Zoe Amanda Jackson is a London based photographer who recently graduated from Canterbury Christ Church University. Jackson has a keen interest in still life photography and exploring mental health issues within her practice, particularly social anxiety, a condition she has suffered from since a young age.
What was it that first attracted you to photography?
My first attraction to photography was a present I received from my grandparents for my 11th birthday, which was a basic point-and-shoot digital camera. Gradually with help and tips from my Grandad, I would go out with him on the weekends and take photographs of my local park. My interest in photography developed further when I took up photography during my GCSEs, as my life goal at that point in my life was to become a photographer because of the experience of creating these images with my Grandad.
What has your experience with social anxiety been like? Has photography helped you to manage the condition or does it help you to explore your own anxieties?
My experience with social anxiety was difficult when I was a young child. I had trouble trying to communicate, even with the closest people around me. In result, I became very angry and upset constantly. There would be various points in my life where I could not say what I wanted to because something in the back of my mind was telling me not to. Photography has definitely helped me to explore my own anxieties. For my projects, talking to other people with anxiety and documenting how they feel, has let me to talk about my mental health a lot more, especially more openly to my family.
How did Disquiet come about?
Disquiet came about through my interest in exploring personal subjects to myself as I explored family issues in previous photography projects. The subject of mental health is something that I am passionate about exploring and understanding more. I felt the need for more people to know that it is okay to talk about your mental health, regardless of your gender, age or background as I did not talk about these issues growing up in my childhood.
How did you go about interviewing young people about their anxiety? Was it difficult finding people to be open about their experiences with you?
Before I went to university, I belonged to a support group for people with anxieties based in London. I decided to interview people from the group as I found that they was more likely to open up freely to a person who they knew and had a bond with as we went through the same support together. The people’s names have remained anonymous as requested by themselves, through fear of being judged. Through the still life images I have created, I have allowed them to have this powerful voice to remind people how important it is to talk and think about your own mental health as statistics show, that 1 in 4 of people experience a mental health condition a year.
What is it that you enjoy about still life photography?
I love how through still life photography I can have full control over all aspects of the photoshoot. Especially when photographing in the studio, as the lighting, composition and technical aspects can be carefully adjusted by me to get my images as perfect as they can possibly be. Dare I say, objects are definitely easier to position and compose the way you want them to, than people.
What is your process like — from your initial idea through to shooting and editing a concept?
It takes me quite a long time to think through my initial idea as I try to research thoroughly into the different directions and paths that I can go with my project idea. After I have my idea together, shooting starts straight away with test shoots to see what’s working best for me. To edit down my concept, I tried to get as many people as possible to look at my work as I always want to continue improving my photographs to see if I am going in the right direction and maybe find out things from others that I did not see myself.
There’s a really strong graphical/advertising quality to your work — yet on closer inspection you begin to see details which highlight the anxiety. In Pencils you see the chew marks and in House of Cards its the solitary missing card, which makes me think of the split second of anticipation of something going awfully wrong. When viewers look at your work what it is that you hope they’ll take away from it?
I hope when viewers look at my work that they are enticed in by the bold, cold colours portrayed in my photographs. On closer inspection of the photographs as you said, small details begin to appear, as I want the viewer to take away the feeling of ‘everything isn’t always as it seems’. Referring back to the subject of mental health, these two things relate well together as people might seem to be coping on the outside but you never know what’s going on in someone’s mind.
What are you working on now?
I have just graduated from university so I am a bit slow with project making at the moment but I hope to work on a project soon focusing solely on my own mental health with my family responses but I am not sure what kind of direction that is going to go in at the moment. I hope to use still life again in my next project to see how I can develop my still life/studio skills.