People wear their thoughts on their faces for powerful photo series

‘Of course it has evolved a lot since that first spark. I realised quickly that to create this project I would need to find an awesome lettering artist to collaborate with so I dived into research. When I came across Kate’s website I realised I had seen her work before in a massive installation in Hachette’s London offices – it’s a stunning piece featuring authors’ names that spans five floors on their central lobby. She was definitely the right person to work with, so I got on the phone to Kate and explained the project and my aims.

‘Thankfully she was up for giving it a try, so a few weeks later we were in a studio experimenting with different ways of drawing words onto a face.’

Charlie set about recruiting people to take part in the project, asking for anyone who would be willing to publicly share their innermost thoughts.

Once volunteers were sorted, they were asked to share what goes on in their head. These words were then carefully painted on the person’s face by Kate, to be photographed by Charlie.

For some, it was a difficult process. Others found it therapeutic.

‘I have a huge admiration for the people who have participated in the project, because they’ve been so open we’ve been able to help others,’ Charlie tells us. ‘It’s not easy having your most difficult thoughts displayed two meters tall in an outdoor exhibition.

‘The process was quite a long one and the whole way through I made sure people felt comfortable and knew exactly what they were getting into — I didn’t want there to be any surprises for the participants.

‘It started with me interviewing each person on the phone prior to their shoot, I needed them to express in their own words how it feels inside their head.

‘I recorded this conversation so that later on Kate and I could pick out the most poignant words and phrases to write on their face.

‘On the day of the shoot, I made sure that there was a relaxed and open atmosphere in the studio. Each person would sit for about two hours whilst Kate drew the words onto their face, then I would photograph them for 30 minutes.

‘Some people found it tough, others found it great fun.

‘I think what stood out to me was the bravery of each volunteer. This campaign has been very public and I admire them hugely for opening up and encouraging others to do the same in the process.

‘I found that it helped me understand my own mental health difficulties a lot more — during the interviews I often found myself thinking I’ve felt like that or that’s happened to me.

‘Of course, every person is different, but the one thing that really stood out was that even though these people have been through incredibly tough times they are also living interesting and unique lives.

‘Seeing how much they achieved despite their mental health difficulties was really inspiring for me.’

Charlie experienced depression while he was at university, so the thoughts of his subjects had a special resonance.

He hopes that the images will make people get talking about mental health, and remind those struggling that they are not alone.

Some people might find that some of the words speak directly to them and are talking about the same feelings they’ve experienced,’ says Charlie.

‘If so I hope they will help them realise they are not alone, having tough things happening in your head is really normal. Loads of people go through it.

‘The best thing you can do to help yourself is to talk to someone friendly about it – that might be your doctor, your friend, your parents, siblings or a mental health organisation.

‘If people don’t relate directly I really hope that these images can help you understand what it’s like when others struggle with their mental health.

‘I hope these images can help them to empathise with those who are going through tough times.

‘Ultimately I want these photographs to help spark conversations. The more we can talk about mental health the easier it will be for people to seek the help they need.’

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