In these digitally manipulated portraits a set of pictorial conventions have been re-appropriated to represent the experiences of people whose sense of reality does not always coincide with that of others. The ten photographs that make up A View From Inside draw on the principals of eighteenth century portrait painting to give form to some of the unique realities encountered by different people during psychotic episodes. Whilst the people photographed here all appear entirely ‘normal’, their ability to function within society has, to varying degrees, been affected by the experience of a psychotic ‘disorder’ such as Bipolar or Schizophrenia.
Visual, auditory and other sensory phenomena that occur during a psychotic episode contradict accepted notions of 'reality', and yet for one person they are absolutely real. In each of these photographs the external appearance and the internal experiences of the subject are depicted within a single, formally structured portrait. Based on the physiognomic belief that a person's appearance mirrors his or her subjectivity or 'inner' identity, a traditional concern of portraiture has been to create an external 'likeness' of someone. In these photographs, however, the physical expression of the subject reveals nothing of his or her inner world. It is the (highly constructed) setting, incorporating a view through a window and an array of significant objects, that gives some clue to each individual’s private world.
The aim of this work is not to exoticise the ‘unreal’ or bizarre perceptual experiences of the people portrayed, but to find a visual language that will provoke discussion and add to our understanding of the experience of mental illness, and of psychosis in particular.
A book that includes statements by each participant and essays by the Canadian cultural theorist, Jeanne Randolph and British psychiatrist, Professor Graham Thornicroft accompanies the photographs.