Storying Sheffield

In a dark wood: audio


In a dark wood: Words and images of mental distress across a century.

This project was a collaboration between Storying Sheffield, Archive Sheffield, and Sheffield Libraries, and resulted in an exhibition at Bank Street Arts in September 2016. The exhibition explored changing perceptions of mental distress/illness by drawing both on contemporary accounts and on the photographic record of the former Middlewood Hospital in Sheffield.

These large-plate glass negatives, kept in the Sheffield Archives and almost certainly unseen since their deposit offer a powerful window into a different era of medical care. Anonymised images from the turn of the 20th century were presented alongside contemporary audio reflections on the nature of illness/distress and care from people currently living with mental health problems. We hoped that the combination of images and sound represented a kind of dialogue across time, generating insight and provoking thought about differing perceptions of mental health, as well as drawing out resonances.

For the original exhibition text, see below.

Exhibition essay 


Archive Sheffield is a group of photographers and filmmakers who specialise in documentary, story-driven work. We are building an ongoing archive of contemporary photographs taken in and about Sheffield, and are working with other archival organisations to present interesting work from the past to a new audience.

Sheffield Archives and Local Studies Library collections preserves and makes available information about South Yorkshire from the 12th century to the present.