Mark Neville | Battle Against the Stigma

As my project is now taking shape, the portraits begin to take on a life of their own, my experience of making the podcasts working to create a symbiotic relationship with them. However only I have listened to them all. I haven’t just listened to them, I have collaborated in the making of them. In feeling that I am a little light on contextual research due to podcast production. My research brought me to Mark Neville and his project ‘Battle Against Stigma’. Neville states about the project

‘The exhibition and book intend to give some insight into the issue of adjustment disorder and PTSD which he suffered from on his return to the UK’

In 2011 Neville went to Helmand Province to work as a war artist with the British Army and was compelled to produce a book and exhibition as a result of his own experiences of PTSD and readjustment disorder experienced upon his return.

In a video interview Neville talks candidly about the experience in addition to the production of two volumes

‘The first volume is the re-telling, including his photographs, of Neville’s own personal experience when he was sent out to Helmand in 2011 as an official war artist and his troubled return, and the second volume is made-up of the written testimonies about PTSD and adjustment disorder from serving and ex-serving soldiers.’

What I find interesting is the evolving nature of the project. When attending a portfolio review a couple of months ago, I heard Steph Cosgrove comment about a peers work and how she was ‘turning up the volume’ of her work. A comment that has tuck with me and appears relevant to Neville’s work when he included the written testimony in the second volume of his book.

Mark Neville | Battle Against Stigma

A Neville provides further insight when he comments about the dissemination of his book when he states ‘Throughout 2015 Neville distributed these copies free to Defence Mental Health Services, prison libraries, homeless veterans, probation services, and veteran mental health charities.’ And in this comment I feel another critical breakthrough has occurred. My project ‘Seven Miles South’ challenges the theme of mental health and for some time I have been thinking about where to disseminate the work when finished. I have begun to research and contact mental health charities and a local gallery asking about their interest in the project and hoping for some interest. However, I now feel compelled to think differently about dissemination. My attention will now turn to the production of a newspaper which encompasses photographs in addition to transcriptions of the conversations that I’ve had. I can also include contact details of local charities that offer support in the newspaper. Once produced I will have a product that I can send to charities and story editors alike to create interest within the work.

I will discuss this strategy in my next meeting with Laura although I am quite adamant that this is the correct action to take.

Neville, M. 2020.  Mark Neville. Available [online] at http://www.markneville.com/ (Accessed April 19th, 2021).

Shoot 12 | Daffodils Part 2

This shoot was the third occasion where I went for a roam with the intention of looking for daffodils. However, having reflected on my previous work I didn’t really feel moved by the photographs. Using natural daylight and a fast shutter speed to freeze subjects I felt was rather safe, predictable and boring. However, holding on to feedback I previously received in a peer review, I am still holding on to the idea of a floral element potentially working as a metaphor for fragility which I think aligns with the broader theme of male mental health. In carrying out so much research and trying to contextualise my path informed by others I felt in a hole as I could write about a million great photographers without really knowing where to start beyond reading and pulling some semi pertinent quotes in order to vaguely justify my work.

In light of my frustration I will justify this approach by describing my intentions in a more loose form. Looking at my previous portraits, I’ve fallen into a methodology of using on camera flash and using only a 35mm prime lens as a way to control my workflow and develop a reoccurring theme. Over the past few weeks I found myself going back to looking at the work of Todd Hido and Saul Leiter. Both of which share similarities such as excellent use of colour in addition to making images at night encompassing contrast.

As I roamed through the flowers I was quite happy at the contrast within the images, using the flash on its manual setting was delivering a range of outcomes which I felt were less safe and I quite enjoyed looking at them. This was similar to the editing stage where I begun to notice things within the photographs, the unpredictability, colour variation and infinite yet detailed compositions. In order to further the process of experimentation I decided to slow the shutter, using the flash to freeze objects whilst continuing to move the camera. Within my wedding work I would usually do this with a zoom lens. The gallery below is the outcome of my evening of experimentation. The next stage will be to select (if any) relevant work and see how it might work as part of a sequence. The major question I will be interested in over the coming weeks will be to understand if this work has a place within the project.

Shoot 11 | Daffodils

In pursuit of the development of my project I felt that I needed an extra element to support the portrait and documentary work that I have been producing. In response I felt that a pertinent way to experiment would be in the direction of imagery of flowers, mainly daffodils. I have some good reasons for this, firstly. My motivation for challenging the theme of male mental health was due to the loss of three friends within a week in March 2020, one of which part of my extended family. All to suicide or preventable actions. This provoked a very powerful response from the local community with many choosing daffodils to represent the people in their thoughts.

As a result, whether it works as a project or not I am currently unsure however as I am very much emotionally invested with my project it did seem a natural destination to explore. Having sought feedback on the initial idea my peers commented that the use of floral elements offers a sense of fragility and metaphor for mental health which will possibly work as a binary opposite to the stereotype of men being strong.

Mental Health Foundation | Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival

From my previous research of the Mental Health Foundation, I managed to identify some key information which will inform my practice of conducting interviews. I decided to further my contextual understanding of the MHF. Upon doing this I identified the Scottish Mental health Arts Festival. The website states…

‘It aims to support the arts, explore how engagement in the arts can help prevent mental ill health, and challenge mental health stigma. Led by the Mental Health Foundation, SMHAF combines high artistic quality with strong grassroots support, community engagement and social activism.’

In response to identifying this avenue I quickly put together an email and PDF of work to hopefully gain some support for my project. However I understand that I am late in submitting my work as the festival starts at the beginning of May.

The festival has a sub theme called ’70 Stories’ which has been curated to coincide with the 70th anniversary of MHF. Having sent an email I don’t expect to be successful in gaining entry however it may be a good opportunity to receive some feedback and identify opportunities in the future.

At this stage of my project I am feeling stronger about submitting work as I now have some of the podcasts in place. This week I shared some of the work with my peers on the course and was met with positive feedback with particular comments about how the photographs make much more sense now that they are accompanied with the audio.

The next task will be to transcribe the audio to see how it fits with the photography, I am in no doubt that this will be a big task and time consuming. Of late, it feels although my project is progressing at a snails pace. Understanding that it is easy to lose motivation at times like these I find that at least having some podcasts to accompany the photographs does represent progress. The benefit of this is that I now have something more than just photos to submit to potential opportunities for dissemination which is heartening.

I have also recently submitted a portfolio to the Open Walls call with the British Photography Journal.

https://www.mhfestival.com/projects/70stories

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/m/men-and-mental-health

Artist Submission | Stockport Art Gallery

In the pursuit of an exhibition space I have applied to Stockport Art Gallery to hold a local exhibition. In order to do this I wrote a statement in addition to submitting six images from my project. I volunteered to promote the event myself and emphasised the positive response from the community I’d already received.

Podcast | Irish

Within this podcast ‘Irish’ talks about a lifetime caring for his mother who was mentally ill and piecing his life together after prison. Having his own struggles with depression and self loathing, he is now putting his extraordinary life experience to use by working in the care sector. A moving story about life, resilience and suffering.

Irish