Luke Hanna Understanding OCD

As part of the Medicine and Photography Selected Study Module at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry (2011), Luke Hanna explored OCD.

‘Art and obsession are linked, as art, in many cases, is a medium for the artist to express inner thoughts and ideas. This crosses many disciplines; from the repetitive themes of sexuality and human fragility in Salvador Dali’s paintings, to Walter Astrada’s attempts to capture injustice in his photos, and writers like Mitch Albom whose books explore recurrent themes of life and death. With this being said, it seemed appropriate to explore a disorder that itself displays similar qualities of obsession and repetition. OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, is a common mental health problem and diagnosed at a similar frequency as asthma. It is characterised by obsessive intrusive thoughts that often cause the person to act out repetitive ‘rituals’, or actions such as tapping objects or washing hands to relieve the thought (i.e. an unshakable idea that if you don’t check the oven 10 times there will be a fire). This, stems from the fact the ‘OCD brain’ cannot suppress these thoughts.

The idea of people being like slaves or puppets to their obsessive thoughts and carrying out cycles of actions to subdue them is an integral part of my project. Having personally been affected by the disorder I wanted to challenge its public perception, which I feel is rather mismatched with the debilitating and distressing experience the sufferer often feels. I think through lack of understanding, and the often strange manifestation of the condition people are led to perceive OCD as a funny quirk, or think the person is just ‘weird’ without thinking any deeper about the cause. Perhaps this is partly due to the fact people are unaware of the distressing thoughts (often revolving around violence and sex) that underline the behaviour.

I wanted to draw these two ideas together depicting OCD in photos that mirror the public perception of the disorder. The idea is that the images are not immediately distressing but become more so on reflection.’

Luke Hanna