SANE Australia and Getty Images, are working together to change the way mental illness is portrayed visually in Australia and giving everyone the opportunity to contribute their images in the Picture This photography competition.
Imagine a world where people with mental illness are NOT pictured as dangerous or violent, but rather, as who they really are.
Australia’s national mental health charity, SANE Australia, and the world’s leader in visual communications, Getty Images, have released the results of the first national research project into the way mental illness is portrayed visually in Australia. The ‘Picture This’ survey of more than 5000 Australians – 70% of whom had experienced mental illness – found that the majority of respondents wanted images that place more emphasis on the human side of mental illness, rather than abstract portrayals or pictures of pills.
An outdoor exhibition of photography that reflects the results of Picture This is on display at The Atrium at Melbourne’s Federation Square until March 18.
“While community attitudes towards the way we speak about mental illness, along with the Australian media’s reporting of this complex issue, are among the most responsible in the world, the way mental illness is visually portrayed remains a concern for many Australians, especially associations with violence,” said CEO of SANE Australia, Jack Heath.
“The Picture This survey results show that Australians want to see images of real people that convey a sense of both struggle and hope.”
“Through our collaboration with Getty Images we can educate photographers and the community at large while encouraging the supply and use of images that present a fair and accurate view of mental illness.”
Cameron Solnordal, who has lived with schizophrenia for more than 15 years, said he and his family’s experience and understanding of mental illness had evolved over time.
“Through our varied understanding of mental illness we all gain unique perspectives which continue to change as time goes on,” said Cameron. “On day one of my journey with my illness, my family would have pictured schizophrenia as a locked and bolted door in the doctor’s office that had ‘mental Illness’ roughly scrawled in broken red crayon.”
“Today, my illness would just be pictured as a door that we pass through when we go outside. There are no locks, no bolts and it will never slam shut. Mental illness was only made scarier by simply what we didn’t know at the time.”
Getty Images has hand curated a selection of images that reflect the findings of the Picture This survey. To find them visit www.istockphoto.com and search “PictureThis”.
Stuart Hannagan, Vice President of Editorial, Australasia, Getty Images, said: “At Getty Images we feel passionately that images have the power to change the way people view the world and depicting diversity is one of our biggest priorities.”
“While we cannot change what people publish or click on overnight, we are committed to providing a diverse range of imagery that accurately and sensitively reflects the experience of mental illness in Australia, and broadens the options available for those looking to create stories that are more authentic.”
Based on the research results SANE has developed five recommendations to assist in the fair and accurate visual portrayal of mental illness.
1. Hidden Adversity: Provide more images depicting people from diverse backgrounds, doing ‘everyday’ things, while also illustrating a hidden experience of adversity.
2. Human experience: Emphasize the human experience of mental illness rather than featuring abstract depictions.
3. Non-violent: Do not tag or associate images depicting violence (blood, knives etc) with mental illness. There are still some images of violence in online collections that are tagged with words related to mental illness (such as schizophrenia) even though these images aren’t often used to portray mental illness.
4. Search words: Tag images reflecting the survey’s results with diagnostic terms (such as ‘depression’, ‘bipolar’), or emotions (such as ‘sadness’ and ‘loneliness’) to make them easier to locate via online searches.
5. Diversity of experience: use images that represent isolation or pain (such as those with people in the dark, in a corner or holding their head in their hands) with other types of images to show the diversity of experience of mental illness. While many identify with this type of image, there are also others who do not.
In addition, Getty Images is giving everyone the chance to contribute their images, based on the research results and five key recommendations developed by SANE (see above), by visiting http://competitions.gettyimages.com.
Simply register on the competition platform and upload your photo(s) based on the brief until 15th April, 2016. Successful applicants will receive an invitation to join Getty Images or iStock by Getty Images photographer. If you wish to be considered for this, tick “I am interested in becoming a Getty Images/iStockphoto contributor” on registration. All artists retain copyright to their work.
“This collaboration with SANE Australia will help content creators – from the media through to ad agencies, and anyone consuming content, to visualise a better world in which mental illness is portrayed more authentically,” said Stuart Hannagan.
SANE Australia is also asking the public to join the conversation online about how they picture mental illness by visiting www.sane.org/picturethis