Emily Thompson - Phobia in the Age of Anxiety
Emily Thompson is a native of Springfield, IL. Her interest in photography started at the age of fifteen when she took a black and white photography class. She graduated with a Bachelors of Fine Arts from University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and then a Masters of Fine Arts degree in Photography from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. She currently teaches photography and art appreciation courses at Benedictine University- Springfield and Lincoln Land Community College.
“Phobia in the Age of Anxiety” will be up from June 6th to July 29th. Summer hours for the gallery are Monday through Thursday 8 am – 4pm.
The images in the Phobia series are conceptually based. They are the physical results of previsusualized images that were first created in my mind. I became interested in phobias several years ago and researched the history and formation of them. I discovered that many phobias have arisen since the turn of the twentieth century due to rapid expansion of industrialization, modernization and population, and constant changes in technology. Mental health professionals have come to refer to this time as the “Age of Anxiety,” as anxiety is the defining emotional state of modern age.
As an artist, the challenge then became to take fears and anxieties that exist within the mind and create photographs depicting the manifestation of phobias. For many of these photographs, I carefully prearranged the scene and action taking place, often using myself as a model/actor while also playing the role of photographer. The Phobia series represents psychological fears and anxieties that afflict many people throughout the world. The scenes depicted illustrate close encounters with phobias and anxiety-producing situations through a first-person viewpoint. By using an extremely wide-angle lens known as a fisheye lens, I was able to include parts of my own body in several images. With this viewpoint, the hope is that the viewer will also feel a part of the occurring phobia. The fisheye lens also leads to extreme distortion of lines. This distortion echoes the distortion of phobic situations within the afflicted individual’s mind. The individual cannot easily explain or understand the phobia, has no voluntary control over the anxiety response, and seeks to avoid the dreaded situation or stimulus. These photographs may trigger a variety of responses and emotions from the viewer, including anxiety, curiosity, and empathy. The photographs may even provoke a greater awareness and self-examination of any phobias that may exist in the viewer’s life. About one in ten people will suffer from troublesome anxiety or phobias at some point in their lives.