April 27, 2018

See life with depression through someone else's eyes

Photovoice art exhibition encourages critical reflection on mental illness experiences, May 7-11 at the Mathison Centre
Edmonton artist Brad Necyk channels his talents to inspire open discussions around mental health.

Edmonton artist Brad Necyk channels his talents to inspire open discussions around mental health.

Brad Necyk

In any given day, you encounter dozens of people, each with their own complex story full of trials and triumphs, sorrow and joy. Although it’s impossible to see the world through someone else’s eyes, photographs may be the next best thing.

With a master's in fine arts and more than five years of experience under his belt, Edmontonian artist Brad Necyk channels his talents to inspire open discussions around mental health. As he works towards his PhD in psychiatry, Necyk focuses his creative energy on breaking down stigma regarding mental illness.

“As someone who has lived with mental illness, a large part of my practice and research has been around the illness experience,” Necyk explains.

“What I find coming out of my research is that people have started being more open in talking about mental illness. When you’re able to have those kinds of discussions, you’re able to combat some of the stigma that often comes with mental health.”

Coinciding with Mental Health Week (May 7-13), Necyk’s upcoming photovoice exhibition Visualizing a Way Through brings the conversation to UCalgary. Hosted by the Mathison Centre, the exhibition features a collection of 13 photographs from four artists as they reflect on their lived experience with depression.

“This project is about bringing people together,” Necyk says. “Rather than only including my personal reflection, the exhibition captures a broader picture of depression and the individual illness experience.”

Although showcasing different individuals’ unique experiences with depression, Necyk believes there is a common theme linking the photographs together. “The main theme here is loneliness,” he states.

“It’s important to recognize because loneliness can influence the illness experience in different ways. Individuals may feel isolated but at the same time, people in your life may feel pushed away, making it difficult for them to go through depression with you.”  

While versed in numerous mediums, Necyk purposely chose photography as a means of fostering better understandings of depression. “Pop culture, including movies and social media, make us very visually literate with photography,” Necyk explains.

“It’s a very accessible medium that people are familiar with. That often helps people better connect to the art. Photographs capture the experience and elevate it in a way that resonates with viewers. It feels very real and relatable.”  

Through the exhibition, Necyk aims to heighten awareness and understanding regarding complex mental health challenges. “I hope that visitors take away an intellectual understanding of what depression is and what the illness experience is on a deeper level,” Necyk says.

“Art is expressive and enables people to better embody and communicate difficult ideas. I hope the exhibition shapes the way that people see illnesses by allowing them to connect with the emotions and to gain a more complete understanding of depression.”

Visit the Visualizing a Way Through photovoice exhibition from May 7-11, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Mathison Centre. 

The University of Calgary’s Campus Mental Health Strategy is a bold commitment to the importance of mental health and well-being of our university family. Our vision is to be a community where we care for each other, learn and talk about mental health and well-being, receive support as needed, and individually and collectively realize our full potential.