The DEFINE Project
A few months ago, Lance Blakney and Dee Wilkie (two friends from the fashion/creative community) approached me/Wear Your Label with an idea: creating a photo series depicting what it feels like to live with mental illness, in a raw, conceptual way. Dee being a talented surface designer (with more ambition than most people I know), and Lance being a photographer (and videographer, and producer, and director, and all-around creative genius) I knew that this could be something great.
I said yes.
And so it began. We put out a casting call and received over 200 applications – some from Fredericton, some from Halifax, Toronto, even LA. Only 2 were men. I think that really speaks to how strong the stigma still stands.
In a sense, we knew we were limited – both by virtue of our location (being based in a small community) and lack of any budget (to travel for shoots). That aside, the responses we received from applicants were phenomenal. Casting one person to represent each mental health issue showcased in The Bracelet Project was our goal. And narrowing down the applicants was incredibly challenging.
Everybody has a story.
Suffice to say, everybody has a story. I learned so much, and resonated with every individual that we ended up choosing to work with. This project was honestly so cathartic and healthy – connecting with Lance, Dee, and all the Role Models in such an intimate way really brought me back to my own journey, recovery, and why we do what we do.
I hope everybody can get something out of this. If nothing else, I hope each Role Model is incredibly proud to have opened up so honestly. Your stories matter.
This is not the end. We have so many more stories to tell - stay tuned.
PS. Thank-you to Lance, Dee and Addie for being inspirations to work with on this project. For giving up your weekends, and spending late nights/early mornings voluntarily (and so passionately) making this project what it is. It means so, so much.