Morgan Cable

Morgan Cable is a photographer currently studying Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at the Swansea College of Art. In his work Isolation Cable attempts to convey his experiences of anxiety and his feelings of being alone.

How did you get into photography?

I got into photography during my first year of sixth form taking it as one of my A Level subjects after my history lessons had shown me some of the earliest photojournalists such as Robert Capa, Eddie Adams and Don McCullin, their stories of adventure and the lengths they would go to in order to capture a photograph was awe inspiring. I got to grips with photography during my A Levels and then applied to the Swansea College of Art to study Photojournalism and Documentary Photography.

What is it that attracted you to explore mental health in your work?

I wouldn’t say I was necessarily attracted to working on the topic of mental health but after two young men I knew growing up committed suicide due to the effects of mental illness and that I was also going through hard times on my own, I felt that it was time to do something about it. Since then I have been creating work in an attempt to get people talking about mental health as I feel the more talking that goes on, the better we will soon be equipped to help deal with the problems.

Morgan Cable

Morgan Cable

What has it been like making work about your anxiety? Has it been cathartic at all?

At times it has been difficult trying to create work on my anxieties as for a number of years I had been subduing a large amount of my emotions so to begin with it was hard to find out my anxieties meant to me, i.e. how they can affect me on a day to day basis, how easy are they to deal with. Once I had started opening up to people, I began to really understand what I was going through and my working process from then on has been much more organised and patient and made it a much more stress-free experience.

Can you describe what making photographs about anxiety means to you?

It's currently one of the major driving factors behind my work. After struggling to gain any opportunity to work with organisations and charities set up to help those suffering from mental illness, my self reflective work allowed me to still begin my own process of helping people and in many ways had more of a powerful effect in my opinion.

What is the significance of the room in your photographs?

The bedroom represents the concept of insecurity. Although the bedroom is seen as a place of rest, a safe sanctum within the home, a secure zone. The fact it is a secure place means it is very easy for a person to get trapped in the zone, refusing to leave only causing more anxieties when the person finally does leave. I have attempted to represent the darkness and suffocating feelings I have experienced.

Morgan Cable

What do you get inspired by? Are there any particular photographers whose work you admire?

As I mentioned before the work of Eddie Adams and Don McCullin has always been a source of inspiration for my work, their grit and determination to capture images had a massive effect of both history and the future.

Morgan Cable

What do you hope viewers will take from your work?

Overall I hope to encourage people to talk about their emotions and to help others talk about theirs. In the future I hope through working with organisations, viewers will be able to take the links and the knowledge they need to be okay.

What are you working on next?

I am currently looking for external contacts to work with during my 3rd year of university to create a project, which will be exhibited in London next year.

Olli Wiegner

Olli Wiegner is a contemporary landscape photographer currently living in Bielefeld, Germany who was born in 1993. Presently, he is studying Photography & Media at the FH Bielefeld Faculty of Art and Design. His projects mostly focus on the interaction of humankind with the landscape and how this relationship changes over time. In Entropy Definition No. 2 Wiegner explores landscape and place in relation to themes of memory, childhood and perception.

Entropy Definition No. 2 focuses on how suffering arises in a person and traces its roots into memories of childhood and youth. The photographs are intentionally vague and open to allow the viewer to search for their own interpretation or relate to certain emotions. They provoke questions without certain answers to emphasise how memories fade and warp over time. This fallible construct is the base for our feelings and perception of the world around us which thus is in constant change — potentially leading to feelings of tension and ambiguity. We never truly are, but merely exist in an approximation in between our past experiences and those still to come.

What is it that attracted you to some of the places photographed throughout the project? Is the work thematic in any way?

The scenes I photographed each have had some sort of influence on me as a person. They are loosely sorted by their associated time period starting with childhood, leading to youth and then finally adulthood. My intention behind the project was to examine how suffering arises in a person and how passing time changes perception. To allow the viewer to find their own interpretations and maybe even themselves, I’ve kept the photos quite open and broad to prevent the work being specifically about myself.

Our relationship to place can change based on varied factors. Are your emotional relationships to these sites forever in flux, or do they represent deep rooted experiences for you?

Both I think. My relationship with the scenes definitely is deeply rooted as I tend to come back to them quite often – both physically as well as mentally. My perception of them and what they mean to me does change with time though. Some become less meaningful, others more and vice versa, so they are in flux. I feel like a lot of confusion might actually stem from that. If a person is made up of the sum of their experiences, but those change through time, how or when can you ever be truly yourself?

Can you tell us the story behind one or two images from the project?

As a kid, I really enjoyed playing with LEGO and sand and water. As the photographs would be sequenced close to the beginning, I tried to make the photos look sort of artificial. It’s quite obvious that they’re set up to show that it’s me looking back, rather than me being or doing which sets the tone for the whole series.

An actual story I remembered was of a school field trip to a local nature park that inspired the photo of the river and the broken down tree. Some of my schoolmates threw three girls into the river shown in the photograph and the parents involved belittled the situation by saying that they were just playing and having fun. A week later, the girls were dating the guys who threw them in. I sequenced the photo to be right next to the shot of the school I went to as this situation is a fitting summary of my experiences there.

What is it that attracted you to creating a book of the work and what was the process (if self-published, how etc)?

The initial idea for the form of presentation was actually to frame the photos at about 30x40cm, but my professor suggested that a book would make more sense as it’s a pretty personal project. I’ve decided to go with that and settled on a size which resembled that of an autograph book. You have to hold the book close to get a good look at the photographs which makes it sort of an intimate experience.

The book wasn’t published in any big, meaningful or traditional way unfortunately, but I might consider doing so at some point. There is a flip through on my website however, so you can get a look at it – minus the physical experience obviously.

What is it that draws you to landscape photography over other forms?

The lack of people to be honest. They’re really hard to photograph in my experience due to their lack of patience or me thinking I am somehow not “allowed” to take up more of their time. On a more positive note, there’s just something about wandering through nature, hip high grass and in between trees and getting lost. It’s so disconnected from the stress and the pressure of life really which makes it very enjoyable. Photographing in such condition is very easy for me as well, as it allows me to take my good five minutes composing, framing, measuring the light for a single shot without disturbing, interrupting or suspending anyone. The resulting photographs have a certain quality to them, a sort of romance thats broken up by a darkness or something that seems off which I find really fascinating as well and haven’t found anywhere else yet.

Does photography have any form of therapeutic element for you? If so, how?

I feel like photography in itself isn’t that therapeutic to me. However it does distract me from all of the struggles in life right in the very moment of actually being out there, photographing. I just walk from one photo to the next and everything else just isn’t there, of no consideration or any relevance. Looking through the viewfinder and setting up the shot is one of those rare moments I’d describe as “happiness” experienced in the click of the shutter. That being said, art in general and specifically photography did help me to get closer to the person I am supposed to be I think.

What are you working on next?

A project about the neighbourhood I live in. Located at the edge of the city I want to focus on the non-defined space between the functional architecture of living spaces and the untouched beauty of nature.

Mike Kear

Mike Kear is a London based documentary photographer. His practice primarily focuses on work for charities and NGOs both in the UK and worldwide. In his project Surface Tension Mikes reflects on the thoughts and experiences of the suicidal, producing abstract images taken at various sites of suicides along the Thames Bridges.

How did Surface Tension come about? What drew you to exploring suicide?

I was working on a project along the Thames looking at different aspects of the river as it passes through London. Whilst editing I was contemplating some images that looked straight down and how that might be the view of people contemplating suicide by jumping into the Thames. This led me to visiting various sites of suicides along the Thames Bridges. I then realised the shocking statistics of how frequently suicides were attempted on the Thames - often more than one a day! Suicide is the largest cause of death in young men in the UK and there has been very little dialogue on the issue. Organisations like CALM are now doing some amazing work. I am a survivor of three suicide attempts and I wanted to help increase the dialogue on the subject which is something very close to my heart. I have very much moved on from the issues in my life that made suicide seem a viable option for me, I am nonetheless very aware of a fine line that a lot of us tread. Choosing to participate in this interview was more difficult than I had initially thought, but despite the stigma around suicide, I feel it is important to show the very personal side to this work.

Your text is very moving and really transports you into the mind of the person contemplating jumping. I'm curious about what went through your mind as you stood there photographing each spot?

Sometimes I was very sad, other times I was quite scared when fulling engaging in the process, but often there was a certain calmness, somewhat difficult to describe.

Vauxhall Bridge
Tower Bridge

The images are quite hypnotic. What was your motive behind photographing in such an abstract way?

Suicide is such a complex and individual issue. By producing a series of abstract images of the surface of the water, the idea being to enable the viewer to engage with the subject without being too prescriptive; to allow the viewer to consider themselves in the position of the person contemplating suicide and allow them to bring their own thoughts to the issue.

Most of us have looked over the edge of a bridge, down into the water. It maybe whilst watching to see whose stick is the winner whilst playing Poohsticks or enjoying the playfulness of the water. Or it might be more contemplative, watching the allure of the water, possibly even imagining what it might be like to jump with no intention of actually doing so. A less common thought, though, is that of the person who is looking down into the water as they decide to jump to end their life.

With this series I seek to enable an emotional engagement with a very personal and intense issue - the issue of a person feeling their only option is to take their own life. These images are not merely an abstraction, they place the viewer in that very vulnerable position - one of a person in despair. Might it be that the person in despair is actually very similar to you and me?

Vauxhall Bridge

Where are the accompanying texts from?
The texts are from a variety of sources including some interviews I carried out with RNLI lifeboat crew from Kew and Tower lifeboat stations. Others are quotes from family members left behind and some texts are poetry. I was concerned that the poetry might over romanticise the issue, but being interspersed with the other quotes I hope they help with the contemplation of the images and the issues.

Tower Bridge
Blackfriars Bridge

You mention on your website you're working on a new project around suicide. Can you give us an insight into what that is?

This is an ongoing project and I’m continuing the series with other locations around the UK. I bought a camper van this year so I can spend time at different bridges and to connect with the people who look after the bridges and live or work nearby who are often affected by suicides. This work is also incorporating the stories of people who have survived suicide attempts. Alongside this I’m looking at the role and responsibility religion plays with suicide in the UK. Because this is a very emotive subject at this stage it’s probably better I don’t say anything to prejudice the project.

If any of your readers would like to be involved with this work they would be very welcome to get in touch with me.
@mikekear on Instagram.

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.

A Tale of Two Fathers

A Tale of Two Fathers, by Julia Horbaschk & Tim Andrews,is the start of a longer term project exploring the themes of loss & memory. In this short film Julia starts to explore her father's suicide whilst Tim remembers a father he never really knew. Julia Horbaschk is a producer, photographer and self-taught film maker specialising in social documentaries, editorial, portrait and travel. Tim Andrews' Over the Hill photographic project has led him to be photographed by over 420 during the last nine years after his diagnosis of parkinson's.

How did you and Tim meet?

Julia: Tim and I met at his Mini Click presentation on 13th July 2013, the day before my birthday at The Green Door Store in Brighton. I went for his talk really as I had just left behind my teaching career after 10 years due to a severe disk prolapse and I was curious about his project Over the Hill and the merging of photography & health. We had a chat after his talk - Alison Palmer was there too and we all exchanged contacts. Shortly after I received an email from Tim asking me if I'd like to photograph him. I said yes immediately and we met up at the Friends Meeting Place cafe on Hove seafront to get to know each other and pick brains for ideas. It's what I like to do before I photograph anyone - I meet them without my camera. You can read further both of our accounts of how we met here and here.

What was the stimulus for making the film?

Julia: The stimulus was to carry on working together creatively after I took Tim's picture for Over the Hill. We had already collaborated on a few short films and wanted to do something a little more comprehensive and meaningful. During a very funny cafe chat at the Bandstand Cafe we looked at all the things we had in common: being silly, stealing in childhood (don't tell anyone!), liking Monty Python, oh and we both lost our fathers when we were young! This seemed to be a topic I never really addressed and wanted to challenge myself with for a long time. I just didn't know how. Tim said he often interviews family and friends about their life and suggested we both write down questions for each other. This is how it started. We then wanted to bring some more artistic elements into the work rather than it just being documentary - not sure how much we succeeded in this but it's a start I suppose!

Has the making of the documentary been cathartic in any way?

Julia: It wasn't intended but I think yes to some extent it was cathargic. It wasn't easy, I had never talked about the suicide of my father publicly up until then and it felt quite vulnerable. I also never made a film so personal to me.
Tim was so bold and frank with his questions - he encouraged me to talk - hiding was no longer an option and I found a certain level of confidence when talking to him. There are hints of me being emotional - a smile from me may actually show my embarrassment rather then suggests that I am laughing. I was/ still am very aware around the stigma of suicide. However, with Tim it didn't matter. I think knowing him really helped me to open up. Tim was never judgemental towards me and my experience, this really made all the difference.

We are both self taught filmmakers, autodidacts and what we produced is quite raw and honest and perhaps not to everyone's taste.

What was cathargic also was the process of making the film, not to worry too much about technicalities or academic approach.
There is value in hearing each other's stories. I come from a culture where "production values" are sometimes dominating the underlying meaning of visual work. I have taken great inspiration from Werner Herzog in this respect and just went with what was there "a straight look". This is not to say I/we don't want to learn more about clever technics or an academic approach but as it stands this is it.

The short film does not tell the full story but it has opened up an avenue for us to explore new ways of working and this is very liberating and exciting!

Tim: Not so much for me but l have seen how much it means to Julia and that has been very gratifying. My feelings about my father are not so painful or unhappy because l never knew him. My life would have been totally different if he had lived but, as it happens, l have had a wonderful life - l have been very happy anyway. l think this is what connects me and Julia, a shared sense of humour and of loss and yet we have survived and enjoyed where we have got to.

I’m curious about what emotions making the film may have brought up. Was it difficult researching into the past?

Julia: Yes and no. As said with Tim it's easy to talk, but then you are always aware of the camera and who might see the film. Will they judge you? What will they think about you? About your opinions, ways to deal with the matter? I started to talk to my sister about it a little but there is still the big crunch point of my mother. She cannot talk about my father at all for various reasons. I hence feel some guilt towards making the film and have not been able to tell her about it. This is very difficult for me. Also there is so little left of my father. Only a few photographs. No one in the family really talks about what happened. There was so much pain, so many other issues: domestic violence, divorce, gambling. Half of the family does not speak to each other any more. Hard to get any truthful facts. I wished I would still have some of the objects he once gave me (a wooden heart) or his passport or see his medical records for example. Just something to work with. That's the hardest the photographs are all I've got. When I found out my uncle had written a book I was half ecstatic, half in agony. The relationship to my uncle broke down at the time my parents divorced. But since the book was available on Amazon I just bought it, every piece of memory to my father is precious. I wished he had written some letters to me!

How do you see the film/project developing?

Julia: I would really like it to continue. There are a few routes we thought about taking this project forward. One is by finding more people who lost their fathers and find out how it impacted on their lives/ what creative ways they may have found to deal with loss/ memory or include them in a continued participatory project. I hope it will encourage people to talk about their stories and although this may be a bit ambitious, I hope it will have a positive impact somewhere somehow helping protect lives from suicide.

The other is personal to me: In 1999/2000, When I was about 23, I produced a large body of work on 35mm slide film following my fathers journey into Europe and travelling mainly by myself. These images were a direct expression of my feelings of loss and seeking stability within myself. They include some long term exposure self-portraits (you can imagine them a bit in the style of Francesca Woodman - just in colour and only I had never heard of her at this time!).

There are over 100 images/ slides taken mainly in Switzerland and Paris. I tried to run through them all once with my lecturer at Brighton Uni but I got so overwhelmed as I could not express why I took these nor find a way to describe/ use/ present them. I was embarrassed about them. I always knew I want come back to them at some point and now 17 years later I may have found the right people to help me look at them again.

I am hoping to find a way to include them perhaps in the Brighton Photo Fringe 2016 or present them in book form. Both Tim and Wendy Pye have offered to help me make sense of the work and I hope their insight and sensitivity to the subject matter will give me confidence and ideas to present a least some of these images to a wider audience.