In the summer of 2015, a photography festival took place in the city of Gent. All throughout the city there were different exhibitions, with work of national and international photographers. The festival is called 80 Days of Summer.
As soon as I knew about this and saw that dr. Guislainmuseum was part of this happening, I grabbed my camera and hopped on a train. After visiting it a few times, I can say that Dr. Guislainmuseum is one of my all time favourite museums.
The main exhibition occupied the grand room of the museum, it’s called ‘Photo(sensitive)‘.
It roughly shows the history of the relation between psychiatry and photography. Beginning with photography as a form of documentation. They filled a wall with a lot of photographs from that time.
There are several of these walls throughout the exhibitions. The main theme of the exhibition are portraits, not only people’s faces but also their hands. Their hands can be another indicator to show what they are feeling. The festival, 80 Days of Summer, works around the theme of identity. It looks like this exhibition tries to give these people a sort of identity, that they don’t get lost in time.
Since the 1960s photography started to fulfill another roll, it was used a way to show the absuses in the psychiatry.
Frederik Salomon Meijers was a 19th century psychiatrist and head of a clinic. As I said before, in the 19th century they used photography for documentation of their patients. The work that stayed with me the most and had the most impact was that of Annaleen Lowes. A contemporary photographer who saw something esthetical in Meijers his photographs. In 2010 she made a series where she combined some of her own work with that of Meijers. This shows the contrast between the meanings of each of these photographs. Meijer uses them as a way of categorization, while Lowes uses them to avoid labeling and sees her models as who they are, not as a patient or as a ‘normal’ person.
This was originally published on Our Pursuit of Art.