If you could draw your mind, what would it look like? “Behind the I – a portrait of the mind” endeavours to understand people’s inner selves through art, and identify who they are and how they feel. At any given moment, 1 out of 6 people in UK aged 16 to 64 experience mental distress. We are surrounded by faces that hide an aspect of themselves, just in case revealing their diagnosis might threaten everything they hold dear. I find photographing people helps me understand them – yet this approach only captures their outer reality. How could I ‘photograph’ the mind and create a portrait of what is going on inside, as well as outside, the heads of my subjects? The only way that seemed possible was to invite them to be both observer and creator of such a portrait.

My photographs acted as a canvas for them to draw on, where their drawings expressed how they feel from the inside. Some aspects of mental health can be too painful for words, so the art process can help people to express those feelings and get them out on paper. The visual result is a series of intuitive portraits that might relate more to someone who does not understand the struggle through a mental health issue and start a dialogue, or a curiosity, about the topic.

Not only does the overall combination provide an insight into how each person sees themselves but the separate elements encapsulate the impossibility of ‘seeing’ or representing mental illness. The portraits are ‘normal’ people that we encounter everyday. It is only the addition of the words that tell us they are diagnosed as having mental health issues. The overlaid artwork then becomes not only how they have represented themselves but perhaps also how perception shifts to the seeing the ‘other’, or not ordinary, once their situation is known. In this way the work makes the viewer reflect not only on issues of representation and otherness but on the presence of all of us ‘ordinary’ individuals on the spectrum of mental health. 

Perhaps we may never fully understand the journey through schizophrenia or depression, but we sure as hell can sit down and try. The portraits invite us to step into their expressions and wonder what’s hidden behind the façade. What do you see in their drawings of their inner selves? Do they take you behind their eyes?

Multimedia Tips

  1. What program was used to create the multimedia?

Final Cut Pro and Photoshop.

  1. How and why did you choose that sound/music?

The sound that was used, or just about lack of it, was chosen with the aim to draw more attention to the spoken words of the subjects.

  1. Tell us about the editing process when you think of a multimedia.

Adding an aspect of continuation to still images certainly invites new meaning to a work. I found the end result has allowed me to gain more control over how it is viewed. Specifically, more in control over the pace of the photos, allowing to emphasise certain parts by making them slightly longer, perhaps creating a reflective moment for the viewer, or a brief instance of empathy with the subjects.

Each portrait is compiled from around 300 still images created on Photoshop, the making of which took me into deeper contemplation of what it really means to attempt to visualise what goes on inside your mind. I think the editing of a multimedia does that. It makes you reconsider the aim of your work and find new ways of pursuing this aim through a combination of sound, visuals and a new opportunity to control the pace at which it is viewed.


Dominika Dovgialo is a Polish-Lithuanian photographer, photojournalist and videographer striving to find the most appropriate way of portraying the human condition.


Dominika Dovgialo – Behind the I – a portrait of the mind