alone' and that there's a huge difference between being along and being lonely, if that makes sense.

What do you hope for your viewers to take away from the images?

First, I want others who are impacted by mental illness to feel less alone, for them to know that someone out there understands what they're going through. Second, I want those who aren't affected by mental illness to gain some comprehension from my work. It can be hard to find the right words to talk about it so I try showing it in hopes it might help people understand.

How has the reaction been to making and sharing such personal work?

Overall, it's been positive. Fortunately, I've found my way into some wonderfully uplifting communities. Most notably, Broken Light Collective (http://brokenlightcollective.com/) a safe haven for photographers living with and affected by mental illness to share their work. I've been a contributor there since 2013. Flickr has also been instrumental in my artistic growth. I took a break from photography for a while back in 2014 due to some health issues and when I showed back up months later I was welcomed back with open arms by my followers there. There is the occasional naysayer but their comments often remind me why I've chosen to share my work in the first place - so our conversations about mental illness can continue to evolve and we can reduce the stigma associated with it.

What are you working on now and what is next?

Currently, I'm in the planning stages of my first series, inspired by some things I've worked through in therapy. I've also started building a career out of doing what I love. I have occasional client work and I also license my images with a fine art agency. I'm not sure what the future holds or how I'll find the balance between personal work and commercial work but I know one thing for certain: no matter where my art goes, important conversations about mental health will follow it.

samanthapugsley.com
@samanthapugsley
Follow Samantha on Facebook.


Katie Crawford

Katie Crawford's My Anxious Heart is a conceptual exploration of living with general anxiety disorder through a series of self-portraits. Through the use of black objects and materials Crawford visualises her anxiety as an overbearing presence, using surreality to illustrate the reality of her experiences.

What initially drew you to making work about living with anxiety?
A little background: I had my first panic attack at 11. I was put on antidepressants at age 13, anti-anxiety medication at 16, an ADHD stimulant at 18, and a mood stabilizer at 20-21. Throughout those years, dosages were increased and decreased, formulas were adjusted, and other, short-term medications were used to help me sleep, deal with attacks, and pain from side-effects. I was completely numb and couldn't remember what feeling emotion was like at all. At age 21, I decided it was time to heal. I had to get to the root of it all. So, with the supervision of my doctors, I weaned off of medication. I was having panic attacks daily, I couldn't do much of anything alone, and yet I didn't want to be around people. But I was feeling again.

During this transition, I was enrolled in a photography class called "Artist As Researcher". The premise of the class was to uncover what motivates your art practice and how you move that motivation from initial inspiration to meaningful public display. We were to take on a role as a researcher to better understand our desire to make artwork and to make work that involves a sustained investigation. This was the first time I wasn't assigned a theme or subject matter but given the opportunity to work on one piece for an entire semester.

I had no idea what I was going to do and then I became anxious; a very normal response for me. I wanted to show everyone this thing that followed me and kept me from being able to do the most basic things. I can't remember what I was thinking about doing the moment before, because when I thought of this, just like anxiety, it took over. Everything from that point on has been an outlet to express this constant presence. So after that class, I decided there was no better subject to focus on for my senior thesis.

my head is filling with helium. focus is fading. such a small decision to make. such an easy question to answer. my mind isn’t letting me. it’s like a thousands circuits are all crossing at once.

What has been your working process? From conceptualising to shooting and editing.
When I was around 18, I started writing anytime I felt an attack begin, or right after one ended. I was just spitting out fragments and words that described what I was feeling. I kept this journal and I used it to throw my anxiety into. When I was doing the project mentioned above, the assignment was to be a researcher. So I found that journal and used it as a resource that I had forgotten. They explained it so well, each thought and feeling, that I had to use them. I began forming ideas that would visually express those written feelings. That is how the text under each image came about. I was so numb and out of it from my anxiety and depression, and being medicated for it, that I had forgotten how much I was expressing at that time. It really brought me back to how I felt at the darkest, coldest time and I was able to add that to how I felt being off of the medication and having all of these feelings become so incredibly intense and raw.

As far as shooting, I really evolved as an artist through this process. I'm a college student with very little income, so until I could afford a tripod and remote, I had to be very creative. It involved a lot of balancing cameras and battling self timers and focal points. I was lucky enough to have a sister that was incredibly helpful. She was always willing to lend a hand when I needed someone to help throw baby powder, wrap me in cling film, and run around with fabric.

My editing is very formulaic to an extent. I try to have the concept so planned, that editing is the shortest part of the process. It doesn't always work out that way, but it tends to make things a bit easier when it doesn't make things quicker. I shoot everything with a tripod at the same focal point so that layering can be consistent and realistic. I do a lot of layer masking and cloning. Other than that, I pretty much had the shots set up before the editing began.

a captive of my own mind. the instigator of my own thoughts. the more i think, the worse it gets. the less i think, the worse it gets. breathe. just breathe. drift. it'll ease soon.

What are your hopes for the work?
It started as a healing process for me, but it quickly became an outlet for others to express their pain and daily battles. What I've always wanted is to end the stigma for mental illness. It needs to be treated as a physical illness. Just because there isn't a noticeable ailment, it's put off as being a mood swing or not a big deal. I want people to understand that not only is it debilitating and can feel just as paralyzing as a physical illness, but that it causes physical side-effects as well. IBS, muscle pain, migraines, and insomnia are a few of the issues that can be diagnosed with no known cause other than anxiety.

I want to create an outlet for people to be understood, but also for them to heal. I don't want people to just get by or have to numb themselves. I want them to understand the root of their anxiety and know that it doesn't have to control them. It can be managed.

Your project is about anxiety — have you had any anxieties about releasing such personal work? What have responses been like?
Absolutely! It all happened so fast. I posted it on reddit.com/r/anxiety to say thank you. I used that forum a lot when I was running out of motivation to complete the project. And then it kind of spread. I never expected this. I've gotten over a hundred messages just thanking me. Honestly, I should be thanking them! I couldn't have done it without support and encouragement. It's so terrifying as an artist to expose yourself in the most raw way; and I was adding self-portraits and my life so literally depicted. I couldn't pretend that this wasn't personal or putting me in a vulnerable place.

But the thing is, where I may have run and hid and ignored all of my emails out of fear before, I'm realizing this is so very important. If just one person would've said “thank you, I didn't realize others felt this way. I thought I was alone!”, it would have been enough for me to keep going. I've been anxious my entire life. Your body goes into fight or flight mode when you're anxious. My whole life I've chosen flight. My first response is “GET OUT NOW”. But when I read all of the responses, I felt this drive to fight for the first time in my life. I'm fighting for each person that feels alone. I'm fighting for those who are too scared to do it themselves. I'm fighting for those who can't articulate their pain. And I'm fighting to end a stigma that has created an obstacle for anyone to speak out about their mental illness.

it's strange -- in the pit of your stomach. it's like when you're swimming and you want to put your feet down but the water is deeper than you thought. you can't touch the bottom and your heart skips a beat.

You mention in your statement that depicting your fears has had a therapeutic effect. Can you explain a little more about that process?
When I began, I knew the only way was to really try and remember what a panic attack is like. The hard part is, thinking about having one tends to induce one. If you've ever had a panic attack, you'll know it's probably the number one fear of those who have them. No matter how badly I didn't want to do it to myself, I knew I had to cause one so I could properly express it.

In order to cause one, I had to think about my triggers. After a while, I was able to logically work through why my fears were illogical and expose lies I was telling myself. Soon, I was unable to cause one as easily. So I tried harder. When one was really intense and I wanted out, I found remedies that I hadn't tried before. I realized running cold water on my wrists and neck almost immediately shocked me out of it. I found that when focussing on breathing was hard, I could do jumping jacks and it would force my breathing to steady.

In doing all of this, I was able to rationalize this thing that had control and really expose it for what it was. They're much lighter now and I know how to make them end much faster. It's also created a way for me to articulate what is going on in the moment to someone who is completely oblivious.

i'm afraid to live and i'm afraid to die. what a way to exist.

What's next for you?
I'm so incredibly excited to say that this has motivated me to finally put a book together. I've been trying to decide if it was a good idea or if it would even be well received, and I finally feel like I can do it. Even more than me feeling like I can do it, I feel like I need to do it.

My sister, who has her Masters in Mental Health Counseling and her provisional LPC license, will be joining me in creating a book to help those with General Anxiety Disorder and Depression. It will contain these photographs, photographs that have not been released, more writings that describe symptoms, exercises for day to day self-care and handling panic, and our full stories as two young women who have battled these disorders for over a decade. I will be posting more information on social media as it comes together.

katiejoycrawford.com
Follow Katie's blog or find her on Facebook.


Racquel Fortuna

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

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

racquelfortuna.com
instagram.com/racquelthephotographer


Jennifer Wells

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

jennifernicholewells.com
@JennyNichole_


John Keedy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

johnwilliamkeedy.com
@johnwkeedy