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Feature: Euan Urquhart - A Sinking Ship in a Sea of Darkness

Currently I am working on a project revolving around body image and dysmorphia. I plan to use this project to express the feelings of dysphoria that I and others have around their bodies to try to bring some light on men's mental health and body image. This is currently in the plan and testing phases and I intend to shoot this project on film and once I have shot my images, I will keep a select choice of negatives which I will cut, scratch and combine to produce unique images.

Rough plan of one shot

At this moment in time I have shot the majority of the test shots that I plan to shoot and I did these on my digital camera just to attempt different compositions and techniques in a more cost effective manner than shooting them on film. These include self and regular portraits and general mockups of planned “frankenstein” negatives. 

The biggest issue I've had while shooting my test shots wasn't the work itself but the mental impact on myself. I've never been fond of being in front of a camera. Something about it makes me feel like a deer in headlights and I've found myself despising/nit picking all of my self portraits causing myself to have a panic attack and almost change my project entirely because it made me too uncomfortable and I did not want people to see me like this. While the project has taken me to a bit of a dark place with my body image, I don't feel like this is a bad thing and I feel once I have completed this project and it is on exhibition I will actually feel better about myself. I’m saying this is me and all my perceived imperfections on show for everyone to see and while that seems terrifying at this moment in time once it's over I think it will be liberating. I was always taught in life that it's best to confront your fears and I'm finally listening.

While talking about my project I feel it's also important to talk about Dutch artist Laura Hospes who is the biggest inspiration to this project. She has made multiple projects focused on mental health but more specifically on depression and body image. After I was introduced to her work by James Pfaff I was enamoured by it, especially her series UCP in which she did self portraits during her stay in psychiatric care. The images she produced are hauntingly beautiful and have guided me on how to meaningfully try to represent mental health issues and also how I would like my images to roughly look aesthetically.

One quick example is this image from “UCP”, in which Laura's face is the only thing  visible, a sinking ship in a sea of darkness slowly being sucked into the inky depths. The deep shadows fill out the majority of the image and provide a suffocating feeling to it, as does her expression where she seems to be taking an almost shallow or last breath. This also provides visual representation of how it can feel to have depression with all hope gone and the darkness creeping in. A sole strip of light illuminates her face and while in the photo this gives us visual contrast, the source is unknown; it could be a door opening to the light, a possible representation of hope or perhaps death and the afterlife. 

When I first began photography it was just an escape for me, a mere tool to shy away the constant spew of anxiety/stress conjured by my internal monologue. 

I had bought an old Soviet film camera on ebay, when it arrived I immediately grabbed a roll of film from a local camera shop and took to the streets to capture my first ever exposures. 

I was hooked after my first three shots. Taking a light meter reading, setting all the dials to the right settings and finally making sure the composition/focus is correct. This slow methodical method was the only thing I had ever found to slow my mind down and make my brain quiet so I didn't have to confront my thoughts. 

And I went along like that for two years but now after a leap of faith change in career paths from being a chef to studying photography I find myself being more interested in confronting my inner thoughts and expressing them in an attempt to feel better about myself and help others who may feel similarly.


Euan Urquhart is a photographer based in Scotland. Currently he is planning on branching out into other mediums such as painting and exploring the body through lens.

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