Insight into mental illnesses through film photography

By Brandon Saglam


This is an attempt at allowing others to understand what it may be like to be afflicted by these mental illnesses. All interpretations are broad in specificity and relatively can be situational to an individuals experience and does not represent every experience an individual may have with the pertaining illness. These interpretations are based on DSM-5 descriptions, American Psychological Association, stories from individuals that shall remain anonymous, and personal experiences and observations.

The intention of this editorial is simply to allow others a glimpse into how it may be to be afflicted by these illnesses and to encourage the discussion of mental health issues among students and adults. The photographs represent how society can force those afflicted to hide their symptoms or turn a blind eye to their symptoms. This portrayed by the more clear straight face and the truth being the apparitions accompanying the individual as one cannot run from mental health issues but only treat them.

All photos were taken using a Canon 35 millimeter film camera and each of the images are either double or triple exposed. This means a segment of the strip of film was exposed to another image when it was taken. None of the images were edited in any way other than a black and white filter to remove the green tint which resulted from the film being 20 plus years old (possibly close to expiration).

Another thing important to note is that the models are simply posing for these illnesses and that these images do not mean that they suffer from these illnesses that information was never disclosed and they simply are modeling for each image.

Depressive Disorders

Representation of depressive disorders. (BRANDON SAGLAM/ Ethic Photo)

Depressive disorders are numerous based on criteria of how long mood is impacted, the consistency of occurrence, the severity of irritation caused often by chemical imbalances of the brain, and how the chemical dis-regulation has occurred. Clinical manifestation often as seen a consistent change in mood impacted by a hormonal imbalance of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Neurotransmitters typically associated with happiness and pleasure. Any cause of chemical imbalance can result in the occurrence of this disorder from genetic predispositions, pregnancy, medication/ drugs, trauma, and seasonal shifts which all can act upon hormone production.

The photograph is supposed to reveal how it is commonplace that individuals do not always express how they feel hiding the pain they are sometimes truly are feeling.

Anxiety Disorders

Representation of anxiety disorders. (BRANDON SAGLAM/ Ethic Photo)

Anxiety disorders consist of disorders pertaining to excessive fear and anxiety which impact or impede behaviors needed in everyday life. Fear and anxiety are two separate conditions, fear an emotional response and anxiety is the anticipation of future events. Both can overlap and disorders appear when these normal conditions appear in extreme episodes in which an individual has no to little control over. Going deeper diagnosis would be based on the situation which triggers the conditions and how extreme the occurrence is.

The photograph depicts an extreme situation in which the individual is having a panic attack. Anxiety disorders are very situational and can be experienced and triggered by broad circumstances. This is a factor in why anxiety disorders are the most common mental health issue among Americans according to the APA.

For more information on anxiety disorders read Melanie Uribe’s article “The scientific processes behind anxiety disorders”

Bipolar Disorders

Representation of bipolar disorders specifically cyclothymic disorder. (BRANDON SAGLAM/ Ethic Photo)

Bipolar disorders are broadly broken down into bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder, and cyclothymic disorder as far as specifiable disorders go. They bridge the gap of diagnosis between schizophrenic and depressive disorders based upon symptomology, family history, and genetics. Simply they all see an instability of mood specifically in bipolar I and II this refers to the occurrence of both manic and major depressive episodes for persisting periods of time (for a diagnosis of bipolar II disorder it would mean throughout one’s lifetime). Mania would be characterized as a period where one has abnormally high energy, very grandiose, and rash in decisive situations. In contrast to a depressive period in which one is depressed, fatigued, experiences diminished cognitive function, and plagued by recurrent thoughts of death.

The photography would express cyclothymic disorder specifically which is a form of borderline bipolar disorder in which an individual undergoes cycles of both hypomanic to depressive periods but never undergoes manic or major depressive episodes. The photograph is supposed to show left to right as one undergoes the following shift from a hypomanic episode into a depressive one.

Schizophrenia Spectrum

Representation of schizophrenia spectrum. (BRANDON SAGLAM/ Ethic Photo)

Schizophrenia spectrum refers to difficulty in the ability to discriminate between reality and psychotic breaks(psychotic is very negatively connotative but it simply means a break from reality). Psychotic disorders on the spectrum consist of delusions, hallucinations, disorganized thinking, abnormal motor behavior, and negative symptoms (to expand on negative symptoms it refers to diminished emotional expression and avolition). An individual with schizophrenia can have one or a combination of these psychotic disorders given why it is a spectrum.

As Schizophrenia and psychotic disorders are breaks, in reality, this is difficult to depict, but what the photograph attempts to show is a lapse in reality that is why the individual’s apparition is shown upside down as to express this break.

Personality Disorders

Representation of personality disorders. (BRANDON SAGLAM/ Ethic Photo)

Personality Disorders are marked by an enduring pattern of behavior and inner experience that deviate from the expectation of an individual’s society which they exist in. These behaviors and inner feelings may be pervasive and occur throughout one’s lifetime. The DSM-5 recognizes ten specific disorders all with this underlying trait.

The photograph is supposed to show the individual as internally uncomfortable with the physical contact and expression of condolence that is why their apparition stares blankly at the camera.

Ending Note:

It is important to recognize that while I have done a large amount of research these are only small descriptions of a couple of mental health issues. The purpose if this article is not to explain but only bring attention and aid one’s understanding of mental health and the experience those with mental health issues undergo. I hope this article only brings interest to the topic and readers simply enjoy the artistic expression I have attempted thank you.

For more information about mental health, I would recommend you look into the National Institute of Mental Health and the American Psychological Association.

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