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Photographs from a ‘schizophrenic’ patient

You would think that because I’m on vacation, I would be neglecting the newspaper.  But nope.  I’ve been reading it dutifully everyday.  The whole car-bombs in UK thing? Yep.  Read it.  Am I freaked out? Yes.  But trying to downplay it.  Figured my mom would get upset if I got upset.  She tried to talk about it today….but to her, it was more like “what in the f-king world were these people thinking?” kind of thing.  Not very used to having super politically charged conversations with my mother so I kinda turfed it off.

And the second story I have been following with great interest is this hoax, or so it has been called, by a group of photographers who wanted to bring to the masses the life of a schizophrenia.  So they concocted a story about a schizophrenic named “Wu Xiao Kang” who took a series of photographs before he committed suicide.  The photographs were chosen for the “Month of Photography” exhibition in Singapore.   After that, Silver Ribbon, a mental health awareness group in Singapore wanted to hold an exhibition of those photographs.  The group came clean about their ‘story’.

And now, it seems, a lot of people are really angry and upset about this ‘hoax’.

I want to give my 2 cents about this not only because I really should start studying for Step 2, but also because I think I’m going to be watching Ellen while reading the Psych chapter for Step 2.

Anyway, the first point is that while I don’t really know how the Month of Photography organizers choose who they want to exhibit, I’m sure a huge part of the consideration is that the work has to be good.  To say that they are exhibiting those photographs only because the photographer was a schizophrenic who committed suicide successfully is an insult to the panel of people who chose that work.  Would the work not be exhibited if it had been submitted as being the work of a photographer who tried to imagine what it would be like to be a schizophrenic patient?

The second point I would like to make is that the group came clean about their work once they realized that a mental health awareness group wanted to exhibit their work as one that was completed by a schizophrenic patient.   The Month of Photography is an exhibition of works by promising photographers.  But the exhibition by Silver Ribbon was specifically meant to feature works by artists inflicted with a mental health disease.  It was only right that Silver Ribbon was informed of the ‘truth’ before they accidentally misrepresented themselves.

The third point is that plenty of people write under a pseudonym, actors have stage names.  Some actors employ ‘method acting’ and for a period of time live and breathe as their characters.  But no one condems them because they are doing it for the sake of their ‘art’. So why is this group of photographers being criticized so heavily?

There are some who say that this hoax will only hinder the masses from accepting persons who have mental health problems in our society.  I’m afraid I don’t share the same sentiment.  The photographs got people talking.  The fact that it was a hoax got even more people talking.  It is a sad truth that in our society, but we are, in a small part all voyeurs.   Do you think that the book about John Nash–Nobel Prize winner for Economics would have generated as much interest (or sales) as John Nash–Nobel Prize winner for Economics with schizophrenia?  The point is that it got people talking. And thinking.



I've been swinging from place to place looking for new adventures every day.

3 thoughts on “Photographs from a ‘schizophrenic’ patient

  1. I completely understand your POV, and the fact that it got people talking. And I truly appreciate your two cents worth. (I’ve been asking around a lot but no one else seems to have much to say about it, at least my friends IRL.)

    However, I disagree on the following:
    1. Pseudonyms and stage names are fine. A concocted story behind the photos are not because the story was made up to evoke feelings out of people. If the photos were submitted with the fake name alone, there is nothing wrong with it at all.

    2. I feel that the photos shouldn’t be displayed not because I think the photos are bad or because the story behind it is fake, but rather, I question the motives of the group. Why they did what they did, coming clean now, all the publicity that’s surrounding it. What were their actual intentions? I feel that they shouldn’t be given ‘airtime’ because of all that.


  2. whoa. i had no idea that this entry would show up as a comment on your blog. sorry about that!

    but i understand your point of view. i can understand that people are upset because they feel that they have been taken in. but i also think that because of all of this hyped-up controversy, people are neglecting the work itself. which, on its own, was actually *quite* good.

    And art, within the ‘right’ context, i suppose is meant to evoke strong emotions. Except in today’s fast paced world, art is fast becoming a vertical form where a work of art occupies several mediums at once. and perhaps, that’s what this is. a work of art that is being expressed through different forms at once: fictional prose, photography (visual)

    all the airtime that this group is getting….if the media isn’t giving them the airtime…they probably won’t be getting it. i hate to ‘pass judgement’ on that mainly because well, i have on idea who is pushing this ‘airtime’. it could be the group that was/is exhibiting their work…or it could be them. or it could just be the media because of a slow news-day?


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