The goal of this project, "What Mental Illness Feels Like—Images & Stories", is to create an empathic relationship in the viewer through photography and storytelling, decrease stigma and increase awareness of mental illness; and, ultimately, to humanize it.
What if people would agree to share part of their life story and tell me how their mental illness feels?
Everyone I interviewed lives with mental illness on a daily basis, and I asked each of them a number of background questions to get the context of their journey. The main question that formed the basis of the visual analogy photographs was “What does your mental illness feel like?”
What if I could help others understand a little bit better how mental illness feels?
When reading the definitions of various mental illness conditions, they fail to give the reader a vision of the human being living with the mental illness. We are all more complex than a short description of ourselves—you have blue eyes, but that really doesn't tell anyone about you.
What if I used my skills as a photographer to visually interpret what people told me?
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. I used conceptual photography as a way to show feelings and concepts, creating a “visual analogy” with photography instead of words. Based on the conversations I had, I visually interpreted their response in a way that I hope communicates to others what their mental illness feels like. I chose to include nature in most of the visual analogy photographs because I believe it makes the topic of mental illness more approachable. Each visual analogy photograph will also have the person's story next to it to enhance the meaning of the image. The portraits help to reinforce that mental illness can happen to anyone.
MY BIGGEST (AND BEST) SURPRISE
Level of interest.
At the beginning of this project, I thought I'd be lucky to get ten people to participate. To my pleasant surprise, I had so many people interested that I increased the size of my exhibit from ten to fifteen. And now that I'm at nineteen total interviews, I'm encouraged that I can interview even more people to have enough images and stories to create a book in the future.
Visit the introduction page for more information about this project. Exhibit will be at Gallery St. Germain in St. Cloud, Minnesota May 3rd, from 6–8pm, with the exhibit being on display all month.
Visual analogy photographs will also be for sale here on my website starting May 1st.
Buy Art, Support Hope
The visual analogy photographs will be available in my online shop starting May 1st, 2018. Part of the proceeds in 2018 will benefit Catholic Charities Hope Community Support Program in St. Cloud, Minnesota. The clients and staff of Hope Community Support Program played a big role in this project.