Marianna Cardenio

Italian Photographer Marianna Cardenio, now based in Madrid, presents her work A Personal Truth as an allegorical journey through the process of depression.

"This project was realised with the aim of sharing in a subtle and implicit way a personal experience that lasted for about two years.

The bedroom was my refuge during that time, the private space where I could finally take off my strong and happy person mask and look deeply - through the reflection of my image in the mirror - into my feelings, my state of soul, my inner struggles, to face the many questions and no-answers and the uncontrollable urge to get out of the tunnel, contrasted by the lack of strength and energy to do it.

People usually tend not to arise too many questions about what there might be behind the appearance of others. I have always been very good at hiding my torments at the time, not to disappoint my loved ones and especially because I have always firmly believed that no one could ever help me or understand me, considering that sometimes I could not understand myself either.

The idea for this project was to create a sort of panoramic image in which the bedroom - shot from a certain distance in the first and last photograph - represented the way in which such place can generally be perceived from an outsider and the close-up on the subject happening in the middle, depicts the what is actually going on inside the bedroom.

The viewer's reaction has always been silence, but a silence which told many words. I think the journey through depression is something that almost anyone, if not personally, through relatives, experiences in a more or less direct way. My project attempts to tell one of the aspects of such a journey, aiming at leaving the viewer with unanswered questions.

Many photographers inspire my work, both stylistically and conceptually, although I must say that I really like the idea of producing images which somehow recall paintings. I always try to create a series of photographs that can stand either alone or combined with others. Therefore I guess that maybe art in general inspires me a lot more than other photographers' work when I think of how to organise a project."

Ella Macnish

Ella Macnish is a photographer affected by mood instability and impulse control difficulties. Her mental health conditions and dyslexia provide challenges in studying, working and maintaining relationships, but her passion for photographing her support network is hugely beneficial for her.

"These photos are deeply important to me because of the way they capture the expressions on the faces of my two favourite people in Melbourne. I recently moved back interstate and having to leave the beautiful support network of people I found in Melbourne has been the hardest part of moving. These are friends who really got me, and who make me proud everyday for the way they are working through there own mental health issues. I hope the people viewing these photos will do so with the knowledge that not only are my subjects struggling they are also fighting and not giving up. I think the traits of resilience and kindness are evident in my subjects faces."


Manuela Thames

Manuela Thames is a photographer originally from Germany, now living in the US. With a background in nursing and alternative healthcare, Manuela turned to photography after the death of her brother and birth of her son in an attempt to make sense of the contrast of both loss and creation of new life.

You've said that after the death of your brother and the birth of your first son that you gravitated towards photography. What is it about this medium that you love?

I have always loved photography and felt drawn to it, but for most of my life it didn’t really occur to me that I could pursue it as anything more than an idle hobby, partly becuase I did not really have any confidence in my own artistic abilities. But still, I consistently found myself admiring artists, and photographers in particular. I strongly connect with photographs, but I cannot say exactly why.

I found out I was pregnant with my first child only a couple of months after my brother passed away, so obviously that was an intense time. I was in such shock over my brother’s death that I felt incapable of embracing a new life. The words that come to mind about that year are sadness, anxiety, loneliness, extreme nausea, and guilt (especially because I did not feel very excited about the pregnancy). In a way I disappeared for months and withdrew from the world around me, even people closest to me. It was such an interruption of my life that I think deep down something shifted directions, and despite the pain and distress (or because of them), new possibilities were opened up to me, as well as a new urge – indeed a need – to express myself as a way of dealing with all the confusion and tumult.

After my son was born, my husband bought us a DSLR camera because he wanted to take lots of pictures of him. I ended up starting to just take pictures everywhere and of anything. I began studying other photographers and taking self-portraits. The combination of birth and death, grief and joy really changes you and shows you a lot more about life, and I found this was the perfect time to start using photography as a way to explore, ponder, and express some of this.

How do you think your background in nursing and alternative health care plays into your practice as a photographer?

When I decided to become a nurse, I had very idealistic intentions – helping people, being there for your patients, possibly going to a developing country for a while, and so on. But when I was in nursing school, and especially when I started working in a hospital, I found it to be quite different than what I had envisioned – it was mechanized and impersonal, very high stress, and nurses were treated with very low regard which led to a lot of antagonism and power-plays among the nurses themselves and between nurses and doctors. I had a strong sense of not fitting into that environment, which exacerbated the more general sense of not fitting in that I already struggled with. Moreover, I was in the lung cancer ward, and so was frequently confronted with dying, terrible smells, bodily fluids, grieving families, etc., but had no way of dealing with that at an emotional level in such an environment. I can definitely say I cared about my patients a lot, but I cared about them in a way that could not be realized in a fast paced, mechanized, and hostile environment. I think I naturally approached patients holistically, which, after I had moved to America and left nursing behind, led me to become interested in alternative health care. The sense of health that this represents – a kind of “wholeness” that encompasses body, mind, spirit, community, and nature – informs a lot of my photography, including the corresponding sense of “disease” as fragmentation, separation, lostness, and the like.

What was your motive behind producing the work from Broken Mirror?

We had a mirror hanging in our living room that I always wanted to use in my pictures.

I had a vision of an entire series using just a mirror and myself as an object, which then evolved into the idea of using pieces of a broken mirror and playing with the distortions and partial reflections. Before I start photographing, I often have a very clear sense of what I want a picture or series to look like, and then I just need to get it out. In this case, I just took the mirror off my wall and broke it myself so that I could play around with the pieces.

I had been thinking about the way we see different reflections of ourselves throughout the day, not just mirrors but also windows or other surfaces. And each time I am surprised at how different each reflection is and also how different I probably look to others from what I think I look like. This has always brought up the questions of perception, truth, reality, and how a reflection can be really deceptive, even though it’s usually assumed to be true.

Broken Mirror examines themes of identity and the returning gaze of ourselves in the mirror. What kind of research did you undertake around this subject?

I didn't do any “formal” research, in the sense of devoted studies to literature on this subject. However, I have long been drawn to literature of all sorts – fiction, popular articles, essays and biographies, and so on – that explore these kinds of themes of self-perception and distortion.

But I think most of the inspiration simply came from my own thoughts and reflections on this topic, as well as conversations with others.

Where do you draw inspiration from?
I often get inspired when I wonder around in nature. I love the beauty, solitude and quietness. While going for a walk or hike I think about life, relationships, struggles and my thoughts can just wander. Occasionally I then get an idea for a picture or concept. Sometimes it is very clear and I know exactly what I want it to look like, and sometimes it is something I need to pursue and just experiment with.

I also get inspired by poetry, music, film, and most especially by photographers whose work I admire.

What's next for you?

I am currently in the process of working on a new series titled “Milk Bath”. This time it won’t be a self portrait series, but portraits of a variety of people, and they all have to get in a bath tub filled with milk water. I don't want to give too much away, but very broadly speaking this series will explore themes of dependency, equality, and unity.

Fairly recently I began working with musicians and bands and shooting work that they can use for promotions or album covers.

And of course, I am always working on getting my work published, exhibited and expanding my portfolio.

Maren Klemp

Maren Klemp is an artist from Oslo, Norway. Klemp's deeply emotive images incorporate the magic of the Scandinavian landscape, using both herself and her children as her subjects.

In your artist statement you mention that your work is "a plunge into the darker sides of the human mind." How did this theme in your work come about and how has it developed throughout your practice?

Well, ever since I was a child I have seen great beauty in dark art and literature. I had a passion for writing poetry and short stories when I was younger, and my writing was quite dark as well. When I started photography it felt natural to continue on the same path. My images are products of my thoughts, so I guess that my mind is quite dark.

The subjects in your photographs consist of yourself and your children. Has this been a conscious decision to focus on your family?

Yes! My experience is that working with self portraiture and close family gives me full control over the creative process. it is not that I enjoy seeing my face in pictures so much, but I find it much easier to convey the meaning behind the picture by using myself as a model. The children looks wonderful in front of the camera, and they know exactly what I want them to do, so I feel that we have made many of my images together. Another good reason to do self portraiture is that you are always available for shoots!

You've often mentioned that your work aims to raise awareness and create a dialogue around mental health. How have your own experiences (if any) played into the images that you create?

Yes, I have. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder a couple of years ago, and it really brought the pieces together for me. I decided to be totally open about it, and to photograph my experiences with mental illness. This resulted in my first solo-exhibition called "The Veil Of Fog" here in Oslo.

What is your favourite photograph that you’ve taken and why?

My favorite photograph these days is called "The Bird Tamer". This picture really calms me down, and I have had so much positive feedback on it from people saying that they experience peace by looking at it. The picture shows a woman setting a bird free from captivity, and I think that brings out strong feelings in people.

The Bird Tamer
The Bird Tamer

What is your creative process like? How do you get from an idea to the final image?

I have a rule that I always follow, and that is to never pick up my camera unless I know exactly how I want the photograph to look like. First I draw sketches and makes notes of props, location, settings and so on. By planning the image that carefully, the shoot itself does not take that long. I can spend several hours on post processing just to make sure that I haven't missed anything.

In a lot of your self-portraits you’re photographed with your eyes closed. Is this a conscious decision?

Yes. For some reason I find it hard to stare straight into the camera, and I think that is because I reveal so much about myself and my own disease through my images. I feel naked with my eyes open, and I feel much more comfortable with my eyes closed.

Your work often feels like a continuous flow, not broken into projects as some photographers work. How do you view your work and each image that you create?

I found my own voice and style quite early in my career, and I have always stayed true to that voice. The images just pops up in my head, and I get a strong urge to create them. I try not to think too much when I create, I just follow my mind and work with what it gives me. Although it is important to me that the pictures conveys the right mood and emotions that I had when I created them.

Could you talk us through your collaborative book Between Intervals with Jose Escobar?

In late 2013 I met Jose' on Flickr, and we instantly felt that our work "spoke the same language", and that we decided to collaborate on a book project. The theme of the book is bipolar disorder, and by putting Jose's landscape photographs together with my portraits was interesting, and made me realize how strong the connection between nature and the human mind is. Nature has played a huge part in my work since my collaboration with Jose'. This is how we describe out book:

Between Intervals, is a joint effort of two photographers across an ocean, is a sequence of images visually depicting scenes, objects and portraits of people as found at the edge, an event horizon, right at the moment of coming in or coming out, emerging and entering, sometimes trapped, with a feeling of isolation from others and the rest of the world.
Decay and darkness, overgrown vegetation spreading through doors and window, lonely scenes, places crumbling and figures which are merely silhouettes and blurs, other looking intently into empty space, are images often used to describe such experiences by those afflicted with this disorder.

They even get the sensation at times of being inside an organic membrane from which it is difficult to emerge. Many times they feel they have been marked by the grip of darkness, touched by a sense of sadness, of not belonging, of living inside a world where few can enter and understand. This is what "Between Intervals explores and dives into."

What's next for you?

My plan is to make another book, travel in order to gain more inspiration, and build on my portfolio.

Max Kellenberger

Max Kellenberger is a Swiss photographer based in San Francisco, USA. He tells us a few words about his on-going project Carry, a street photography style project that metaphorically explores the emotional burdens that strangers carry.

How did your project Carry begin and how long were you working on it?

I started photographing Carry about 3 years ago. It is all related to my work with a psychoanalyst in downtown San Francisco. After a very invasive and painful medical intervention I lost the ground under my feet and decided to "dive under" and investigate the bottom of my abyss. Being a photographer, I am so used to carrying (speaking of "Carry"...!) a camera all the time. One day walking to the therapist's office and waiting at a cross walk for the light to turn green I noticed that just about every single person is carrying some thing(s). I started to point my DSLR at people, focusing on the area between neck and feet. It's an ongoing series. I am still shooting but not as regularly as I used to. I seem to have become a bit less dependent on carrying my camera...

Your photographs look like they're taken surreptitiously — do you ask subjects if you can photograph them?

Yes, your assumption is correct. I am shooting from the hip, without people noticing. That also means that I end up using only about 1% of all the material. Out of focus, bad framing, bad exposure etc. A lot of editing! I do not feel bad about not asking people's permission. I am not showing any faces, it's not about individuals, it's about the human condition, the fact that we seem to need to carry something, holding on to objects. It gives a purpose, meaning, reason.

Has working on Carry brought you any closure on your own emotional difficulties?

Realizing how people share this common human trait is comforting. Realizing that I am unique and at the same time so similar to the 7 billion people is a grounding quality. Observing other people and imagining what kind of emotional loads they might be carrying helps me looking at my own.

What are you working on now?

On September 3 my solo show with the title "Le Scarpe" - Italian for "The Shoes" - opened in downtown San Francisco. It's a series of twelve large format toned cyanotypes depicting empty shoe boxes. The titles of the prints are the names of the designer of the shoes which were inside the box, like "Gucci", "Saint Laurent" or "Fendi" to name just a couple. It's been on my mind to do something with those shoe boxes ever since I started to collect them well over a decade ago. I believe that working on Carry has enabled me to look more inside myself and see a void, an abyss, a longing which is so well expressed in these empty boxes. My next project however will be sort of a retrospective of 50 years of photography in the shape of a handmade artist't book which hopefully will turn into a traveling show. I am very excited about it!

Max's exhibition “Le Scarpe” currently runs until October 17th at Corden/Potts Gallery, 49 Geary St., San Francisco.

Ashley Whitt

Ashley Whitt is a fine art photographer whose work deals with themes of duality within the self, psychological states, and mortality. She uses a variety of photographic techniques including dass transfers, digital manipulation in Photoshop, sculptural bookmaking, and traditional darkroom processes. Ashley is a Texas native and currently resides in Dallas.

How did the idea for The Haunted Mind come about?

I began the series in 2012, shortly after I graduated from Texas Woman's University with my MFA in photography. My biggest fear after graduation was that I would not continue making art. I didn’t want to lose that fire to create, so I began to think about what was most important for me to portray in my work.

I began sketching storyboards and scouting locations for inspiration. I knew I wanted to make a series that tip toed the line between truth and fiction. I found the truth of the work in my struggles with depression and anxiety that I have battled since I was in high school. The fictions through dreams, memories, desire for narrative and inspiration from literature and film. Through the solitary performance of the work, my unconscious mind began to reveal underlying issues of my mother’s passing, and a fascination with death.

Can you explain a little bit about the physical process of creating these works (with dass transfers etc)? What drew you to working in this way?

The process I use within my work is called Dass transfer. The image is inkjet printed onto a special transparency film that has an emulsion coating on one side. Hand sanitizer or a special medium called SuperSauce are the two most common mediums used to transfer the image from the transparency to any final surface including paper, metal and fabric. The transfer technique allows for manipulation, and I use several methods to create my desired aesthetic. By applying more medium, I can create blurred areas in the image. I also use a bone folder to create different marks. I first learned about the Dass transfer process during my time at graduate school. I instantly fell in love with the technique and aesthetic.

What inspirations do you draw on when thinking of new images?

Many of my aesthetic inspirations come from film and literature. I particularly love horror and thriller films. A Tale of Two Sisters is a Japanese horror movie that I’ve watched over and over. I also love Alfred Hitchcock; Vertigo and Shadow of a Doubt are a few of my favorites. A short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne titled The Haunted Mind, has provided a well of inspiration for the series. Hawthorne writes about the edge of conscious and unconscious thought achieved on the edge of sleep. I saw many parallels to the imagery in the story and how I felt inside.

How do the chosen locations play into the images from this project?

I love exploring secluded parks or wooded areas that I can get lost within. A sense of solitude in my location choices is important to my meditative and deeply personal working process. Currently, I'm lucky because a quiet wood where much of this work is photographed is within walking distance of my apartment.

Has making the work for The Haunted Mind helped you in any way deal with the death of your mother or the subsequent depression, and how?

I lost my mother to cancer 7 years ago, right as I began studying photography. For a while I made work based on fairytales and children's literature as a means to escape reality. As I started developing my voice as an artist, my work shifted and became a combination of fantasy and a fascination with death. As grad school ended, my work shifted again and began to discuss mental illness and its effects. Since grad school, my work has focused less on mental illness and become more about the psychological experience of loss and living with anxiety.

As an artist, I feel it is necessary to make work that reflects my own life experience and what lives in my mind. I think about my mom constantly, and wish I could talk to her and ask her questions. When I make art, I create a visual interpretation of my longing for her and the questions that will never be answered. There are ideas I cannot express through words, and only images can act as my voice. This is why I make art.

Since these images are one offs, how are they usually shown within an exhibition environment?

I can recreate similar techniques with the Dass transfer, but no two images are ever exactly the same. Each image is unique. I usually show the series in one setting or have a few pieces in a group exhibition at a time. I use magnets to suspend the images from the wall, which allows for the paper to move as people walk through the gallery. I also use grids to display my images.

What's next for you?
Since April, I have been on hiatus from photographing for The Haunted Mind to pursue other projects. I still draw storyboards for images and scout locations for but I am not actively shooting images. Currently, I am making handmade sculptural books out of lumen prints layered with sewing, which I call Anxiety Studies. The books focus on the act of sewing as a visual interpretation of anxiety

Aleksandra Stone

Aleksandra Stone is an artist and photographer from then Yugoslavia by way of the U.S. Her delicately intricate self-portraits straddle both photography and sculpture, taking an incredible amount of time to construct with a high production value. Her self-portrait work aims to express her feelings around living with depression and human vulnerability.

Could you explain a little bit about your background — where you're from and how you found your way to Louisville, Kentucky?

My mother, father, and I were admitted to America in 1998 as refugees evading war and persecution during the political upheaval in what is formerly known as Yugoslavia. Prior to our arrival to the United States, my family had been residing in Germany for a number of years following a difficult and perilous escape from the country of my birth. Our move to the U.S., and more particularly to Louisville, Kentucky, was one of a handful of options presented to us by the German government following denial of our request for permanent residence. Actually, Germany approved two out of three of us for permanent residence, but my parents chose not to split up the family, and we packed our life into four suitcases and headed into the unknown.

How old were you when you began to take photographs & what drew you to photography as a medium?

I have always been interested in photography; in fact, it was the only common ground my father and I shared. I remember from a young age it was one of the few things in which he possessed the patience to educate me. I spent most of my formative years dabbling in all types of creative media, but in all honesty, I excelled at none of them. In Louisville, I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to attend one of the best secondary schools in the area. However, the only thing I gathered from my experience was that I was extraordinarily inept at painting, drawing, textiles, and ceramics. Even though I felt a great sense of belonging in the art studio, the quality of work I produced was mediocre at best. By the time I made it through University, I had abandoned art entirely. It was not until the passing of an incredibly dear friend in 2012 that I picked my camera up as a means of coping with the grief. Initially, I did not know where the experience would take me, but it occupied my mind, and instilled me with a sense of purpose when I needed it the most. It has now been a little over three years, and my biggest accomplishment has been abandoning variations of the mantra "...if you only know how to do one thing, do it well."

This may not necessarily be true for others, but in my experience, this expression was incredibly detrimental to my artistic experience. In years prior, I spent entirely too long determining what, exactly, my one “well” thing was. It was not until recently that I embraced a different approach, which led to my understanding that it is acceptable to be okay at a multitude of things, and to use these building blocks as a framework for something greater.

Your photographs are highly conceptual in their execution and often have a high production value. What is the process of creating a photograph like, including the headpieces?

From conceptualization, my process of creating a portrait begins with self-made costumes, masks, sculptures, and oft elaborate set designs that are integral in conveying the scene and setting the tone of the photograph. It can take several weeks to months to create delicate pieces out my preferred media, fabric, glass, metal, stone, and animal bones. It is crucial that it all be real and tangible. The production of the three-dimensional pieces is typically arduous and mind-numbingly repetitive. The completed products are incredibly delicate as they are most always made from pieces of something that used to be whole. The entire process mimics different stages of depression; a barrage of the same tiring thoughts day after day, picking up the pieces in attempt to put yourself back together, but what began as strong is now fragile.

Many pieces become irreparably damaged during the photo shoot, casualties of rough or constant handling. The ones that make it get to live on forever as a separate entity outside of the photograph.

You talk openly in your work about your experiences with depression. How has photography helped with your mental health and in what way?

I have a tremendous admiration for storytellers; oral, visual, and written accounts have been indisputably integral to our advancement and enrichment as a society. My presence behind my camera has instilled me with a sense of purpose, and given voice to a narrative for which I otherwise lacked words. Presently, I am on a quest, one I feel every person has the ability to set out upon. It is grounded in the belief that each individual is capable of making a positive and significant impact in the world. I am of the opinion that topics pertaining to mental health have been dwelling in the shadows of history for too great a time. Only as of late have we begun to unveil and understand the stifled voices of the past. The world is now a better place than ever, in part due to social media, which enables individuals rather than institutions to become vehicles for disseminating information about mental health. Photography has become my voice in this ambitious undertaking to share my journey with others. It busies my mind and my body. This is immensely important, as depression tends to feel akin to swimming in an ocean with no sight of land; you can tread, swim, or float but no matter which method you chose, survival requires constant effort.

What do you hope viewers take away from your images?

Through my work, I aspire to illuminate the vulnerabilities of what it means to be human, no matter how unflattering. While life before the camera can be intimidating, I disallow it to be defeating. Behind every self-portrait endeavor is a dedicated effort to create a piece that is exempt from the scrutiny of the self, so that it may convey a message of perseverance and authenticity. My primary goal is to establish a personal connection with the viewer by entrusting them with my narrative, and welcoming them to participate in an open discourse about the prevalence of mental health issues in our society. I have no doubt that each member of my viewing audience has something crucial to contribute to this conversation, whether be an introspective assessment of their own life, an improved understanding of an unfamiliar subject matter, or the discovery of art as an avenue to communicating their own psychological frailties.

What are you working on now, and what's next?

At the moment, I am in the process of creating pieces for a solo show that transpires over the course of two months next summer. I am also attempting to ready myself for a move to New York City later this fall. Presently, I am uncertain of what to expect of the latter, other than the inevitability of having to get even more creative managing a clutter of pieces in what will indisputably be a microscopic space. I am enormously curious to see how that change of scenery will affect my work.

Dolly Sen

Dolly Sen is a visual artist, writer, film-maker, and performer interested in non-consensual reality, outsidership, empathy, authenticity and absurdity. She has been labeled 'mad' by society. Her work aims to show she makes perfect sense. She thinks reality is a cheeky bastard, and wants to put him over my lap and slap his naughty arse.

Dolly shares with Fragmentary two of her films — Greenhouse Of Hearts and Life As A Side Effect.

Click below to see Life As A Side Effect.
Click here to jump to Greenhouse Of Hearts

Life As A Side Effect: A Survivor made film exploring the effect of psychosis and medication on the quality of life of those experiencing it. This film shows how it can affect every corner of life, even simple things like answering the phone. This film follows Stu Adams, a man with the experience of schizophrenia. A walk in the park is not simply a walk in the park....

Your work is deeply engrained in exploring mental health, both in your films and other artwork. How have your own experiences fed into the making of your artworks, if at all?

I would say most of my own experiences have fed into my creativity. People don’t seem to understand psychosis unless I translate it through film and art. My reality needs more than me just viewing it alone. My passport is stamped with lands no one has visited. I cannot return to the homely tyranny of psychosis, even though I still think in that language. I have become a stateless person, not accepted in my new land. My mind is too strange to pay the adequate amount of taxes. My soul is too hurt to accept any more bullshit. My dreams do not belong in this world. I can’t say society is meaningful and that I am happy to be part of it. So what can I do but share my experiences through my art?

Is there a message or common thread that binds your works together?

That unusual states of mind should not be pathologised, but accepted as human experience; that reality is sometimes naughty and deserves its arse slapped; and that ‘mental illness’ is more to do with a broken heart than a broken brain.

What initially drew you to filmmaking?

I have had a life-long interest in it that stems from being a film extra, such as being in films like Empire Strikes Back. I did think it was a documentary at the time. I lived in a world of pain then and film provided a different reality to escape into. Now it validates my different reality.

What is your creative process when working on a new film?

The idea comes first, after I usually need a person to bounce ideas off and to help me develop them. Words then flood the creative space. Then the sounds. The pictures and images come last, funnily enough.

Is there a cathartic drive behind your work?

I don’t know, to be honest. It does feel like after I create, one more ghost is exorcised, one more monster is humiliated. But at the same time the bigger monsters seem to have more room to dance.

What has it been like sharing your work? Have you had any anxieties around sharing work that is often seen as a sensitive subject matter?

I was anxious at first, but then I realised I can only be true to my own experience and to show the world where shame can go and do one. I don’t aim to be representative of an experience or label, only of what my experience has done to me.

What are you working on now and what are you working on next?

I am interested in how mental health is represented in archives, whose narrative on madness has the power, so am doing some work around that. I am curating, exhibiting, and giving talks for the next few months. But the main project will be a studio film on hearing voices. Next year I want to do a Phd.

Greenhouse of Hearts: A short documentary about Portugal Prints, a mental health arts project, exploring art, being an outsider, the heart and mental health, commissioned by The Royal Academy and Disability Arts Online.

Stephanie Boreham

Stephanie Boreham was born in Kingston, Greater London in 1991. Stephanie works in a predominately moving image medium at present, but her main passion and starting point has always been photography. Stephanie has just completed her Fine Art Degree at the University of Westminster, London in 2015. Stephanie has been involved in various exhibitions in the last 3 years. She lives and works in London.

This project is a visual documentation of the home I grew up. It is a insight into the domestic space where my Mother and Father live. The project was initially meant to focus purely just on my Mother who suffers from severe depression and OCD, but I also became interested in my Father's presence in the images and what this brought to the series of work. I wanted to show my parents movement in the imagery, while using the domestic space as a backdrop to the photographs.

I was interested in following and documenting my mother's movements every time I visited, and noticed that every photograph looked the same as the last, even in the months that past. I was saddened by this realisation, but at the same time very fascinated by it and it actually became a bit of a compulsive act for me, that I would photograph her every time I visited without fail. My mother appears to exist in the photographs but almost merges into the domestic space, she has no identity; her illness strips her of one. My mother can sometimes appear as an object in the house, a piece of furniture or almost a ghost floating through the space. This is also a reflection of our relationship and her role of being my mother; she is there, but most of the time she is not. She can't be due to being so engrossed in her illness, and this is all I have ever known of my mum. I have only ever known her as 'not being well'.

For me, so much time has passed and things have changed for me since I've left home. Going back now I have realised that the house is almost a time-capture, as if time has stood still; nothing has changed, not the domestic space nor the people in it.

Kristianne Drake

Kristianne Drake is a photographer from Southampton, UK. She is interested in the human relationships that occur within a place and the (sometimes) incidental observations that occur. Kristianne lectures in BA (Hons) Photography at Southampton Solent University and also works at the John Hansard Gallery delivering part of their education program working alongside the Southampton Youth Offending Services.

Here we feature two of her projects, You Were Here and Sometimes Things Just Disappear. Her project You Were Here began when Kristianne Drake began to fall ill. As her OCD worsened her observation of the never-ending piling up of teabags in the family home began to frustrate her.

"These photographs represent an inability to assess rationally. They are the injustice in a household that conspires; the crisis felt when rational thinking becomes clouded, and the instability of a brain whose chemical imbalance does not allow these things to be resolved simply.

Mental health does not have an off switch. Mental health problems don’t discriminate. Some of us have got really good at hiding it until we hit crisis point.

At first when I noticed the piles of tea bags I just got angry, but left them there to see how long it would be before they got cleared away, I guess it became a game that only I knew I was playing. This is one of the manifestations of my mental health illness, I only see the problems that affect me and they become overwhelming and over exaggerated: some might say selfish.

They were these defiant towers that irrationally engulfed my sense of normality every morning. I thought that by dragging my 6x6 camera into the kitchen on its tripod would give me a better advantage - it became like a war between me and the teabags only I was both victim and perpetrator.

This went on for months.

I never touched the piles of tea bags and nor did I ever clear them away.

I didn't tell anyone I was making a photographic documentation of them either."

Kristianne's project Sometimes Things Just Disappear was made in 2011 as a response to circumstance. Using her bedroom — a place she was increasingly withdrawing to — as her backdrop, these photographs are coupled with texts from recorded conversations with a family member. In these recordings they discussed life changing decisions, living with choices we make and how we affect other people. Each photograph is hand printed.