Safe House by Lea Thijs

Alain Thijs struggled with bipolar disorder for over 20 years, undiagnosed and trying to cope with extreme mood swings placed a significant strain on the family. Now on medication and finally aware of the reasons behind his behaviour the family and Alain can finally understand the events that have had a dramatic effect on all their lives.

In Safe House Lea Thijs uses photography to create complex personal images in response to both her memories of her family home in Johannesburg, South Africa and coming to terms with her father living with bipolar disorder. These photographic narratives were also prompted by the words her father would constantly write during his mental ill health. Discussing these letters Lea states “ It helped me understand and accept a lot of the mistakes he has made over the years and also acted as a release for my father in trying to understand his actions “ The photographs in Safe House form a visual diary of her father whilst also documenting how many families struggle to fully understand this difficult illness.

“Dismantling the walls of my house in order to examine the foundations of my family, I wanted to photograph my father who has recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Being able to put a name to his condition and explain his patterns of behaviour after 20 years has enabled him to construct a sustainable environment around himself. Now under medication, I felt it was time for me to document my father in his home in South Africa, and revisit memories associated with his childhood in Brussels. ‘Safe House’, a title taken from The Examined Lifeby Stephen Grosz, is an open door to explore my relationship with him.”

Safe House is published by Setanta Books

The Book

Lea Thijs

Lea Laetitia Thijs was born in 1996 in Johannesburg. From a young age, Lea has been interested in the arts, including drawing, painting but especially photography. At the age of 14, she started analog photography at her school, Lycée Francais Jules Verne.

During high school she attended numerous courses in Belgium, Paris and South Africa to find her voice in photography. She finished the Market Photo workshop in 2014 and then traveled to Asia for 4 months. She was accepted at Middlesex University in London and graduated with a Photography (BA) in July 2018.