Left behind after the suicide of her brother, Billie Charity turned to photography to shine a light on male mental health issues.
Real-life provides the opportunity for Billie’s finest work, the artist both observing and interacting with the environment around her. The subjects initially seem mundane, but Billie’s eye turns them into portraits that provoke emotions.
A picture of a woman laughing at a joke on a train, a couple enjoying some ice cream in a cafe, a grandmother and granddaughter sitting with curlers in their hair. The scenes are ordinary, but the images are anything but.
“I wander around city streets and take discreet photos of people in real situations, capturing them interacting with one another and with their environment in ways that they may not be aware of,” explains Billie. “My photos combine observed reality with the intrinsic quirkiness of landscape, situation, and portraiture; they reflect my attitude to life and art.
“I feel fearless and excited when I have my camera and am interpreting the world through my lens, and I like that many of my photos make people smile,” she adds.
Now Billie is turning the lens on male mental health with a bold new exhibition, Men Open Up, from Thru the Lens Gallery in Hay-on-Wye.
Alongside Billie’s photographs of local men, the exhibition features psychotherapist and photographer Clive Oxford, who has supplied pictures of the anonymised clinical notes he has made when providing therapy for some of his male clients, as well as self-portraits from photographer Glenn Dene taken while recovering from a breakdown.
Darren Russell, who worked with Billie’s brother, Stan Charity, has provided images from a touring exhibition ‘My Mate’, which is motivated by Stan’s story.
“My brother Stan never spoke about his mental illness, he covered it up, and three years ago he took his own life,” explains Billie. “My hope with this new exhibition is that it might, in some small way, encourage men to open up and talk about their mental health, to their mates and their families, to seek therapy from the many different types that are out there, and to find peace and calm through creativity.”
Men Open Up is dedicated to Stan Charity. It has been developed in support of the charity CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) to raise awareness of male mental health. The exhbition is being held at the Thru the Lens gallery in Hay-on-Wye.
CALM, the Campaign Against Living Miserably, is available to help. Visit the website at thecalmzone.net at any time, or call 0800 58 58 58 between 5pm and midnight for help.
Feature photo: Glenn Dene
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