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2019 SPE Annual Conference: The Myths of Photography and the American Dream / Major support by The Joy Family Legacy Foundation

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Past SPE Annual Conferences

Dan Fenstermacher

SPE Member since 2015
Member Chapter: West

Personal Space and Perceptions of Identity

My thesis portraits illustrate unique personas of individuals living with a diagnosed mental illness. They convey an authentic and genuine perspective of their life to the viewer. The purpose of this work is to inspire hope that one is not defined by their mental illness, and can overcome adversity. The portraits aim to enhance the viewer’s understanding of mental illness by juxtaposing the realities of people living with a mental illness with societal stigmas. Thus, the work humanizes the misconceived perception of mental illness by fostering dialogue and giving voice to a misunderstood and misrepresented community.
I collaborated with each individual to represent their experience of life with a mental illness. Some chose to depict a moment or feeling of intense anxiety. Others show triumph in overcoming their illness and resisting defeat. Each person demonstrates the fundamental nature of the human spirit by persevering through extreme adversity.
Courageously sharing a window into a world which may be unfamiliar, but often acutely similar to those not affected by mental illness, we challenge the boundaries of identity in the way that society depicts mental illness. In this work, I find purpose for my existence, and the people in these portraits serve as my source of inspiration to advocate on behalf of all who struggle with mental illness.

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