Words: Joshua Greenwood
Feature Image:Refinery 29 X Fiona Maclean
Refinery 29 understands the confines of existing stock photography, especially when it comes to the representation of mental health. For over five years they have been producing their own stock photography with the aim of representing real women’s experiences, believing it is vital for the women featured on their website to be representative and relatable. In partnership with photographer Flora Maclean, they have created a series of photographs translating and representing mental health disorders visually with sensitivity and respect to be used as their global stock imagery.
The outcome of the collaboration makes some of the more intricate feelings of mental health – which are typically difficult to verbalise and visualise- tangible. In doing so, imagery available for media outlets to use on this topic can give any readers suffering with mental illness clarity; reminding them they aren’t alone on their journey. On the partnership, Refinery29 UK wrote: “We wanted to creatively reflect depression, anxiety, mood disorders and more as you feel them, instead of a ‘one size fits all’ image that doesn’t really speak to anyone.”
Flora Maclean has previously worked with Refinery 29 telling stories of the women who have survived domestic abuse. Through her work, she likes to challenge stereotypes and celebrate diversity having worked on a personal series called ‘Every Player Counts’ in which she celebrates the diversity and friendship in women’s football. She told Creative Review in a recent article, “Photography is my way of communicating I never really feel like I can explain myself with words. It’s a key part of my life in a way.”
It’s great to see online platforms such as Refinery 29 taking steps forward to change how mental health is represented. Hopefully, other admirable names for young people will follow suit and help break from the conventional and negative stereotypes.
The exhibtion of the images is free to visit at the Exposure Gallery in partnership with The Photography Movementfrom 19th – 31st October. You can also purchase the prints here and Refinery 29 will be donating the proceeds to OCD UK, an organisation which “supports people through difficult times, right through to recovery and everything in between.”