Comfort in chaos by Johnny Brixton

Mental health deserves its place on the national agenda as one of Australia’s major health epidemics, but Melbourne photographer Shayne Hood has dealt with his demons via a two-year art project, Comfort in Chaos, that he admits saved his life.

© Johnny Brixton
© Johnny Brixton

The work shows Hood’s raw emotive photos of sister cities Melbourne and San Francisco, accompanied by written pieces characterising his innermost struggles during times of severe mental crisis. “Creating Comfort in Chaos is the reason I’m still here today,’ Hood says. “It honestly saved my life.”

© Johnny Brixton
© Johnny Brixton

Hood’s muse is his upbringing. “It’s eye-opening to grow up around a dysfunctional family, drug addiction, and what others call criminals and degenerates,” he says. “I wear where I’m from with pride, wherever I walk. I live for the people I lost, and the dreams that they once had. It has left me with many mental scars, but I choose to put the pain into my work, instead of into something not so desirable.” Hood says that building this exhibition has helped him put a lot of demons to rest.

© Johnny Brixton
© Johnny Brixton

Hood, who’s also known by his artist moniker, ‘Johnny Brixton’, has been variously involved in the Melbourne creative arts scene since 2011 as a photographer, filmmaker, and poet, but through his role as a youth worker and lecturer has come into contact with those needing respite most from mental health issues. He hopes that Comfort in Chaos will encourage others in similar situations to gain the confidence to share their own experiences through art. “It’s so important to have an outlet for your thoughts, to express yourself and sometimes leave your innermost thoughts in a safe way - and art is a great way to do that,” he says. “To now share that with people is scary, but liberating.”

© Johnny Brixton
© Johnny Brixton

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With photography by Paul Hoelen, 'Men with Heart' is an interactive, multi-media exhibition giving an intimate, positive, and thoughtful insight into the state of men in Tasmanian culture today.

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The National Photographic Portrait Prize is an annual event intended to promote the very best in contemporary photographic portraiture by both professional and aspiring Australian photographers.