By Rachel Moss
Body Dysmorphia Disorder is rarely discussed in the media or day-to-day life, but the mental illness is thought to affect around 2 per cent of the UK population – more than one million people.
But now, artists and photographers have captured what it’s like to live with the condition, through a series of interpretations in a new exhibition titled ‘Identity’.
Body dysmorphia disorder (BDD) is characterised by a preoccupation with perceived flaws in appearance, which are unnoticeable to others, according to the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation.
“As well as the excessive self-consciousness, individuals with BDD often feel defined by their flaw,” the charity explains. “Sufferers tend repeatedly to check on how bad their flaw is (for example in mirrors and reflective surfaces), attempt to camouflage or alter the perceived defect and avoid public or social situations or triggers that increase distress.”
Artistic due Bruno Metra and Laurence Jeanson have created portraits of people covered in images from magazines to show how the media affects body image, particularly for people with body dysmorphia.
Meanwhile Meltem Isik has photographed people in front of blown-up of distorted images of themselves to reflect the way we often focus on and exaggerate our perceived flaws.
“From birth, our own anatomies, by nature of being lived in, are foreign to us,” she said ahead of the exhibition. “Each of us knows the body we inhabit from the inside out, and yet we are only able to register its face, its back, and its hidden crevices by use of mirrors and photographs. Through time, we construct a composite vision of who we are from the puzzle pieces we see directly and through (often distorted) reflections.”
Artist Leigh de Vries, who experienced body dysmorphia herself for more than 25 years, aims to break down societal stigma and offer “an opportunity to encounter and understand BDD through the lens of the sufferer”.
Meanwhile James Green’s photos in the exhibition focus on the face and the feeling BDD sufferers sometimes have of being “trapped”.
Other artists showcased in the exhibition include Derek Santini, Daniel Martin Bartosz Beda, Scarlet Isherwood and Daniela Slater.
‘Identity’ is at the Zebra One Gallery in Hampstead, north London, from 24 November – 9 December. A percentage of money raised from the exhibition will go to The BDD Foundation.