Phobias are a common type of anxiety disorder, wherein perception of an object or a situation triggers an irrational but overpowering fear that induces the affected person to avoid these profound aversions at all costs. In the UK, an estimated 10 million people are suffering from one or more phobias and, although all races, genders and ages are affected, there are interesting correlations that have been identified across the groups.
A study conducted by YouGov UK in 2014 concluded that the three most prevalent phobias among the British public were heights, snakes, and public speaking, followed by spiders, enclosed spaces, mice, and needles. Phobias will differ from person to person as well as ranging in severity. Public speaking is an activity that most people will happily avoid, whereas spiders triggering panic attacks and needles causing people to faint are more extreme examples of aversion. Men and women demonstrated similar degrees of fear in response to triggers such as blood and injections, in contrast with a much wider gap between gender responses with respect to spiders. Age also showed a significant distinction of fears, with over-60s primarily avoiding heights and snakes but feeling less resistant to spiders and public speaking.
While these fears are often a subject of ridicule and considered an issue that the affected person should just ‘get over’, phobias fall under the umbrella of medically recognised mental disorders, which means that pulling oneself together and simply blocking out your fear is simply not a viable option for many sufferers. While there are phobias like Omphalophobia – a fear of belly buttons – or Soceraphobia – a fear of parents-in-law – that can sound nonsensical or even ludicrous to some, they are a source of daily trauma for others. Whilst phobias should be taken seriously, they provide fertile ground for artistic exploration into the human psyche. How does one express phobias visually? Why do we find beauty in the uncanny? Can you create an aesthetic without romanticising mental illness?
Latvian-born photographer Dima Hohlov finds beauty in the idiosyncratic and often messy quirks of human nature. In ‘Food Porn’, the story he created for Issue 1 of King Kong, he captured the sploshing antics of model Suzi Leenars in a beautiful series of images, reminiscent of still lives painted by the Dutch masters. In ‘Phobophobia’, Hohlov playfully depicts the irrational fears that hound us, despite the unlikelihood of them causing us any real harm.