Louis Quail

Louis Quail is a UK based documentary photographer. Louis has worked extensively for some of the UK's best known magazines and has been published and worked internationally over a period of many years. Louis increasingly devotes his time to personal, long-term projects. In this interview Louis shares his project Big Brother, an intimate photographic portrayal of his brother Justin’s struggle with schizophrenia. You can purchase a copy of the book, published by Dewi Lewis, on Louis' website.

What is your background in photography? How would you describe your career path and yourself as a photographer?

I was an editorial photographer for many years working for the Telegraph, Times, Marie Claire and so forth. Perhaps always a bit frustrated by the need to pay the bills I never really gave my self much room to explore work in any depth. This changed with my first big project desk job exploring globalisation through office life around the world. Big Brother is a continuation of a need to make projects with depth which are driven by an impulse to explore issues which I really care about and where there is the space to say something with originality.

Can you tell us how the project Big Brother came about and why you started to photograph Justin?

When I started this book it was shortly after mother died. Part of me would like to have photographed her, she also had schizophrenia, but I didn’t feel comfortable at that point in my career, I thought I might be exploiting my relationship on some level. When I started working on this book I was older and more confident in the idea that it is really important to give people like Justin a voice. I have come to believe worse than being intruded upon is to be ignored, Justin is at the bottom of the rung in society, this book gives him a voice.

At home in Mortlake, London.
Justin’s conditions means he is often feeling depressed. He oscillates between highs and lows; often the lows are attributed to high doses of drugs to control the behavior associated with the highs. Sometimes however he is just down or exhausted from lack of sleep. He hates taking the drugs complaining they create a “fog” that makes life like “wading through mud”.
Justin's level of organization and his ability to focus seems to have deteriorated as he gets older; keeping his room clean is a major challenge despite regular visits from cleaners.
Justin, photographed at his girlfriend's flat in East Sheen.
Justin’s continued visits to the now abandoned Mereway Day Centre are a testament to its hold on him. It was his go-to drop in centre for 23 years (and for our mother). Its closure around 2007 comes against a backdrop of government cuts within the mental health industry (including other favourites for Justin such as the Level Crossing and Centre 32 ) which if anything has been accelerating in recent years.

What pushed you to turn the project into a book?

The main reason to make this book is to challenge stigma, which is pervasive in our society in the UK and beyond. We expect stigma in mainstream society and nine out of ten people who suffer with mental illness says stigma makes their life worse. Simply not being treated decently, fairly or like an equal causes all sorts of negative outcomes for those who suffer from it. But perhaps more of a surprise is the way that stigma in some way is built in to the systems we use to manage our mentally ill. For example, risk assessments made by the mental health team by process are stigmatising, if we look for the worst case scenario from our mentally ill, we run the risk of demonising them.

This book challenges stigma by showing the life of an individual in all the light and shade; someone who suffers with their mental health but is not defined by it. We have moved mountains challenging stigma around physical disabilities, but mental health is still a remote area for many — misunderstood, ghettoised. We need the book to really get to grips with Justin’s life with real depth. We show some of Justin’s difficulties but also celebrate his success and contributions found in his relationship and his passions for art and bird watching. The message is mental health is part of us but it is not all of us.

How does Justin feel about the project? How on board is he with being photographed?

Justin’s thoughts on the project seem to change with his health and sense of well being. Sometimes he is excited to be part of it and supportive but at other times especially when he is down he lacks any sort of meaningful interest . One of the drivers for me is that I see there is an opportunity with this work to give Justin the chance to feel he is making an impact in the world, to give him a voice and to build self esteem. There have been many times when Justin has not been in the mood to be photographed and he has let me know this quite forcefully. However, he has never once asked me to to desist from making the book and over a period of years he has had the opportunity [to do that]. I think this stems from a deep human need to be seen.

At the same time this work is personal. There is no point making a body of work if its not going to be serious in intent and meaningful and to do that requires honesty and integrity. Part of this process I realised quite soon, involved me using Justin’s medical and police records so I could really get to grips with the parts of Justin’s life that could not be easily photographed. Although he understands this and accepts it (for him it is part of his daily life and does not concern him as it might others) and he understands why I am making this book, he is more apathetic about how it might change anything. In a way I’m fighting this apathy by encouraging Justin’s involvement. I am passionate about showing Justin’s life and fighting stigma. Deep down Justin trusts me and my instincts in the making of the book. With this trust comes a huge responsibility to make sure his has a positive experience.

The project is multi-layered using photographs of Justin, but also his art, medical and police records. How do you think this creates a wider and perhaps clearer picture of Justin’s story (and perhaps others experience of living with schizophrenia)?

Photography has limitations. Early on I knew I had to find other ways to tell Justin’s story. I can photograph Justin from the outside but the medical records allow me to get much closer to how he thinks. Written up medical and social service reports act like a series of interviews; revealing the nature of the illness and Justin’s inner thoughts. Equally, the police reports are working on a similar level. Witness statements from police officers detailing conversations made with Justin and his girlfriend Jackie are a brilliant aid to story telling the events during some of Justin’s most difficult moments.

What is surprising is how much of political planning at the top of society feeds down directly into Justin’s life: cuts to social care and police budgets and privatisation of housing care are all revealed in his interactions with the police and the associated records, so it’s important to have them. Most importantly though the police we see act like a third person in the relationship with his girlfriend (spoiler alert!). Their impulse is to separate them so the problems in their relationship go away. The question, will the relationship survive, this is something that drives the narrative.

Justin’s art and poetry in particular are hugely important, they give insight into his thoughts about his illness and the system that manages him. It’s been fantastic that I can use the book to give space to his compelling creative expression.

Justin's paintings often feature boats and very often birds. Mixed media on paper.
Painting inspired by the song ‘I am the God of Hell fire’ (The Crazy World of Arthur Brown).
A painting inspired by the the song I am the God of hell Fire, from The Crazy World of Arthur Brown
Self portrait.

How does it feel when you’re making these photographs? What do you think about and how does photography help you connect to the emotion of the moment?

Normally When I’m spending time with Justin I’m fire fighting a problem, cleaning his flat calling social services visiting A and E, even; being practical. When I look at the pictures, later, on my own, is often when I get emotional about his condition. The photographs help me see the huge problems, Justin has had to deal with in his life; they are written into the shape of his face.

Doing this project has allowed me to think of and relate to Justin in a different way. I can understand and empathise with him from a different place and with deeper understanding. What this book has really taught me though is that Justin is hugely resilient, he is a survivor and the take away for the audience is that his passion for bird watching has been an integral part of his survival process, a form of self medication if you like.

@louisquail on Instagram

Alice Guardado

Alice Guardado is a photographer currently based in Houston, Texas. She holds a BFA in Photography from the University of North Texas and is currently pursuing her Masters degree at SCAD in Savannah, Georgia. Through photography, she is able to express her experiences to others that might be going through similar complications. Her project Gone was made in response to her parents separation, forcing her to be confronted with memories and recollections leading to emotional instability and anxiety.

What is your background in photography — how did you get your start and what is it that you love about the medium?

I started taking photographs with a small point and shoot given by my mother in high school, where I instantly felt a need to photograph my surroundings. From then, I knew I wanted to pursue a BFA in photography from the University of North Texas. I became passionate about the medium after taking my first history of photography course in college, where I learned about its history, alternative processes, and theories.

How did Gone come about?

The series Gone developed from a need in documenting my emotions towards my parents recent separation. After my father left, I realized his absence was not the cause of my unstable emotions, it was the realization of our distant relationship throughout my childhood. This became the effect of my loss of identity; feeling lost, hopeless, and hollow inside. Documenting these feelings became a way of coping with the struggle.

Alice Guardadoa

Alice Guardadoa

Gone seems to be compiled of fragmented images, combining elements of self-portraits, double exposures and family archives. Can you talk us through the elements of the project and what they represent to you?

The self-portraits are a representation of the emotional component of the work, the double exposures reflect those childhood memories intervening with my current state. There is a sense of duality in the work which is seen through the diptychs. The tangible objects represent an aura of past memories combined with found photographs of my childhood. There is definitely a push and pull effect in my work between the healing process and the anxiety in my self-portraits.

Alice Guardadoa

Alice Guardadoa

Alice Guardadoa

What has the project helped you to work through (emotionally), if anything?

This project has helped me relieve some of the tension and anxiety within myself, although I might still continue to experience some of these emotional factors, they are not as strong as they were before I started this project. In a way, it gave me the opportunity to contemplate on past memories and better identify myself.

How does it feel to share such personal work? What have responses been so far?

Sharing such personal work can be quite challenging and scary at the same time. Initially, I felt self-conscious about showing that side of me, it can become difficult to talk about those feelings, but through photographs I can express them freely in a way where other individuals can come to appreciate and relate to my personal experiences. In addition, demonstrating to the viewer that they are not alone if ever experiencing a similar situation. It is a way to help others cope with their struggles of losing a loved one and at the same time showing that there is hope when facing these personal struggles.

Alice Guardadoa

What are you working on now?

Currently, I am still exploring this subject matter as my thesis project for my M.F.A program. I have always had an interest for exploring my own identity further through photography, and this project has motivated me to continue making work that reflects any mental illness or emotional distress caused by a variety of personal reasons.

@guardado.alice on Instagram

Patrycja Marciniak

Patrycja Marciniak is a photographer and graphic designer based in Warsaw, Poland. Patrycja describes photography as a way to communicate emotions and wants her viewers not to just see her images, but to feel them. She bases the majority of her photographs on personal experiences, feelings, emotions, and fantasies.


Photography is my rabbit hole - a way to escape from plain reality into the world of dreams and nightmares. I consider visual arts a form of storytelling and attempt to apply this theory to my photos - each of them an illustration to an untold story, story that can be both dreamy and uncanny. One of my main inspirations are fairy tales and folk tales - often hiding cruel and disturbing elements under the coat of sugar. However, my main goal is not to reproduce the stories themselves, rather to reconstruct them and ask questions about the feelings they invoke.


You're a graphic designer by day, but what led you to photography and is there any interplay in your work between design and photography?

I've always enjoyed taking photos, but it was my university which helped to transform it into a passion. I've been studying graphic design. Most of our classes were computer ones, but some included traditional art, like painting, drawing, or photography. I've discovered that photography is a medium which helps me communicate my ideas most freely.

Normally, there's not much similarity between my work and my hobby (I guess not many clients would be happy to see gloomy, dark logotypes and posters), but happily most visual arts share the same set of rules, therefore I'm able to use everything I've learned about colors and composition both in graphic design and in photography.

Patrycja Marciniak

You tend to work in a series. How do these conceptual ideas come to you and what are the stages of execution?

It's very hard for me to tell where do ideas come from; sometimes I get inspirations from art, music, poems, fairytales or stories, but mostly I just follow the stream of thoughts and associations until I say to myself, "hey, that would make a great photo". Many ideas came to me when I was trying to explain my feelings, especially the ones caused by mental illness, to others; since it's very hard to express them in simple words, I started using metaphors and comparisons, many of which turned out to be a great base for creating photos.

Patrycja Marciniak

Patrycja Marciniak

Your work is formed from an intensely personal place, including your experiences with medication for depression and your diagnosis with dermatillomania. I’m curious about how it feels to make such personal work? Is there a therapeutic process?

It feels really good to be able to transform negative feelings into something of artistic value. The most therapeutic stage, however, is not creating - for me it's getting feedback, especially from people facing similar problems. It's very reassuring to feel supported and understood, and to show the support and understanding to others. I feel very pleased when I hear that people identify with my art - maybe it will give them the sense of comfort and feeling that they're not alone.

What it is like to share works which say a lot about your experiences and difficulties?

To be honest, I've always been very nervous to share such photos. Only my closest friends and family know about my difficulties. Since there's a strong stigma concerning mental health in our society, I was afraid I might get negative reactions from more distant friends. However, none such thing has happened so far; I hope that my stress will fade away eventually.

I think that speaking about mental health is very important, since there's such a negativity, lack of understanding, and so many myths concerning mental illnesses. I hope that I can change at least some minds and raise awareness - every big change starts with a small step.

Patrycja Marciniak

Patrycja Marciniak

Patrycja Marciniak

Patrycja Marciniak

Patrycja Marciniak

Has creating works about your mental health experiences helped you to connect with friends and family to help them understand your difficulties?

Fortunately most of my closest ones showed a lot of understanding since the beginning of my illness. I wasn't able to create art when my depression started - most of the time I was too weak and sad to even crawl out of bed. Creating art sure helped them understand my feelings more, but I think it had more impact on more distant friends who knew little about my problems and feelings.

What are you working on now?

I'm constantly trying to develop my skills in photography by creating art, and I'm planning to make more series concerning mental health. I do have some ideas that still need execution, and I'll likely come up with several new ones.


Zaklina Anderson

Zaklina Anderson is a photographer based in London. In her work No one could save me but you Anderson combines double exposures of both the figure and landscapes to explore cultural displacement and the memory of war.

What is your background in photography — how did you get into it and what are your main interests?

My grandmother sold a cow in order to buy a camera for my father. My mother was one of the first female photographers to have her own studio in Serbia. Later, my parents moved to Slovenia, and established themselves as leading printing experts.

I grew up surrounded by photography. I had decided early on that I wanted to be a photographer, and signed up for a Secondary School of Design and Photography at the age of 15. I fell in love with fashion photography, and I still remember seeing Richard Avedon’s photographs for Italian Vogue. As there was no way to continue my studies at home, I moved to Chicago to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree. I started out as a commercial photographer, but when I moved to Paris to get another diploma, I started photographing nudes, which led to the fine art exhibitions.

I came across your work No one could save me but you at FIX Photo Festival and was immediately drawn in to the work. Can you give a brief outline of the work and where its title came from?

This artistic work is inspired by the political events that ended up in dividing Yugoslavia and resulted in a horrific civil war. It deals with identity, belonging, memory and loss.

I photographed this series after a difficult time in my life, a challenging couple of years. I was looking for a new series to do, but struggled with getting started, so I set myself a goal of doing a triptych, which resulted in a proper series. The mood of the photographs reflects my state of mind at the time. But it also connects with the deeper issue of my history.

The title is from a song I had in my mind when I took a first photo that started the triptych, it was something about a dark and stormy mood that connected the project.

Zaklina Anderson

Zaklina Anderson

You write that the work "explores the displacement and memory of war, portraying a sense of loss and mourning for a space and time now past." I find a real sense of nostalgia and longing in the images that make me pine for a place I've never been to. Can I ask how the use of double exposures came about?

As I started to explore photographing landscapes after focusing on the body for so long, I didn’t quite know how to view my landscapes, which seemed very vast and empty, so I experimented with double exposures to be able to include a figure and be more comfortable with the image. Also, the image of landscape on its own didn’t produce the feeling I always look for, which is a sort of melancholy loneliness. I found that I could achieve that feeling and also create a story within the image by using more then one image, either by double exposure, or collage. I always kept my nudes very subdued, because I wanted them to appear as an afterthought.

Zaklina Anderson

Zaklina Anderson

Zaklina Anderson

When we think of grief we often think of the loss of a person. Can you describe the feelings felt in mourning for a cultural identity, and how does the absence of a country impact on a person’s identity?

It has a great impact on a person. One of the first questions we are often asked is “where are you from?”, and for me that question is impossible to answer. I was not aware of how many of us were actually affected by this collective wound, as I tend to call it, but generations of people became "orphans" because what was their homeland was erased from a map. What used to be one nation with shared values turned into hatred and distrust.

Slovenia used to be part of Yugoslavia, and just as I was coming of age, the system collapsed and the country divided into separate republics. This was traumatic for many because a lot of families were from different parts of the country and were now at war. It was hard watching my parents come to terms with their loss of this identity, as we are defined by the place we grew up in. Now that I'm a parent, I struggle to explain to my children my roots.

What is the significance of the landscapes and figures chosen?

There's a theory in photography that says every photographer always takes the same photograph, over and over again. It is the same here. I’m constantly looking for a certain feeling of empty space and particular light, and my contact sheets look almost exactly the same, spanning over decades!

It might be an innate need to get that one perfect shot that makes us go back to the same place and try to capture its essence.

Zaklina Anderson

Zaklina Anderson

Zaklina Anderson

The work from this series is quite different from those on your website which are primarily nudes. What was it that prompted you to begin working on this project?

This series is a result of a wonderful collaboration I've undertaken with Laura Noble, my mentor. We discussed techniques and artists, which made me look at my own work differently. More importantly, she raised the question of "why?". Why does photography matter to me and what is driving it?

What are you working on next?

My next project is trying to answer a simple but complex question, “Who are you?” I want to look at my family history more closely, because only with passing time have I realized how special my family was and is, and how I continue the family tradition that started more than 50 years ago. When I was growing up, the family stories and anecdotes, always revolving around photography, seemed so banal but now I realize just how special and forward-thinking both my parents were. I want to pay tribute to them and to my aunts and uncles and cousins who were and still are involved in photography.


Giacomo Fierro

Giacomo Fierro is an Italian photographer specialising in landscape and photo reportage. Through his projects he investigates the ever-changing relationship between man and landscape and the traces he leaves in it.

"Led by hope for tranquillity I move carrying with me a longing for innovation. The desire to explore the unknown now overcomes the desire to return, which fades with time. The instability of what the future will be does not worry me; the consequences, whatever they are, are part of the discovery that is to come. Research is made through movement, fighting the immobility and at times leaving uncertainties behind. Movement and change become a mental state so that all that counts is progression and departure from a condition of stagnation. Thoughts at nighttime are at their most spontaneous and the sky is their catalyst."

How did the theme of mental health become a key part of your practice?

Mental wellbeing unexpectedly became the focal point of my first works. Until the age of 18 I used to live in a place where I didn’t feel at ease and, only once I left, I realized I wanted to start rebuilding a bond with that place.

How did Symptoms come about?

Symptoms originated spontaneously, just like the whole “Ataraxia” project. In this work, nothing was premeditated and nothing was born with the intent of taking part in the series. All of the shots were put together afterwards as they had a common feel to them and the project started as a description of my life in that period.

Giacomo Fierro

Giacomo Fierro

Giacomo Fierro

What is it that attracts you to photographing at night?

Nighttime has always fascinated me, and in particular, photographically speaking, the possibility to capture a partial reality thanks to light (and its absence). The images were shot with flash or long exposures, technical expedients that helped reproduce my feelings in those moments. Another reason that led me to choose the dark is the fact that at night there are no people around that somehow may interfere, and so I can focus on the relationship I have with a certain place and make images that relate to those specific feelings.

Have you found creating this work therapeutic at all?

I can definitely say this work has been therapeutic for me, but this process is not over yet. Symptoms is part of a larger body of work whose aim is to describe the progressive phases of my journey towards a state of ataraxia. In the beginning I wasn’t aware of what was to come nor what I would encounter: it all surfaced in a very organic and spontaneous way and I can say that taking photos has turned out to be the best therapeutic instrument for my research.

Giacomo Fierro

Giacomo Fierro

Giacomo Fierro

What do you hope viewers will take from this work?

Photography has been very important to me in this period of my life: the resulting images were born from deep feelings that I hope will be accessible to the viewers. To those who will see them, I would like to suggest a reflection on life starting from my perspective. In particular with Symptoms I would like to stress how hard it can be to feel at home in a place that isn’t really home.

What are you working on now?

Right now, while I continue with my therapy, which is now in its third phase, I’m particularly interested in the theme of Creation from both personal and mythological points of view. I am working on two separate still life series on this theme. At the same time I work as a commercial photographer in Turin, Italy, my new home.


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.


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.


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.


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 on Instagram.
Laura Hospes Photography on Facebook.

Kimberley Beach

Kimberley Beach works primarily with autobiographical experiences as subject matter for work across mediums to explore the vulnerability of the female body. Informed equally by life experience and feminist narrative, she works to take political ownership of the female form, highlighting the implications and considerations of her body when re-imagined or re-contextualized in the public space. With her practice, she aims to contribute to an ever-evolving realm of discourse concerned with female authority and experience.

Beach studied her BA at the University of Westminster and is currently studying for her MA at the Slade School of Fine Art, starting in September 2016.

Note: If you would like to view the full film (above is a clip) please e-mail Kimberley at kimberley.beach@hotmail.co.uk.

How did the idea for The Whole is less than the Sum of her Parts come about?

I had just finished my project He's got a Pole, You've got a Hole, get the Fuck Home which was a sound piece focusing on the things women do subconsciously to remain safe in a public space and previous to that I had made Progressive Pain Which used vaginal imagery and moving image to explore the damage inflicted by sexual trauma, whether that be physical or emotional. From using direct imagery of the female form in Progressive Pain to absolutely no imagery at all in the sound piece, it moved me in the direction of telling this story using all three mediums, a middle ground between the two. I work from autobiographical experiences as subject matter as a means to explore the perceived vulnerability of the female form. With that in mind, I decided to focus on the effects of childhood trauma and how inner strength and external kindness can guide you through emotional pain. In The Whole is less than the Sum of Her Parts the narrative for me was an integral part of the project. The story was so important, by using sound it allowed me to expose the emotion of the words spoken. This was something I wanted to keep sincere and by incorporating the use of text and moving image I managed to create fragmentation, a breathing space away from the truth.

What are the significance of the locations filmed?
I filmed in my hometown, Middlesbrough. The place worked really well as I wanted something personal to me but something that would remain universal which is why the location isn’t mentioned in the film, I wanted it to resonate with the audience, I wanted them to feel like this place could have been their home. The location also worked due to its declining industrial industry which the town was built on, from this I was able to capture cinematic views of pollution and decay but then, amazingly, it has a beautiful coast and the town sits on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors so you have these areas of outstanding natural beauty. It communicates the juxtaposition that is consistent throughout the film narrative.

What has it been like to share such personal and often taboo personal moments?

It can be quite difficult. This story in particular was something I wanted to do for close to five years but didn’t feel ready enough to commit to it, I wanted to do it justice and I wouldn’t have been able to do that had I rushed into it. I still found it very difficult while making the film, half way through I shut down and I didn’t feel ready to deal with the sound aspect of the film, which is a narrative of childhood trauma, mainly that of sexual assault and I instead decided to focus on the editing of the film before the film was even finished! I went into complete denial. Luckily I had an amazing university tutor who told me straight, she made me accept that I was afraid and I managed to get it finished. I think feeling afraid or apprehensive is quite normal. It’s hard, once you start something you don’t know what wounds are going to be reopened but I think it’s best not to rush it. Take a breath.

How important was it for you to mix both your difficult experiences with those of love throughout the video?

That was the most difficult part of creating the piece. I wanted a balance between the positive and negative, to give the full picture. I didn’t want the work to be a monologue of negative experiences, life isn’t like that; everyone has small acts of kindness gifted upon them, no matter how small. By juxtaposing the damage inflicted against the dialogue of a stable relationship, I aimed to communicate the act of reparation, whether that be self-achieved or with the help of someone else, the light at the end of the tunnel almost. I overlaid moving image, text imagery and sound narrative to create a sense of disorder and confusion, to show that it isn’t a simple, smooth one way journey out of despair. You have sound, a voice invading your ears with a traumatic story while you are trying to read affirmative words flashing in front of you. Are the two intimate? Are they the same person? Is the cinematic imagery of landscapes the location of these events? The audience is trying to piece all these areas together like a jigsaw. To get the full picture you first have to dissect it, to see how they all interlink, to show a path from start to finish. Without love interrupting pain, no one would know how I got to where I am now.

How do you see your work developing and what's next for you?

I will be undertaking my MA at The Slade School of Fine Art in September 2016 where I will be researching the narrative of feminist movements, examining the issues raised in each movement and examining how this influenced the work being made during that time. I’m interested to see if the issues of working class women have been communicated in art and if so how much attention has this work been given in relation to women from a higher social standing? I will also be looking at work from lesbian artists or those dealing with queer subject matter, in order to examine whether lesbian visibility in art correlates with the intersectionality in the feminist movement.
By concentrating on class and queer visibility within art, especially that in the medium of film and sound, I will be able to link my personal to my practice through theoretical research. Therefore allowing myself to develop as an artist, intellectually or creatively.