Georgia x Jonno
What does it feel like to have a mind that doesn’t fit the mould?
This photographic series, from mental health advocate Georgia Gardner and artist Jonno Revanche, captures the tension of living with neurodiversity in a world not designed for it — a feeling Georgia has experienced regularly as a person living with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). The work reflects the human and personal experience of mental health challenges, while also offering a more abstract reference to the structural and systemic barriers many people face in seeking treatment and connection.
Georgia Gardner (they/them)
Many young people grow up feeling like they don’t quite fit the world around them. This feeling can grow if we encounter serious difficulties in parts of life that our peers seem to breeze through effortlessly. Like many young people with undiagnosed mental health challenges, this was my experience. I didn’t know why I struggled with so many things. I didn’t know about ADHD, so I thought the problem was just me. Maybe I didn’t work hard enough, maybe I was lazy, maybe my school reports were right, and I just needed to apply myself more.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) doesn’t always look the way people assume. Like many mental health challenges, it comes in different types and some can slip under the radar more easily. There are unique challenges if you don’t get diagnosed during childhood. Not only is it harder to access support in adulthood, I spent years assuming my struggles were challenges everyone experienced – and that everyone else was just better at coping with them. Like many who discover their neurodiversity in adulthood, finding out why my brain seemed to work differently helped me find the supports I needed. I was able to change my environment, rather than continuing futile attempts to change myself.
Jonno Revanche (they/them)
Much of what Georgia and I talked about during our initial (zoom) meetings were to do with ADHD, and more specifically the challenge of living in a culture, where our attention and energy is constantly being pulled in different directions, and why it makes it difficult to perform somewhat mundane, necessary tasks and keep up our relationships. I thought that would be fruitful grounds for creating a photo series of some kind and wanted to push myself to interpret that faithfully while still retaining my own “creative voice.” In response I wanted to handpick models (or “nodels”) who I had heard speak about this before, or were otherwise vocal about mental ill-health.
MY VISIBLE MESSAGE
All young people deserve the support to thrive.
If you planted a seed and it didn’t flower, you wouldn’t blame the seed. You would fertilize the soil, adjust the water, keep it warm and care for it. This care and support is what is needed for people living with neurodiversity and mental health challenges. As someone living (and thriving) with a mind that doesn’t fit the mould, I’ve learnt how to support myself and my mind without blame. It has challenges some days, but that’s not a flaw. Experiencing challenge is part of being human.
This last year has been a challenging one for so many young people. We face many complex problems. If you’re struggling, you’re certainly not alone. People living with mental health challenges deserve support and care to thrive. If you’re having a hard time, it’s not your fault, and getting support can really help turn things around. I would encourage anyone having a tough time or facing challenges in their life to reach out and seek assistance.
In our preliminary conversations Georgia and I kept coming back to this particular tension – how we can depict our individual experiences of struggle, alienation and “mental ill-health”, while balancing something more macro in the other hand.
I was staying in Adelaide at the time and wanted to visit locations that held resonance for the models, as a way to depict the more “personal” side of living with mental ill-health, and then attempt something a bit more abstract or symbolic to represent the more structural barriers to seeking treatment and connection. I liked the notion of a visual that showed people trying to “keep it together” and possibly even failing to do so, something that veered away from the typical bus stop sign depression images.
Working with Jonno was really fascinating. I’m not a very visual learner, so it was really interesting collaborating on a photography project. Learning about Jonno’s process and seeing the photography come to life through their exploration has been eye-opening. Crafting a visual representation of systems and structures approach to mental health is quite a challenge.
Georgia Gardner (they/them)
Georgia, age 26, works in communications for a health promotion charity, and is currently studying a Graduate Diploma of Psychology. Growing up with very visible chronic illness in rural NSW, they became interested in mental wellbeing at a young age. They began volunteering at age 17 as a youth ambassador and peer supporter helping other young people and families living with rare disease. Georgia is an experienced advocate in the intersection between physical health, mental wellbeing and the social determinants of health as they impact young people. Outside of work, study and advocacy, Georgia is a keen martial artist and has competed at national and international level tournaments in Japanese and historical European styles of martial arts.
Jonno Revanche (they/them)
Jonno Revanche is a writer/photojournalist and multidisciplinary artist who grew up between country Victoria and Adelaide suburbia. Their work often touches upon subcultures in isolation, living between gender binaries, alternative ecologies and people’s feelings. They are a frequent contributor for i-D, the Guardian, Teen Vogue and Krass Journal.