Jameisha Prescod on demystifying chronic illness

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The champion of this year’s Wellcome Picture taking Prize for her image Untangling gives an insight into her platform, You Look Okay to Me

Creativity allows us to connect with one another. This demystifies our experiences and demonstrates that through expressing them we are never really alone. Certainly, collective solidarity is at the core associated with 26-year-old Jameisha Prescod’s endeavours. Prescod, based in south Greater london, is the founder of A person Look Okay to Me , an online innovative space for people with a chronic illness. There, she debunks the myths around what it takes to be chronically ill, as well as the ways that arts and culture influence how the illness can be experienced. The name of the project underscores the presumptions and biases Prescod seeks to problem; ‘You look okay to me’ is a phrase that Prescod would repeatedly hear when telling people this wounderful woman has an autoimmune disease.

© Jameisha Prescod.

System was founded in 2016 and has featured collaborations with Adidas, Creative Conscience, Scope charity, and others. With over 25, 000 followers making up Prescod’s online community on Instagram (with further engagement across YouTube, Twitter and Facebook), her knowledge is shared far and wide. She creates comprehensive Instagram reels which give essential insights into relevant subjects – such as a collaborative method of medicine, the history of pain, and working from home – in relation to chronic illness. More recently, Prescod has translated her experiences into a photography practice. This season, she won the Wellcome Photography Prize for her picture Untangling ; a self-portrait in which Prescod sits in her cluttered bedroom, knitting, illuminates the particular craft as a method for owning a low mood.

BJP talks to Prescod about creating an online community of impaired and chronically ill individuals, and the importance of making the invisible visible.

© Jameisha Prescod.

BJP: Why do you start You Look Okay to Me ?

Jameisha Prescod: I began You Look Okay in my opinion after my lupus diagnosis. I was a new film pupil and found it really hard to actualise my dreams because of my symptoms and the unavailable nature of the film market. The platform became a creative wall socket that allowed me to utilize my video skills within an accessible way for my impairment, but also a way to educate individuals about chronic illnesses. As the saying goes, the rest is history.

BJP: Why is it important to raise understanding of chronic illness through the discussing of lived experience?

Prescod: When I was first diagnosed, the internet helped me understand so much about my disease. I know they say we shouldn’t Google details, but there is often an insufficient support about what your ‘new life’ is going to be from the medical end. These resources may help someone who struggles to settle into the new reality of having a long-term condition feel much less alone.

Since I communicate greatest in video form, and also have found that I have a knack for breaking things lower, I wanted to offer resources which could help someone in the same position as I was post-diagnosis.

BJP: What are the possibilities of disabled and chronically sick people collecting support on-line?

Prescod: When people from a marginalised community come together to suggest for each other, raise understanding and demand change, it is a powerful thing. This is hard to do in person for those of us in the disabled/chronic illness neighborhood. The internet is far from a perfect place, but it’s supplied us with an opportunity to communicate, support each other and organise to evoke change; not just locally, but globally.

Almost all I can do is try to create change in the language I know best, which is generally creativity. From there, I hope it can support or create modify through my community and see that change ripple by means of others.

© Jameisha Prescod.

BJP: Could you explain your image Untangling ?

Prescod: Untangling wasn’t meticulously planned, it was spur-of-the-moment. I label it because documentary photography because while it is a self-portrait, it is nevertheless a truthful representation associated with my reality at that time. The particular mess you see in the photograph accumulated after weeks associated with depression following a traumatic encounter I had at the hospital. One day, I came home plus decided to capture [the moment] while doing something which helped me get through my trauma.

The idea of sharing the photo was to make the invisible visible. While working from home, a lot of us intentionally angle our laptop digital cameras to hide the truth of the mess that’s hidden off-screen. There’s a shame in not being orderly; not having yourself together.

I wanted to make it obvious that it’s OK if your mental health has damaged and your living space isn’t in tip-top shape. We’re all of the still living in a global outbreak. Right now, more than anything we have to hold a space of compassion and kindness for ourselves and each other.

Jamila Prowse

Jamila Prowse is an performer, writer and researcher that uses her experiences like a mixed race, disabled person of Black parentage to understand and subvert barriers in order to working in the arts. She actually is currently working on a series of movies tracing the history of the girl ancestry through her partnership with her late dad Russell Herman, a Southern African jazz musician. Jamila holds a studio on Studio Voltaire and was obviously a studio residency artist from Gasworks from January to April 2021. She has written for Frieze, Dazed, Elephant, GRAIN, Art Work Magazine plus Photoworks.

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