Artist-Photographer documents life in Bethlem Royal Hospital

Artist-photographer Mark Neville documents the everyday life of Bethlem Royal Hospital in a new solo show, House of Bread, in the Bethlem Museum of the Mind on the 70th anniversary of the NHS.

The museum commissioned this project to explore the complex nature of mental illness, treatment and recovery.

In the first six months of 2018, Mr Neville was given access to the hospital, conducting interviews, attending medical lectures and getting to know staff and patients.

He was able to investigate beneath the surface to reveal its told and untold narratives. His photographs capture the relationships between staff and their environment, with a focus on the place and people.

His show aims to contribute to our understanding of recovery – and to empower people who may feel marginalised – and to advance the way society views mental health issues.

Mr Neville captures the hospital’s private and communal areas, from the community centre and chapel, working and living areas across five sites of the hospital: the River House medium-secure forensic wards, the National Psychosis Unit, the Mother and Baby Unit, the Child and Adolescent mental health service units and Occupational Therapy.

He said: “Non-intrusively present sums up how I wanted to be when I was making photographs on these wards. This was often challenging, and always rewarding.

I was completely astonished by all the staff, at every level, and their apparently inexhaustible commitment to the patients’ recovery.”

Mr Neville works at the intersection of art and documentary, investigating the social function of photography.

His work aims to find new ways to empower the subject over the author.

Recent exhibitions include Battle Against Stigma, Daiwa Foundation Art Prize exhibition 2018, Japan House, London (2018); Displaced Ukrainians, Centre for Eastern European and International Studies, Berlin (2017); Child’s Play, The Foundling Museum, London (2017); London/Pittsburgh, The Alan Cristea Gallery, London (2014); IWM Contemporary: Mark Neville, The Imperial War Museum, London (2014) and Deeds Not Words, The Photographers’ Gallery, London (2013).

Mark Neville, House of Bread, Inside Bethlem Hospital. Until January 5, 2019 10am-5pm, Wednesday to Friday, and the first and last Saturdays of every month (Except December 29) Free

Bethlem Museum of the Mind, Bethlem Royal Hospital, Monks Orchard Road, Beckenham, Kent BR3 3BX.

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