University: London College of Communication
Statement: My studies in philosophy have guided my interest to more incorporeal aspects of human nature. If you could draw your mind, what would it look like? Behind the I – a portrait of the mind endeavours to understand people’s inner selves through art, and identify who they are and how they feel. How could I ‘photograph’ the mind and create a portrait of what is going on inside, as well as outside, the heads of my subjects? The only way that seemed possible was to invite them to be both observer and creator of such a portrait.
What is your favourite photobook by another photographer? Richard Learoyd, Day for Night. Although this is a different style to my practise, I find the technique very inspirational. The calm and peaceful expressions of the models is what I strive to achieve in my portrait photography, albeit with ordinary people.
Direction: My future goal is to become a photographer engaging with social issues such as mental health or similar, and try to visualise each topic in the most appropriate and moral way. I specialise in documentary photography. I think participatory and collaborator methods will play a vital role in my future career.
Considerations: I knew my project would contain a lot of writing – my subject’s words seemed to carry as much importance as the visual component of the project. Their words created a perfect scenario to create a book containing a tale for each person; a story about what kind of a person they are. The size of the book is identical to the original paper that the subjects were provided to draw on, in order to keep its authenticity (11 x 14 inches). The paper used was quite thick and matt, in order to add weight to the turning of each page and story. A unique aspect of the book was the use of acetate sheets which contained the drawings – they are completely see-through which enables the viewer to see the artwork and the photograph simultaneously, adding a multi-layered meaning to each persona.
Interior: The introduction to the book seemed vital to set the kind of tone in which I wanted the viewer to approach the topic of mental health. I wanted him/her to relate to someone with a mental health issue, even if they have never experienced it themselves.
The words from each participant (which I received from interviews) were arranged as a flowing prose, to add a feel of a real tale/story of each person. The reader does not immediately find out what each person is ‘diagnosed with’ or what they have experienced, but rather is invited to read the whole text which at some point will reveal these aspects. The viewer is encouraged by this method to get to know a subject first, before knowing their mental condition/state.
Inspiration: The idea to invite my subjects to become a co-author of their portrait in some part stemmed from a genre of ‘Outsider Art’, where someone who has no preconceived ideas in the creative fields per se is invited to produce something creative.
The portrait taking was inspired by Laura Pannack’s approach, where I tried to have intimate conversations throughout the shoot and get my subjects to think about subjects that are important to them. This resulted in more thought provoking photographs.
The introduction was influenced by various topics such as the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas and Roland Barthes.
Advice and Future Goals: I would advise to always leave plenty of extra time when making a book – your ideas might not always be possible to achieve and other solutions often need to be found. Also, before printing the official book, make sure to print out a dummy on an ordinary printer to the exact scale as your actual book print – enables you to see if the scale is appropriate, such as the font.