Photographer Louis Quail was 12-years-old when he first learned that his older brother, Justin, had schizophrenia. While the latter was 20 – a young man – when he was first diagnosed, Louis was still only a kid; it was impossible for him to digest the extent of what he was being told. Today, he’s the first to admit that understanding his sibling’s condition has been a life-long learning curve.
Since 2011, Quail has been working on Big Brother, a photobook dedicated to his elder sibling and his life with schizophrenia. While the images are unflinching in their depiction of Justin’s daily struggles, they portray Justin in both, as his brother terms it, “his light and shade.” Last week, they were awarded the Renaissance prize in the ‘series’ category.
“The opportunity to show the life of a schizophrenia sufferer in such detail does not come along that often – if ever, in this way – and at a time when mental health funding is in such disarray, this photobook could be a fantastic way to influence opinion,” he explains.
“The way Justin copes with his illness is inspiring; and Justin is giving back in many ways through the examples he shows in his life.”
These examples include Justin’s passion for birdwatching, as well as his relationship with Jackie, his long-term partner. Through his exploration of an individual life, Quail hopes that the photographs in the book (which is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter) can contribute to a national – and global – conversation on issues surrounding mental health, support, funding and empathy.
“Only in this way can we fight stigma and the stereotyping that occurs when people make judgements without full information. Nine out of ten mental health sufferers say stigma makes their life worse.”
“Fighting stigma, building empathy and demanding attention are all key components in a struggle to have parity of esteem for mental and physical health services – and to improve the lives of our most vulnerable citizens.”