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News — Mental Health / Illness Exhibition

Fine Line: Mental Health / Mental Illness

Voices, Stories, and Portraits by Michael Nye

RELEASED January 6, 2013:

SAN MARCOS, TX—The Wittliff Collections at Texas State University recently opened Fine Line: Mental Health / Mental Illness by San Antonio photographer Michael Nye, a traveling exhibition of voices and photographs that confronts stereotypes and reveals the courage and fragility of those living with mental illness. Fine Line will be at the Wittliff from January 2 through March 30, 2014.

Michael Nye spent four years photographing and recording the stories for Fine Line, discovering how, in his words, “Mental illness touches the deepest parts of who we are; our identity, self worth…. It can happen for no apparent reason and at any time. Every person is vulnerable to mental illness.” Simply and eloquently, 38 black-and-white portraits and the voices of those portrayed speak of denial, fear, stigma and separation, pain, abuse, coping, healing, and humanity.

Nye photographed each subject with a large-format camera, creating exceptional 20" x 24" prints in the darkroom. Each portrait is accompanied by a recording made by Nye of the person telling his or her own story. The experiences they share involve living with schizophrenia, depression, and obsessive-compulsive, bi-polar, and anxiety disorders. As a whole, the exhibition draws attention to the tenuous threshold between stability and unbalance.

Ranging from one to five minutes, the recordings, which viewers listen to via headphones in front of each portrait, are intensely personal statements about abuse, fear, and confusion as well as of healing and joy. As Nye says, “These stories are about all of us as we live with our uncertainties.... everyone in this exhibit knows something important and valuable, a very precious wisdom born from experience.” Nye believes his subjects are teachers and we are their students. He asks that “each person coming into the gallery listen carefully. Throw away your old definitions of mental illness and start over. Listen to each story as if it could be you or your child or your friend or some stranger you will meet tomorrow.”

Michael Nye’s Fine Line exhibition and February 11 appearance at the Wittliff are presented in conjunction with Texas State’s 2013–2014 Common Experience theme, Minds Matter: Exploring Mental Health and Illness, and are sponsored by the university’s Wittliff Collections and Common Experience, and CFAN Company. CFAN Company logo


Photographer Michael NyeMichael Nye lives in downtown San Antonio. He practiced law for 10 years before pursuing photography full time. Recipient of a Mid-America National Endowment for the Arts grant in photography and a Kronkosky Foundation grant, he participated in two Arts America tours in the Middle East and Asia, and has exhibited and lectured widely in museums and universities, including Morocco, India, and Mexico. Nye’s photography projects have taken him around the world, including to Russian Siberia, Iraq after the first Gulf War, Palestine, China, and Labrador. His exhibitions of audio-accompanied photographs, Children of Children (stories of teenage pregnancy) and Fine Line: Mental Health / Mental Illness, have traveled to over 120 cities in the United States and continue to tour. He is married to writer Naomi Shihab Nye, and they have one son, Madison. See more of his work at