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Mental Health and Photography

Updated: Jun 27, 2020

Photography and my own mental health, it’s been very helpful. It’s a hobby I’ve picked up, continuing a theme that I try to follow. A theme of empathy, understanding, sharing, and caring.

For me, photography is another means for this, for me, to share, to try and convince people to find beauty in the everyday sights. No these may not be far-off exotic locations; that I don’t have access to, but these are literally sights of the every-day, different times, places, seasons, weather all make a beautiful unique moment in time. Through photography I try to capture these moments, to share.

It’s the main theme behind my work, to capture the beauty in normalcy. Photography and my trips are calming, when anxiety, worries and/or depression become crushing, even with spontaneous trips decided in a single moment to go out or deciding you cannot stay in because you would ruminate, even if the photography isn’t good on a particular day it helps. It’s at least ever-so-slightly better than what I would otherwise do, stay-in, and ruminate. Another benefit is looking back I can see each photo, remember exactly each place and moment in time, even the feelings I felt at the time. A photo can bring that much.

Another thing I would like to convince people is that you don’t need a camera (phones work fine) or any special gear for taking amazing photos. Some of my favourite photos were taken on my phone, and largely relied on being in the right place at the right time, of which I only managed by spontaneously going out whenever I could.

I was for many months, maybe years, without knowing doing photography casually, only using my phone. I gotten quite used to knowing what I could capture and what I couldn’t. For basics, a phone can handle any photo with exceptions of long exposures, night photography (not in a lit place like a city centre). But otherwise, if anything it’s easier to get nicer pictures with a phone rather than a DSLR which takes more setting changes and trial and error.

Photography has helped me so much, and continues to. If I’m feeling low, just at home, doing nothing in particular I would go for a wonder, or watch the sunset, or go somewhere else to just get away from my thoughts, look for nice compositions. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. But either way, it helps, even if only ever so slightly.

My philosophy and aim for photography also helps with my mental health, trying to see beauty in all the most normal places, sometimes it’s easier, sometimes not.

It’s a peaceful past-time. Sometimes it isn’t enough. But I try not to think too much on those times, just to weather them and get back to photography. To explore, to try and find. I carry on. It’s a lonely pastime though, you can feel totally alone in the world. Sometimes this helps, sometimes it doesn’t.

Trying to help people, a large number of times I’ve tried to help strangers, I remember each one. One person hands over face at the end of his driveway, had been there in that position for 5 minutes. I merely asked if he was okay, if he wanted to chat. He didn’t, but thanked me, shaked my hand and walked inside. Maybe it helped, maybe it didn’t, but it was a time. Another time, a bus driver was smoking at a bus stop, I merely came to ask a question unrelated, they thanked me, said they’d drive me anywhere along their route, but I declined as I had 2 minutes left of my walk home. And again, a person I barely knew at school, they were in a rough place, I chatted to them seeing a FB post. Chatted for many hours over a weekend and the next half week. They thanked me greatly for listening. Occasionally I hear from them.

It doesn’t cost anything, to be kind, to listen, to help or just allow someone a voice. Allow someone a voice, when they may be a person, surrounded by many others but feeling the loneliest human in the world. Kindness, is often a way to hide heartbreak.

Photography for me, continues this, it’s expression, understanding, communication, empathy. Is itself a shared experience where you can see a sight or beauty you may not have seen the specific instance of the sight. It’s a sharing experience, seeing, interpreting, understanding. Yet also it’s a personal experience, no one can see a photo of mine, know what I was thinking that day, what mood I was feeling, what other things were going on for me that day. It gives every picture, no matter how well received, a personal element, an individual and specific element. I know the person I was in that moment through the image.

Thank you Kayleigh, for my trip home and hanging out, reminding me, reminiscing, reminding me what it was like to be in Jersey all those years ago, remembering the old times, how so much has changed, but also lots hasn’t. We meet up after all every single time I go home, as much as we can. This reminds me, of the beauty of change you can easily see with photography, come to the same location, a different day, month or year. You see the same scene but also different, this change and similarity itself is beauty.

Photography does help, on a very regular basis. If I’ve had any take-away from this, is that it helps to ease overthinking, rumination, and even if it makes nothing better, it’s a brief distraction, one that you can take a piece of the moment, a piece of the time with you when you leave, look back on. It also comes with the issues of the time. But at least, in essence, and for me, shows me almost a timeline of a journey of sorts.

This video is of a photographer I found out about through a competition I entered, and someone gave me the name knowing my motivations for photography were similar to work by Daniel Regan. I looked them up and this was one of the first items to come up. This journey resonated with me, hearing almost a similar use of photography, and use to help with mental health struggles. This is a video, that for me, captures a lot of what photography is about.

This is an article, a very close friend sent to me, seeing it had similar themes around mental health and photography and its use.

#photography #empathy #journey #aim #MentalHealth

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