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Clare Hannan

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Coronavirus-19 has turned the world upside down. It's been a year of struggle and heartache. Londoners are currently enduring a third lockdown as the virus strikes down thousands of people a week and leaves millions out of work, housebound and home schooling in a cold, grey winter. Then the snow came. For one brief shining day, it snowed and the city was transformed into a winter wonderland. The sound of laughter and chatter as adults and children came out to enjoy making snowmen and sledge down hills, and the joy of walking through a bright and magical alternate reality was the antidote we all needed. I've always marvelled at how snow makes everything beautiful; how it changes the landscape and makes the ordinary extra-ordinary.

Then the Snow Came
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Hannan Images is a London based photography business that specialises in event and portrait photography.

wei zhou

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Location: In an illegal workers’ dormitory behind a building on a busy high street in central London.

Many illegal Chinese immigrant workers in the UK suffer from severe mental illness which is attributable to their poor living

and isolated social conditions. One is isolated in the pain of ones’ own mind, which remains invisible to the outside world.

One’s own existence is hidden in an illegal dormitory which remains rejected to the unanimously agreed reality.

Mr. Chen, a friend of mine, suffers from long-term depression. He once told me he constantly feels like we are living in

different dimensions of reality, even though his remaining rationality tells him we are standing on the same ground in the

same room. We are in a room with four beds, which sits on top of the Asian grocery store where he works during the day.

Windows are sealed with wooden planks covered by a yellow curtain. Under a warped moldy ceiling, cooking pots and pans,

pills, and drugs are stored together next to his clothes above his bed. Mr. Chen described the room as a swamp. A swamp

that pulls you in, makes you gag.

Mr. Chen has been a Chinese illegal immigrant worker in the UK for over 17 years, far away from his family and friends in

China. He works twelve hours per day, except when the swamp of depression pulls him down and he cannot function

anymore. He said, “Depression is excruciating. Only people who suffer from it could possibly know what it really is. If it makes

you want to sleep, no matter the circumstances, you have to sleep immediately.” He has no way to change his work or living

conditions, nor has any access to proper medical support, due to his illegal status.

Recently his mental health condition worsened again around Christmas time when most people in the UK reunite with their

family and enjoy the company of loved ones. While in his dormitory I wondered whether we are really living in different

dimensions of reality? The red Christmas jumper reminded me: “no, we are all in the same reality”.

Amy Jackson

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Newspapers

I remember when I was five years old, (a lover of art), I had decided to paint my dad, (lover of wildlife), a picture of a squirrel. 

Recounting my school teacher’s wise guidance to ‘put newspaper down’ before attempting to paint, I diligently laid old sheets of last weeks’ newspapers onto our 1970’s designer table. When my dad arrived home I was very excited to show him my picture - it was holding a little acorn, standing on some grass, not a care in the world. 

Taking one look at the picture he began to scream at me and chase me up the stairs. I hid in my room, sat on the floor rocking with my hands over my ears whilst he banged on the door asking what the hell I had done. 

Hours later I came to realise that he was annoyed that I’d got paint on his old newspapers. 

Years later I learned he mentally ill. 

Decades later, he was diagnosed with the world’s worst recorded case of hoarding, OCD and asperger syndrome. We had lost our family home, every penny he’d ever had and our sanity simply from being in close proximity to his madness. 

Yet despite all of the debts and an ability to hold down a job - for most of his life he had every UK newspaper delivered to our house daily. It was as though our family home stood beneath paper rain, flooded by the past, drowned in darkness. 

I always speculated that newspapers were somehow comforting to him, a way of hoarding and preserving memories. A fabric of existence, proof that time had passed. Reliable in their repetition, daily delivery, rarely changing from decade to decade.

I began to steal the papers, cutting every ‘a’ out of some, snipping 30,000 circles out of others (only to stitch them back in again), and moulding others into newspaper bricks (ready to build my own house). 

This documentation and repetition of madness became a method of coping and more importantly a way of demonstrating the scale of the problem to those around me through my art practice. 

I hope these images tell the story through the work which I have made and I hope one day I will be able to make sense of it all. One day when he is gone and only the newspapers are left, their value will once again be great.

A glimpse into a dark cavity between the 100's of 1,000's of newspapers filling my family home in Leeds in 2005.
A shot of one week's worth of my father's newspaper delivery stacked in our hallway in Leeds, 2005. Often it was very difficult to get in and out of the house and my mother was often worried about my young nieces and nephews being crushed by the weight of them.
Struggling with my own mental health when I began university, I started cutting every 'a' out of my dad's newspapers. This image depicts a photograph of a newspaper missing every 'a'. A man’s real possession is his memory. In nothing else he is rich. In nothing else he is poor. ​Every ‘a’ seeks to explore the ways in which obsessive compulsive behaviours can develop in those seeking to exert control over intangible treasures such as time and memory. ​Every ‘a’ is part of an extensive body of work called The Newspaper Collection. 26 free identical newspapers were collected, each letter was painstakingly extracted from each until separate jars of ‘a’s, ‘b’s, ‘c’s and so on, filled up. An installation examining just the letters and the newspapers was exhibited in Modern Art Oxford. ​The hollow newspapers were later photographed by the artist and abstract images of infinite tunnels and starry nights were created. The collection of photographs became works in their own right of which there are 26 one-off prints, each with their own name.
This is one of my art pieces entitled house which I made about my father's mental health (later sold to the Warneford Hospital, Oxford, UK). It was made from 579 newspapers, dated 21st September 2006 - 27th April 2008, ‘mortar’ and was 5 foot 8 inches cubed. “Man is separated from the past (even from teh past only a few seconds ago) by two forces that go instantly to work and cooperate: the force of forgetting (which erases) and the force of memory (which transforms). Beyond the slender margin of the incontestable (there is no doubt that Napoleon lost the battle of Waterloo), stretches an infinite realm: the realm of the approximate, the invented, the deformed, the simplistic, the exaggerated, the misinformed, an infinite realm of non-truths that copulate, multiply like rats, and become immortal.” Milan Kundera The senses provide an infinite pulp of information. This is too much for indiscriminate internalisation, and so day-by-day we systemise it, categorising, ordering and patterning it into blocks of time. In the process we mould it into a certain shape, and store it in the recesses of our mind, our memory. The resulting artifice is at once simple in form yet complex in content; minimal and maximal. We can access it, but at the same time, it encloses us, and forms the space in which we live and move. It protects us, yet also entombs us; it is a home without windows or doors. (house was a sculpture created by Amy Jackson using The Times newspaper, which she 'stole' from her father's collection of newspapers. The papers, filling the house, multiplying daily, like pillars of time became a yellowing prison, impossible to escape. house seeks to question the value we place on objects and their meaning).
This image a close up of my piece 'Stitch' where I cut over 30,000 holes from an antique Times Newspaper Compendium dated from the 1800's. The individual circles were displayed all over my family home, demonstrating the insanity of the gesture and later restitched in place by hand with a needle and thread.

Lucy Marie

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Introducing, Illuminate.

This project stems from expression of psyche - my own at its most raw & vulnerable essence.

I began forming & culminating this concept during my time in solitude over lockdown - a period of not just grief & doom for myself, but worldwide. As a photographer, having an anxiety & yearn to create, as well as self express, I learnt to adapt my artistic limits into mediums beyond my usual peripheral.

I developed an infatuation for vintage photographs & postcards, their haunting timelessness providing base into what feelings I resonated with. When observing an image, I only see emotion, I see stories, & myself in them. This is something I feel an obligation to portray & channel further for myself, as well as to a wider audience.

I work as a modern day Surrealist. I implement this through embroidery, allowing minimalism to channel such eminent aura beyond natural eye & comprehension.

My now ongoing work comes from the places of deepest despair within me. I have to tap into these states a lot of the time. They are not pleasant places to go to. I take these emotions & create something although discomforting, in turn to what I find beautiful.

I find being in isolation, or a time of trial, tribulation, where everything is of uncertainty, art becomes the only constant, infinite, & entity.

I am shining a light into vulnerability. I am voicing that it is okay.

If I can make beauty out something so wrenching within me, that is enough. That is healing. I hope to communicate & resonate that with others in turn.

Valentina Albino

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In her last photographic works, Valentina Albino explores the concept of chronic pain, influenced by her own experience as a chronic migraine sufferer since the age of seven. This selection of images is taken from two intimate self-publications: If you were me and It’s going to be okay (one day). They represent two chapters of the same project exploring the psychological aftermath of chronic pain, and the subsequent mental health of the subject.

 

The project aims to communicate a type of constant and intangible pain, often invisible in medical scans, such as X-ray and CAT scans. In the medical field, pain rating scales and questionnaires have been used to individuate the intensity and the quality of pain. However, the patients often describe these instruments as aseptic and frustrating: in fact, some of the descriptors in use have inner connotations that change according to the reader’s socio-cultural background, class, native language, age, etc. In addition, there is the possibility that the subjects cannot identify their pain in some descriptors because of the specific nature of their pain.

 

If you were me is an intimate publication about the concept of chronic pain moving from a private sphere to the collectivity. Pain is individual: reason why it has been problematic make this project authentic; externalise and visualise types of pains actually invisible on medical scans were the two first steps to overcome. After exhausting years trying to communicate pain by language, the need to express it by photographs arose ending up to this photobook. The writing sessions played a crucial role during the realisation of the project: they arose the psychological side of being a chronic pain sufferer and how this had a huge and subtle impact on Valentina's mental stability. Therefore, the writing process allowed feelings and sensations to emerge letting them express in Valentina's photographs. Later on, the awareness that images and words were inseparable increased, which developed into composing them together by unconscious associations.

 

It’s going to be okay (one day) also investigates the psychological aftermath of this condition, taking the viewer through an introspective journey into the life of a sufferer. The invisibility of chronic pain influences the acceptance of it as real by others and by the subject first. Since there is no universal vocabulary able to explicate personal feelings and sensations, communication and understanding are lacking between the sufferer and the external world. Hence, mental pain tends to be underestimated as an actual disease and the subject's need to be believed and understood arises if family, friends, colleagues, etc, minimise their illness. However, the underestimation of this condition and its invisibility in medical scans do not allow an easy externalisation from the sufferers: the reason why a visual representation could make it tangible and make them felt believed. Since the moment of the diagnosis, the subjects suffer from a lack of visual proof of their pain. The lack of an actual trace of their pain was the main motivation that encourages me to find a complex narrative aiming to re-build an alternative medical record for chronic pain subjects. These pictures become the medium to visualise pain as a concrete and tangible entity to others and to the sufferer first. For Valentina, the act of sharing her photographs and their intrinsic pain rose in herself a desire to encourage sufferers to share and manifest their feelings.

‘The word “migraine” is from Greek hemikrania, “pain on one side of the head”, from hemi, “half”, and kranion, “skull”. [...] Migraines are associated with major depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, and obsessive compulsive disorder. These psychiatric disorders are approximately 2-5 times more common in people without aura, and 3-10 times more common in people with aura.’ (Wikipedia)
Mum understood how to act with me. Now, I am alone in my shelter, and the irrational prevailed on me, again.
Migraine is something latent which obscure my lucidity. Migraines are (part of) me. Sides that I used to conceal; thinking that avoiding them I (will) feel good, one day. False. Exploring the concept of pain allowed me to shift the pain from a private and dark sphere to the collectivity. 'If you were me' made my pain visible to other, and to myself, from a different view’s point. Pain is individual and private which are the reasons why it has been problematic make this project authentic. Not only photographs have the power to make something visible to our eyes, even if it is already evident by itself, but also, they are able to make it visible to our consciousness.
I get very tired to explain my suffering to people, (I guess) I am not the only one. Researching words, I got lost. Visual metaphors helped to externalise sensations and feelings, sort of creating the atmosphere of my crises. I found the space where photographs and words have no (proper) borders. Here, where pain become concrete and tangible. Images are the (potential) bridge between the self and the other.
The pain was in rhythm with the beat of my heart.

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