TALENTED local photographer John Mallon has announced a charity exhibition in the Ulster Museum .
John, a familiar sight in the Kennedy Centre where he has a photography stand, has battled depression and found his way back through the help of local charities. He soon discovered that his love of photography would give him the inspiration and drive to keep moving forward. We spoke to John about his exhibition – A View to Mental Health Through the Lens of a Camera.
“My reason for this exhibition is to show people and to send a message, to say to them, there is a view to better mental health through the lens of a camera, and not locking yourself away in a room,” he said. “Seek help, one conversation can change everything and through time, like I have done, you will start to enjoy your life.”
Sharon Curran of Lifeline said: “John has been a brilliant advocate in getting across to people through his work. It brings awareness to mental health issues in a non-threatening way, indeed the pictures provide a discussion point and perhaps creates inroads to discussing issues. There is still such a stigma attached to mental health and suicide that we need to get away from and, as they say, the first call is always the hardest. As people are saying, it’s okay not to feel okay. You can pick up the phone for yourself or indeed for a friend or family member that may be in distress.”
Speaking of his stand in the Kennedy Centre, John said: “ I initially came here for four days and over a year later I’m still here. It’s a great way of signposting people who need help. Folks are drawn in by the photography and the positivity that it brings, the beauty in the images makes people think about the world around them. Things like photography and other hobbies give people a focus and help them to get out and about, looking past what may be holding them back.”
Gary Symington of Lighthouse works with young people through positive promotion.
“I visit a lot of schools in Belfast to talk about mental health and openly bringing awareness,” he said. “My role is to provide personal development-based youth programmes within a variety of youth settings. The purpose of this work is to promote positive mental health and provide a safe space for young people to engage in group work.”
John says the exhibition night promises to be one of “dancing, fun and laughter” rather than one of “doom and gloom”. Comedy will be provided by Paddy McDonnell and Judith Hill of UTV will be in attendance.
The main event in the Ulster Museum kicks off at 8pm on June 25 – tickets are available at the Kennedy Centre and numbers are limited.