Since struggling with mental illness, Robson turned to photography as a way to deal with the struggles within his mind. His work from this era is fractured, tortured and distorted. Often taking in countryside scenes, Robson has attacked, vandalised and scorned the negatives and prints of his work. “I don’t think that an image captured by a machine can fully ‘get’ the feelings” Robson says of his work, and it’s true that his emotional imprints are the most enticing characteristic of these images. The beautifully damaged results are captivating, openly offering an insight into a troubled consciousness. His work with polaroids are particularly impressive – the images shift, warp and decay before your eyes.
After recovering, Robson’s work has taken on a more reflective tone. His water-based images, which deal with feelings of drowning and claustrophobia, are more carefully considered emotional responses than his earlier works are, but are no less powerful. The overriding sense of helplessness and forced restraint is cleverly examined with Robson’s work – it will certainly make you question the often overlooked issue of mental health, and how we deal with this issue.
This week (9-15 June) is Men’s Health Awareness Week, which is helping to draw attention to and offer support for the often under-diagnosed problem of depression in young men.
John Robson’s first solo exhibition, Turning Right Instead of Left, runs at Plymouth Arts Centre until 6th July.
This exhibition is supported by Fotonow CIC, a creative media organisation based in Plymouth that aims to support photographic research and practice.www.fotonow.org
Words: Joe Meldrum
Photographs: Jake McPherson