Contextual Research | Alpha Exhibition

Due to the recent death of one of my former teammates, I begun to think about my project in a different light. Considering the DNA of my work I feel like the real story of my work lies in the people, the personalities and the overarching theme of mental health. Having struggled throughout my life with mental health and until recently, never speaking of my anxieties. I have embarked on the task of reconnecting with my football past by interviewing people I have known for many years as a result  playing football. Although discussing their experience of playing football, my overarching concern with this process has been to get participants to speak of their own struggles and anxieties. 

To date I have conducted three interviews with accompanying images, my thinking behind this is to accompany an image with a short story or quote. Although relatively short encounters, I have tried to ensure that I get at least two images in order to create a mini sequence for each person. 

In order to further my research I sat down to identify other work which challenges similar themes of patriarchy and mental health. As a result I found the Alpha exhibition which has the intention as stated on the BJP website (2015) responds to masculinity and mental health’. Reading further I learned of some interesting methodologies which underpin the work Jennifer Pattison focused on her experience of growing up in the shadow of her father’s acute depression, photographing objects he made during his time in occupational therapy.’ In making the connection between photography and objects made in occupational therapy I feel that Pattison is able to make a deep connection with her work which taking it towards the poetic with the veracity achieved by the family connection and collaboration of father and daughter. 

Pattison speaks of ‘shared authorship’ with her work due to the collaborative nature of the project. I feel this is relevant to my project as by conducting interviews I am engaging in a collaborative process with participants. The final act until recently being a photograph. With regards to the latest interview, I took the decision to make a photograph before I sat down with the participant with the intention of trying to reflect their mood in some way. On reflection I need to reflect further on whether I will do this again as Sontag (1972:14) argues that to photograph someone is to violate them. This argument may be furthered by Pattison (2015) who states…

‘I had to be extremely sensitive in my approach. I agreed with my father before we started the project that he would have power of veto over how his story was written. It proved to be helpful to have clear boundaries and I believe this protected our relationship.’ 

This leads to pontification of my philosophy when making work of this nature. I did take a photograph at an earlier stage of the encounter. And without being sure, I fear that this may have impacted on the quality of the interview as I knew the participant had been through some difficult times over the last few years. As a result I stopped the interview early and decided to not record the conclusion of the conversation as a means of restoring some sort of trust with a friend that I haven’t seen for some time until recently.

Pattison, J (2015) Exploring masculinity and mental health through the image. British Journal of Photography [Online] Available at: (Accessed 2nd Nov 2020)

Sontag, Susan. (1973) On Photography. New York, Dell Publishing.

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