“Frames of Mind” exhibition by Peter Langman.
The “Frames of Mind” is a collaboration between British photographer Pete Langman and Sam. It explores self harm and mental health.
By Christopher Osborne.
Sam has collaborated in making “Frames of Mind”.
I spoke to Chelmsford-based photographer Pete Langman late in 2022, and SilvergrainClassics published an online article on his portraiture and darkroom at Christmas.
As we spoke, Pete was in the early stages of a personal project. Since we spoke, he has collaborated with Sam on a series that explores mental health and self-harm. The results are stunning and are due to be exhibited in Essex, England in May 2023. This opens at the Beryl Platt Centre in Writtle at 19:30 on 19th May.
This project came about through serendipity. Sam was the new coach at Pete’s local gym. She noticed that he had seen the scars on her arms. “They are what you think”. He asked if she minded talking about it. Sam and Pete struck up what has become an ongoing conversation, and this has in turn lead to the photography project.
An image from “Frames of Mind” being enlarged in Peter Langman’s darkroom.
When Sam agreed to collaborate on the project, Pete was very careful not to simply charge in with a camera. He and Sam met and talked through each planned sitting. “This series is about mental health and vulnerability. You have to be very respectful”, explains Pete.
At an early stage, Pete decided that he wanted the work to be showcased. He has elected to arrange the exhibition on his own so that he would have complete control. He felt that this was necessary as the project deals with issues of low self-esteem and vulnerability.
Sam has been self-harming since she was ten years old. Until now, she has kept this hidden from others. Between Pete talking to Sam about her self-harm, and the shoot, Sam did have another cutting episode. “She explains that the stress builds up, and the cutting is a release”, Pete explains.
The first image in the series is a portrait of Sam holding a piece of glass. This is what she used to cut herself for the first time. The scene is carefully crafted with Sam’s eye distorted by the glass. “I wanted to reflect the way that she sees herself”, says Pete. “A lot of people believe that self-harm is a precursor to suicide. This is not the case for Sam”.
I asked Pete what Sam thought about the series. “She’s pretty pleased with the results and is keen to use this as the basis of an awareness campaign for others.
Spotting prints for the “Frames of Mind” exhibition
Pete has hand-printed the prints, and he is still working on a final edit. There will be 15-18 images shown in the final series, and these are beautifully crafted in a square 12 by 12-inch format. Pete is keen to explain that Sam has the option to pull out at any stage. “Sam’s well-being is more important than anything else”, says Pete.
When we spoke, he only had spotting and framing left to complete. Each print will be displayed on an easel and individually lit.
“Sam and I have a similar sense of humour. We talk a lot. I have been surprisingly calm during this process. Making this work and organising the exhibition has not phased me at all. I have learned some lessons though”. I asked Pete for an example. He laughed. “I’ve learned to make more test prints. I have learned to stick to the film and developer that I am familiar with. And I have learned that I can see things through. From here on nothing will be too big or too small”.
I asked Pete what happens next. “We have a meeting scheduled with staff from the Essex County Council Suicide team. And we are also talking to the Head of Psychiatric Services for schools in Essex. I want this series to go somewhere. For some people, self-harm is not enough. If this series helps 2 or 3 people from going further in the future then that will be my reward”.
A week after I interviewed Pete for this article, I spoke to Sam as well. I was interested to understand her feelings about the project. “The whole experience has been positive”, Sam explained. “It has helped me to talk about it. It has been very helpful to have someone supportive and non-judgemental to talk to”.
I asked Sam how she felt about the upcoming exhibition. “In some ways, it’s a bit nerve-wracking that people will see something that I have not publically talked about or shown. But there is a good side to it too. I hope that showing my experience will help others realise that they are not alone”.
When & Where
“Frames of Mind” will be exhibited at the Beryl Platt Centre in Writtle, Essex. It opens at 19:30 on 19th May. Entrance is free, however, there are limited places available and booking is required. Book at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/frames-of-mind-tickets-562211839747
You can see more of Peter Langman’s work at www.cameraandcoffeecabin.click and on Instagram at @cameraandcoffeecabin
Images © Peter Langman 2023.
You might also be interested in this previous SilvergrainClassics article on British photographer Pete Langman. https://silvergrainclassics.com/en/2022/12/peter-langman-on-portraits-and-the-darkroom/