News About an Ongoing Project
Since last year I've been working on a project that interprets mental illness through photography. Why? Because living with a mental illness does not make you less of a person. If you find out a person has diabetes, you maybe ask questions, and you don't treat them any differently. This isn't always the case when someone finds out about a mental illness. And I think one of the best ways to overcome misconceptions is to talk with the person about it, just like I did when I found out a friend was dealing with depression.
The project is an exploration of mental illness, with the goal of helping to fight the ever present stigma and to help others understand how mental illness feels. I've conducted interviews with people who live with a mental illness, and I've been creating conceptual "visual analogy" photographs from their description of their mental illness. Most of the people that are a part of the May 2018 exhibit have a b&w portrait that I created. Each person I interviewed will have up to three pieces hanging on the gallery wall - their story about their mental illness based on the interview, portrait (optional), and visual analogy photograph I created.
- May 2nd — 26th, 2018: What Mental Illness Feels Like—Images & Stories
- Gallery St. Germain, 912 West St. Germain, St Cloud, MN. (Across from The Paramount.)
- OPENING RECEPTION, Thursday May 3rd, 6 to 8pm. Regular Gallery Hours: Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays—11 to 5pm, Saturdays 10 to 2pm.
The month of May was chosen for the exhibit because it's Mental Health Awareness Month. I felt the project would get more exposure. The exhibit will also be available for future loan to other mental health agencies, gallery opportunities, schools, anywhere that it could be of benefit. (Contact me and we can work out the details.)
While only fifteen of the people I interviewed will be a part of the exhibit, to date I have completed nineteen interviews here in Minnesota and Nebraska, and continue to seek interview opportunities with people living with mental illness. I hope to feature the "bonus" interviews at some point in the future.
A first for me last year was writing a grant to help offset some expenses associated with this project. I was thrilled to get the Artist Career Development Grant from Central Minnesota Arts Board thanks to funds from The McKnight Foundation. Receiving this grant gave me one less thing to worry about!
About the Project
“What Mental Illness Feels Like—Images & Stories” is a personal photography project inspired by conversations had with a friend who battled depression. The result of those conversations was a better understanding, not of the text book definition of his illness, but of how it felt to him in terms I could relate to. I wondered how I, as a photographer, could translate mental illness so that people without it could visually see how it feels, perhaps even relate in some way. The goal of the project is to create that relationship in the viewer through photography, decrease stigma and increase awareness of mental illness; and, ultimately, to humanize it.
The project consists of using conceptual photography to relate the feelings described in interviews with people living with mental illness. Conceptual photography is a way of showing feelings, concepts or stories—a “visual analogy” created with photography instead of words. Each visual analogy photograph will also have the person's story next to it to enhance the meaning of the image. For many participants I created black and white portraits, as I feel the portraits further humanize the experience for the viewer and help to reinforce that mental illness can happen to anyone.
Articles over the coming months
I'll be blogging about this project over the coming months. I'll be including some excerpts, possibly a visual analogy photograph or two. Plus some thoughts I've had during the project. (While I had no big surprises, some assumptions I had about the project differed from reality.) I want to build the excitement for the May debut, so I won't be releasing the full project online until then.
Be sure to subscribe to my email newsletter, as it often has articles that I don't always publish here online. And it contains a nice summary of recent blog posts, too, so you don't miss out on anything.
This activity is made possible through a grant from the Central Minnesota Arts Board, thanks to funds provided by The McKnight Foundation.