Since 1992, I have taken a particular photographic approach to the issue of mental illness in Black Africa.

The method I use in this work is first to enter the sphere of the mentally ill people, to merge into the group and to fully take part in the moment. Then I try to understand through my photos.

The relationship binding me to the mentally ill grew naturally and, being sensitive to the subject, I was drawn into it. Having spent my childhood in the Ivory Coast, the myths surrounding the “mad” people of Abidjan had affected me greatly.

So, once I had mastered the use of a camera, I decided to work with the mentally ill. Since then the desire to understand has never left me and I have returned many times to see those in specialist institutions, as well as those who have been left to fend for themselves.


Working in collaboration with the local and European psychiatric doctors was enlightening but did not influence me.

I was eager to show this personal account. It deals with fragile and isolated people that one just cannot ignore and with whom I have often been confronted.

My feeling and fascination for the subject, my need to study what is invisible and to understand, all this pushed me to photograph these sick and wounded people, who are the victims of bad spirits… In Africa, social disruption caused by the development of large towns, numerous fetishistic beliefs, poverty, the use of self-medication of uncertain origin and many other kinds of drugs all contribute to the increasing number of people with serious mental disorders.

Beyond my personal look at mental illness other issues remain, such as the conditions of committal, the distress of parents, the devotion of certain psychiatric doctors and their working conditions, which, as one can imagine, are dire.

Vincent Fougère

Vincent Fougère

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