All posts tagged: mental health

An antidote to shame and secrecy: photographing Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

“The house was absolutely full of things which were undealt with,” Léonie Hampton describes of the beginnings of her project, In the Shadow of Things. “Part of the practical task was to slowly go through room by room sorting, trying to reclaim space, to get rooms functioning again.” Hampton’s mother has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), a mental health condition which has many different iterations and which, in her case, manifests as contamination phobia and hoarding. The photographer’s childhood home had become overrun by boxes, and she came to an arrangement with her family: that she would photograph the process of the family coming together to go through them all, dismantling and organising. “It felt like things needed to change,” Hampton says of the origins of the project, which began in 2007. “I had a chance to go into that, to find if there was a way to change it, and so photography, and sound, or word, were very much secondary to my preliminary reason to go in, which was as a daughter.” The priority was …


What is it like to live in poverty and struggle with mental health?

“My hope is to bring people into connection, into their heart,” says Siân Davey. “It’s a heart practice. With very real issues.” The photographer, known for her sensitive work documenting her own children, as well as tender reflections on the intimate relationships amongst families and groups of young people, has been selected for the Wellcome Photography Prize commission. Over the coming months, she will be producing a new body of work around the theme of mental health. This new project, entitled Testament, will focus specifically on the relationship between poverty and mental health, documenting the lives of individuals living in Torquay, Devon, and struggling with precarious living conditions and all the associated psychological states this produces. “How is it to be poor and struggling with mental health? And how do we manage that? What informs that?” asks Davey whose work will seek to address these questions by examining the emotional experience of lives predicated by uncertainty, and the toll taken by unstable living circumstances. The initial weeks of the commission have seen the photographer undertaking …


Conceived by a sperm donor, a photographer travels across the United States to document the 32 siblings he had never met

The Wellcome Photography Prize 2020 is now open for entry, calling for submissions exploring topics of health and medicine. Its ‘Social Perspectives’ category asks photographers to examine these themes as contextualised by society. Eli Baden-Lasar’s work documenting his half-siblings is an extraordinary example of one such project. Eli Baden-Lasar had always known he was conceived using a sperm donor. However, discovering that one of his friends was a half-sibling was a decisive moment. He had always been interested in visual culture and in using a camera to explore ideas, and so he set out on what turned out to be a year-long journey to meet and photograph each of his half-siblings. The resulting project was originally published as the cover story of The New York Times Magazine in June, A Family Portrait: Brothers, Sisters, Strangers, Strangers (though the photographer refers to the work simply as his siblings project). Far from being a straightforward documentary piece about family discovery, the project is a multilayered exposition of an emotional, familial and political enquiry, taking in not only …


An uncompromising depiction of the effects of endometriosis

In this intensely personal series, Georgie Wileman spent years documenting her own and others’ experiences with the condition, aiming to raise awareness about the brutal and misunderstood illness. “I always knew I needed to photograph what was happening to me,” says Georgie Wileman. She is the photographer behind This is Endometriosis, an unflinching exploration of the condition via wrenching depictions of her own, and others’, suffering. This kind of project is championed by the Wellcome Photography Prize, currently open for submissions related to the themes of health and medicine. Like Wileman’s, work is encouraged to be personal, exploring illness with intimacy. “Endometriosis is an incredibly lonely disease,” Wileman tells me. She didn’t recognise the mediafied, search-engine version of her illness; it felt irrelevant, feeble, vaguely describing things like “painful periods”. “They’re words that do not come close to the impact on my life, one of heat-pad burns and morphine, wheelchairs and walking sticks,” says Wileman. Her outrage and isolation incited her to take action, using her camera to explore the precise process of surgeries and …


Documenting the initiative helping disabled people explore sexuality

Six years ago, Simone Cerio came across a newspaper story that made him sit up and pay attention. Referencing an organisation called LoveGiver, the article was about the practice of sexual assistance in Italy, and its controversy in the context of the law. Sexual assistance is “a holistic practice of massage and erotic stimulation”, says Cerio, one designed to help disabled people develop their sexual identity as well as a sense of their bodies both within the context of a relationship and for themselves alone. “Sexual assistance is confused with prostitution,” the photographer continues. “But the difference is that there is no penetration or oral sex. It’s very different from prostitution, but there isn’t, so far, a clear way to get this practice legalised.” Cerio started to research the subject, contacted the organisation (whose name he adapted as the title of his resulting project, Love Givers) and was subsequently introduced to both practitioners and clients. His work explores, with startling intimacy, a transformative practice that for many people remains unknown. One of the most striking …


A photographer’s intimate portrayal of her brother’s autism

A boy lies backwards across a bed, his back arching over a cushion beneath him. His hand reaches towards the viewer and begins to blur; underneath, a handwritten caption reads: “I feel relaxed when I play with string.” This is photographer Erin Lefevre’s brother, Liam, who has autism, and who is the subject of her project Liam’s World. The project was the winning entry in the 2019 Wellcome Photography Prize, and was selected for its intimate portrayal of Liam’s life, made up of tender portraits taken by his sister, and his own reflections on the moments depicted. “I decided to photograph my brother because for years growing up I didn’t understand him,” says Lefevre of the beginnings of her project. She was studying photography at the San Francisco Art Institute, and exploring methods of photojournalism and documenting life around her. “At that time in my life I was starting to see photography as a way to understand the world, and I wanted to use it as a way to better understand my brother, to see …


A new open call for powerful visual stories on mental and physical health

Health is a universal topic, no matter your age or demographic. Its impact is transformative, and its challenges can mean life or death. The Wellcome Photography Prize, now open for entry, aims to take this familiar theme and explore it through visual language. While international questions of health, science, and medicine can often feel abstract, photography has the ability to visualise them, provoking a direct and intimate awareness of the issues that Wellcome supports. Wellcome is a global charitable foundation that funds over 14,000 people in 70 countries, supporting scientists and researchers in their work to address contemporary health challenges internationally. Initiated in 1992, and originally aimed at clinical imaging specialists, its annual Photography Prize relaunched last year. The new incarnation aims to celebrate contemporary visual narratives about health and science and bring them to a wider audience, raising questions and awareness through powerful and personal visual storytelling. Last year’s edition of the prize explored Outbreaks — capturing the impact of diseases as they spread. This year’s central theme is Mental Health, inviting entrants to …


Q&A: Sole Satana’s From a Bad Place

Although it is Spanish photographer Sole Satana’s latest body of work, From a Bad Place was conceived several years ago, during a difficult time when she was struggling with anxiety and depression.

Closely related to her personal life, Satana’s photography tells a very subjective story about her take on everyday life. Her images will be on show at the Centro Parraga in Murcia, Spain, as part of a collaborative project between the gallery and collective UnderPhoto. Now in its second edition, the project aims to bring together emerging creators who offer a “deeply personal representation of reality”.

From a Bad Place will be exhibited alongside photography from Satana’s partner in life and work JD Valiente, a BJP One to Watch this year. The couple met when they were teenagers and have been together for 14 years. They often now collaborate on joint projects, such as the story Dead Meat, but this show, titled Parentésis, is made up of two solo series.


Exploring masculinity and mental health through the image

Last year, 4,623 men took their own lives in Britain. That works out to more than 12 deaths a day, and accounts for 76% of the total suicides in the UK in 2014. In fact, suicide is the biggest killer for men under 45 in the UK. These statistics, compiled by mental health charity CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) are shocking in their clarity and sadly unsurprising in what can be learned from them. The predominant model of the alpha male; strong, stoic and unfeeling, still persists in popular culture and reinforces a concept of masculinity that is pervasive and insidious – one that doesn’t allow for anxiety, vulnerability or dialogue. In aid of CALM, five London-based photographers – Scarlet Page, Helena Berg, Jennifer Pattison, Will Morgan and Peter Guenzel – have put on ‘Alpha’ an exhibition that responds to masculinity and mental health. Each photographer interpreted a particular aspect of depression or the male emotional experience to create a complex body of work that begins a much-needed discussion.     Jennifer Pattison focused on …


BJP Staff