Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Dolore Celato (Hidden Pain), 'Head in a Box'

Ed Chapman
Ed Chapman
This was a photography project partly taking inspiration from the Messerschmidt character heads created in the late 18th century.   Franz Xaver Messerschmidt was a German sculptor who was afflicted with Crohn's disease and his character heads were expressions of the pain he felt during certain episodes.

The heads first came to my attention when filming someone at the V&A museum talking about his favourite piece there.  He had quite a bad stutter, combined with being very nervous and filmed in public the whole experience was clearly uncomfortable for him.  The subject matter was so apt for the situation and symbiotic nature of the relationship between both of their discomforts stayed with me.  I also really loved the heads themselves, they are so expressive and although i can really know what it is like to have Crohn's disease i am able to empathises with this physical pain.  Discomfort is something most of suffer with at some point, these bust certainly display that.

In 2014 i was looking for an interesting project producing a series of images with a physical disconnect and an expression of discomfort.   To help with this i needed an uncomfortable situation to help bring out the sitter pain.  People often hide either physical or mental pain from others, partly to appear normal but also most people don't really care about that condition.  Partly due to the difficultly in relating to 'your' problem and empathising with something you don't understand is nigh on impossible.

I was born with a condition known as Situs Inversus (and Kartagener syndrome) a condition in which all my internal organs are reversed. Heart on the right, liver on left and lung, kidneys are switched etc.  This condition is found in 0.01% of the population.  It is rare and often confuses the medical staff when taking chest X-rays. They should learn to talk to patients and ask them questions first rather than assuming!  This is not only a hidden physical deformity but one that people don't often below is true until i ask them locate my liver and then show them theirs is on the other side. There are many other issues which are more obvious such my breathing and constant colds.  Other that i rarely reveal that i am affected in any way.

One experiment with George Horn worked well using a modern pine box, which was photoshopped,  but it felt too clean and i wanted the image to be taken from one image.
George Horn, Dolore Celato (Hidden Pain)
Shortly afterwards i was given an old fruit box which was adapted so that each person could appear to be contained inside.  It was supported by cold metal bars and was particularly uncomfortable after a few minutes. Each of the men were asked to be stripped naked down to the waist, this added to the awkwardness, especially as the large windows were open to anyone viewing from outside.  I just simply asked them think of something painful and pull the appropriate expression.
Dolore Celato set-up
Interesting these images resemble Victorian specimen jars. The Victorians loved to catalogue and compartmentalise everything, including our mental conditions.

Bruce Brandon
Bruce Brandon
Colin Edwin
Colin Edwin
Ryan Grayley
Ryan Grayley
Ed Morton
Ed Morton
Alistair Peck
Alistair Peck
Daren Wishart
Daren Wishart

and finally me!

Phil Richardson
Phil Richardson