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Our Stories at Together Our Space

Posted on 11, March 2010

The myth of ‘them and us’ still exists between those who have suffered from mental health problems and those who have not.

‘Our Stories’, a new exhibition at the Together Our Space Gallery from 11th March – 26th April 2010, devised and curated by Christina Millare and Claire Monger, aims to dispel the idea that mental illness happens to other people.

Watch a video about the exhibition on The Daily Telegraphand read the account of four of the photographers involved in the exhibition below.

The photographers

Carmen Luvian

“I was so eager to get involved with this project as mental illness and depression still has such a stigma attached to it, yet it affects all of us to varying degrees myself included.

I lived in New York and one of the hugest differences I saw in mental health care in the states is that everyone is so open about it. I was the odd one out in my circle of friends as I was the only person who didn’t see a therapist or take medication. They freely talked about their emotions and why they could be feeling a certain way. An amazingly clever and creative friend of mine had even stayed in a psychiatric hospital. However when I moved back to England I had a breakdown of sorts, I drank and had no drive. I hated to leave my room. But, like a lot of Brits, my family told me to “cheer up and get over it”. I saw a therapist and my family thought I was being silly and self-indulgent. There is this sort of stiff upper lip British mentality that makes us feel like we need to just get on with things. But…the more you dig the more you realise how many of the people you know have had breakdowns or anxiety attacks or even bipolar yet they feel they can’t talk about it. I think my work will be inspired by the feelings of isolation you feel when depressed no matter how much support you get, society’s opinion on mental illness and channeling my own personal experiences.”

Tom Medwell

“A lot of my photographic work outside the corporate involves subculture and countercultures, and beyond that I am interested in the conflict between public persona and private/internal life, and the way that modern life has its own pressures to conformity of thought and stigmas for those who are different, how differences can be seen as illnesses and deviation seen as something that needs to be treated – often to the belittlement of people who have genuine problems.”

Julia Sasse

“I am a conceptual artist and street photographer as well as a portrait photographer. I am exceptionally interested in the human mind and in the way that we all function analogous but differently at the same time. The constitution of the world and the mere fact that we are actually here is a miracle or an unimaginably extreme case of coincidences. The planet seems to be unique and evolving all the time without following a set pattern. Who can therefore judge in which way the human mind is supposed to work? After all psychology is based on experiments and assumptions but none of us ultimately know how the mind essentially is… or how it should be. I believe that the reason why people with mental disorders are repulsed by our society is that we are afraid and we know that the same thing could happen to us. The human mind is very fragile and prone to all sorts of circumstances. The world is a complex, unstable place where anything could happen that could trigger reactions in us which we are unaware of and which could lead us somewhere that we wouldn’t know how to get back from. I think it may not be so much that we don’t know how to relate to people who have severe mental disorders but we are scared that we will be able to. Everyone has different levels of mental disorders diverging from what is considered to be the norm. In some cases they develop more intensely than in others. I have great respect for people who have the power to improve from such a difficult condition and manage to live with it. The world itself is already such a complex place but to be able to deal with different realities in one head one must in some way be able to think outside of all the different perspectives.”

Frida Bengtsson

“I am really exited to get involved with this project since I think there are far too many stigmas attached to mental illness. I believe that part of the reason is that people don’t know much about it, have experienced it or know anyone with mental health problems.

One of my friends was very ill a few years ago, we had lost touch and I read her story in the Swedish newspaper. I always saw her as one of my most independent and positive friends with everything going for her and I was shocked to read about her struggle to find the right treatment or just get people to take her seriously. Luckily she has always been a very stubborn person and persisted in getting the right help and is now fully recovered.

The nature of my photographic work is to question people’s ideas about perception, a perception that is heavily influenced by media. I will go against enforcing one way of thinking and aim to open up a discussion. While doing so I am hoping to encourage a better understanding of the people around us and how we can all learn from each other.”