Mental Illness doesn’t have a face but layers of trauma, disorder and dark feelings that are difficult to comprehend. Photographers from across the globe managed to capture the essence of mental health through powerful surreal photographs that open a window to this world.
Here are a few unconventional photo series depicting mental illness.
Surmai Jain: Photo Series
A Mumbai based photographer, Surmai Jain showcases different aspects of mental health caused by a number of factors through black and white photographs. The photographs depict women dealing with anorexia, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, insomnia and even obsessive-compulsive disorder in an artistic portrayal.
Cheena Kapoor: Documenting Women in Mental Health Ward
Photographer Cheena Kapoor captured the most anxious stories and heart-ripping faces of women diagnosed with mental health problems that are admitted in the female ward of the Institute of Human Behavior and Allied Sciences in Delhi. She spent months capturing the women in the ward who are not only fighting the war of mental illness but also challenging the stigma of social acceptance and gender discrimination which is causing more traumas. Most patients were brought to the hospital by their families or picked up by the police from the streets. Some have fully or partially recovered but are still in the ward because their families refuse to take them back.
Victoria Krundysheva: The Dark Room
‘The Dark Room: You live in a room full of darkness. The room inside your head. It’s lonely. You entered to hide but there’s only blackness inside-reflection of nightmares and fear…’ Photographer Victoria Krundysheva writes about depression and captures the surreal photographs depicting what goes inside the minds of those suffering. The photo series connotes everything that a person with a mental illness feels in India which is considered the most depressed country in the world, as mentioned by a study report by WHO.
Ritam Talukdar: Photo Series
A photojournalist and a storyteller having being diagnosed with a general anxiety disorder and depression decided to document the everyday struggle in the photo series with each photograph titled a different meaning such as ‘Glow,’ ‘Existence,’ ‘Nightmares’ and ‘Beauty’ etc. Talukdar is using this subjective approach in the project that shows the situation of a mind going through a plethora of caliginous feelings. He mentions, “These are all how I see my surroundings and nature when I am down with anxiety attack. I am searching for the eternal euphoria amidst all these construed illusions of the habitat existing between me and my feelings.”
Christopher Pereira: The Shippy’s Paradise
Christopher Pereira discovered the life of a shippy who would work on ships for days or months during his childhood days spent in Goa. Through friends, Pereira discovered the downside of staying on ships for months that were loneliness, a sense of being trapped and sometimes leading to depression. Christopher compiled the photographs of the shippy in his project called The Shippy’s Paradise talking about the profession and impact of it on mental health. The photographs are now in a booklet under the same name showcasing portraits of people working on ships veiling confined spaces, empty bottles of alcohol, the emotional and physical strain of the sailors and mental trauma.
Palak Mittal: The Woman Who Conquered Town
Deepa Saxena, a former teacher for the past ten years has been scribbling her story of mental health on the public walls of the city Meerut. Delhi-based Photographer Palak Mittal came across the writings and started the project ‘The Woman Who Conquered Town’ that narrated Saxena’s mental anguish. This photo series reveals the heartbreaking apathy towards mental illness as Saxena was labeled as a crazy woman by the city dwellers and ignored her need for help for years. Although the lady doesn’t write anymore, as informed by Mittal, there still are streets where the walls have her writings.
Tara Wray- Too Tired Project
Tara Wray used her camera as a therapeutic tool and demonstrated her mental health via photographs and films. She compiled these photographs as a journey of her mental health from 2011 to 2018 into a book called Too Tired to Sunshine which showed stark beauty, raw loneliness, and honesty. In an interview, she said, “I’m using my own sort of shame and fear of sharing this with others to encourage others, to say, ‘It’s Okay to do it.’ … There is nothing to be ashamed about.” A month after her book was published; she started an Instagram Account @TooTiredProject as a collective creative expression platform for those suffering from mental illness.
Janelia Mould: Melancholy- A Girl Called Depression
Conceptual Photographer hailing from South Africa, Janelia Mould, also known as Cheeky Ingelosi opens a window to her inner self and her mind through surreal, fairytale-like photographs that talk about mental health. Her project Melancholy- A Girl Called Depression explores the complexity of mental illness that is affecting millions of people worldwide. Her each self-portrait is raw, revealing and beautiful that now only reflects mental illness, depression and anxiety but also helps to spread awareness and provides a lifeline to those who may find themselves isolated and suffering alone.
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