One in four of us will suffer from a mental health problem in the UK this year. Despite this, funding for services is shrinking.
“Big Brother” is an intimate photographic portrayal of my brother Justin’s struggle with schizophrenia, to be published as a book in partnership with Dewi Lewis.
Justin has been sectioned several times in his life and there is no getting away from the fact that his condition is severe. Yet, as we turn the pages and get to know him better, we see there is more to Justin than just his illness.
He has interests, hobbies and even loves. Justin’s passion for bird-watching and the resilience he draws from this hobby is an important theme, as is his relationship with girlfriend Jackie who he has been dating for over 20 years. As the story rolls on however, we discover problems within the relationship and their health. We also see how the the authorities struggle to balance the opposing forces of care and control, in their management of the couple.
The sum is more than the parts of this project. Justin and Jackie’s story is complex and needs the space that a substantial book like this one provides.
Different forms of documentation: quotes from Justin and Jackie, paintings, police records, medical records are woven into the narrative. Complex design forms like inserts and gatefolds are utilised to reveal the complexities and layers of their lives, resulting in a unique and beautiful document.
Justin’s contributions - his paintings and poetry, are a key feature and will be published within the main book as a separate publication; inserted into the back cover. This approach draws attention to his powerful creativity and celebrates Justin’s work in its own right.
Naturally, the photographs are the driving force behind the book. It’s no accident that the pictures were all shot on film; an analogue, craft based approach fits in with the care natural to the documentation of a beloved family member.
Having said that, these pictures do not pull back from revealing the ‘otherness’ of Justin and Jackie - their truth if you like. This work recognizes the crippling effect stigma has on many people who suffer from mental health issues (nine out of ten say stigma makes their condition worse) and seeks to deal with this head on. Through the narrative however, I aim to take the reader on a journey, travelling from ‘the shock of the other’ to the intimacy of the ‘us; undermining easily held but damaging stereotypes.
I am also seeking to personalise the global issues surrounding mental health - such as the rise of the police and criminal justice system as the frontline service for the mentally ill - and to contribute culturally to conversations about how we fund services and care for our own.
It’s important for people to realize that when social services are cut or overwhelmed, police services are effectively cut. The police are the last resort, the ones who cannot say ‘no’.
Big Brother is important as a social document, but contributions by both Justin and myself can be valued in themselves, and also as sparking points for other people’s creative and personal journeys.
I was very moved to receive an email after the work was featured on the British Journal of Photography’s website:
“A strange bittersweet joy to see that there are other people, other brothers and families that are experiencing schizophrenia too, and all that it brings. To be honest, I don't really know anyone else that has this in their lives. So it brought comfort to see your photos.”
Storytelling is what we humans do. By sharing our experiences, we help each other.
I am asking for your support in bringing to attention the life and loves of my brother so we can get a real sense of what it is like to be in his shoes. In return I am hoping to give you not just the chance to pre order a signed copy of the book, but a series of rewards that are unique to the kickstarter.
ABOUT THE BOOK
‘Big Brother,’ as I mentioned before, will be published by leading UK publisher Dewi Lewis; consequently, it will be of the highest standard, beautiful and unique. There are close to two hundred pages of photographs and text, it will be cloth bound, foil stamped and layered with inserts, gatefolds, and with Justin’s own mini book at the back.
It is because of the quality of the book (and its expense) that I have decided to use the Kickstarter platform. However, I am fortunate to have already many in kind contributions to match the funds raised here, from suppliers, friends and Dewi himself, to which I am very grateful. A huge thank you to all of you , you know who you are.
ABOUT THE KICKSTARTER REWARDS
All the prints will be numbered, signed (except where stated otherwise), stamped with an embossed seal of authenticity, (my name logo) and provided with a provenance certificate. All images are square, to be printed on the nearest standard paper size, e.g. 10 x 10 to be printed on 12 x 10, with a small border.
Prints will usually have an extra inch border (approx) at the bottom for handling and aesthetic reasons. The embossing on the collector’s edition will match the book cover.
The book will be released two to three weeks before the launch day in February or beginning of March.
Please see the 'About' section of my website for my print edition and pricing strategy, or email me.
- Series winner of the Renaissance Photography prize 2017
- Awarded the Metro Portfolio prize at Format17 Photography Festival "Big Brother", is a cover story reviewed in Source Magazine, and in BJP Online.
- Talk with Dewi Lewis, at Printspace, London, evening of October 17th
Risks and challenges
All the pictures and content have been produced and we are in the final editing process. The first draft seen in the video may change a little but only for the better. The book design, production and printing process will be personally overseen by Dewi Lewis who is a highly respected publisher, and the prints will be made by top exhibition printers, overseen by me personally, archivally guaranteed and authenticated .Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)