Michael Nye’s exhibition, “Fine Line” is incredibly powerful and unbelievably moving. It connects you with each individual in such a personal way. These compelling photographs and intimate voices will educate and change minds.

Frances Wise, NAMI
Executive Director
National Alliance for the Mentally Ill
San Antonio, Texas

FINE LINE is a documentary of voices, stories and portraits that confronts stereotypes and reveals the courage and fragility of those living with mental illnesses.

Photographer Michael Nye spent four years photographing and recording stories. Schizophrenia, depression, obsessive-compulsive, anxiety and bi-polar disorders are among the experiences considered.

In simple and eloquent detail the 55 black-and-white portraits and voices draw you closer into each life by addressing and exploring many topics: family, confusion, pain, abuse, treatment and healing.

Consider Beth. She was one of the most talented writers in her high school – she performed her own original songs on stage. Later, she was unable to leave her home, and literally stayed in one chair in her kitchen for years.

Thelma raised six children on the banks of the San Antonio River and sings Mexican ballads when she’s alone. When she was 10, her mother tried to crash a hired plane in the desert with her on board.

At the age of 20, Kerry built a house that was featured on the cover of an architectural magazine. At the age of 49, he hung himself in his mother’s garage. He was gentle, kind, intelligent and shy.

Doris received a Master’s Degree in sociology. Her passion is collecting recipes. She was homeless for 2 years. As a child she was beaten and sexually abused.

Michael was the editor/part owner of an alternative newspaper. His gift is making people laugh. He had his first breakdown at the computer screen. He started crying for no apparent reason and could not stop.

Deeply personal stories can take us inside complicated issues where empathy and understanding begin. Each face invites you to listen.


This exhibit is dedicated to Shatzie Crouch
and her son Kerry Crouch

1. Mental illness is not caused by a weakness of character.
2. Mental illness is treatable.

I don’t know where mental health ends and mental illness begins. This exhibit is about the Fine Line that moves through all of our lives as we weave our ways forward. It is about the recognition of our vulnerabilities and the fragility of control.

Mental illness is often about fear, fear of ourselves and fear of others. Each of the fifty-five individuals in this exhibit tells a story. What is forgotten is lost. These narratives are about remembering, about time and light, taking apart and putting back together, losing and finding, and holding on for balance.

These stories are not intended to summarize or explain anyone’s life. We all carry a thousand stories. There are many ways a voice can turn.

Mental illness is too wide, deep and complex to define. The U.S. standard reference for psychiatry includes over 300 different manifestations of mental illnesses. It is painful to be labeled and misunderstood.

Scientific explanations speak of neurotransmitters, serotonin, receptors, medications and about the mysterious genes we each inherit, carry as gifts or burdens, and pass on to the next generation. We are the vessels in an intricate network of conveyances.

Mental illness touches the deepest parts of who we are; our identity, self worth, the inability to communicate, confusion and loss of control. It can happen for no apparent reason and at any time. Every person has a chance of becoming mentally ill.

The response to mental illness is wanting and waiting. It is ultimately about redemption, sadness, humility and dignity.

There is an urgency for action. Today, as a result of mental illnesses, hundreds of thousands of our citizens including the homeless and incarcerated do not have financial support for care and treatment.

Anyone who has been to these deep places knows something important and valuable. I thank all the individuals in this exhibit for their courage and for being our teachers, for enlarging and illuminating our lives.

I ask each person coming into the gallery to listen carefully. Throw away your old definitions of mental illness and start over. Listen to each story as if it could be you or your child or your friend or some stranger you will meet tomorrow.

Michael Nye