One of my biggest fears in life is to be a burden to others. I find it hard to express my feelings or reach out for help. This is a problem I’ve had for the majority of my life and I’ve only had one solution; photography. It gave me a silent voice, a medium to show how I felt or what I was thinking. I feel like the concept of using photography as therapy tends to be forgotten. Even years later, I tend to forget how liberating it feels to create something so close to home. It’s not only my career, but it’s my way to show my perspective of my world to others. When I first picked up a camera, it was not only my hobby or my passion, but my therapy.
My first camera was my mother’s. It was a Kodak Easyshare Z740 5 megapixel Digital Camera with 10x Optical Zoom. Looking back, I laugh at the thought of using a 5 megapixel camera. My phone has a higher quality than that. But, it’s not the quality that matters here; it is the concept. I picked up the camera with a giant grin. Little seventh grade me, excited to show the world that I finally got my braces off. It all started because I gained confidence in myself and wanted to show off my new smile. After that, I started to take more and more photos. I started to see the world through the lens, capturing the beauty of every memory. Concept did not become my focus until a year later.
I lost a childhood friend in one of the worst ways possible. William Hartmann II, my next door neighbor of five years and a brother for life, committed suicide April 2008. This was one of the first times I had ever dealt with a situation like that. I remember feeling overwhelmed with so many different emotions: Anger, depression, confusion. The worst of them all; guilt. Guilt for not being there for him. The emotions overwhelmed me. I was drowning in a sea of tar so thick that I sank for months. It was impossible to break the surface. Nothing made sense. Until I decided to pick up my camera.
This photo was a stepping stone into a different realm of photography. It was more than just the photo; it was me. This was a gateway for me to show my thoughts and feelings without muttering a word. Not everyone would understand it. Not everyone would like it. All that mattered by taking this photo was that I felt better. This was an easier way to understand my thoughts and feelings. A personal way to create a difference in my own world. It took me back to the moment I started to figure out the world through a lens.
I’m not saying that every photo that is ever taken needs to have a meaning. But, concepts can provide comfort for those going through tough times. Beyond that, photography allows for individuals to unbottle their emotions, and opens a conversation into their hearts. It may seem like picking up a camera just to take photos may not be a clear solution, but it frames the situation and starts the first step to understanding. It can give perspective on an event, help communicate emotions, and capture a resolution.
Using photography as a therapy can go farther than helping one’s self, but can also reach out to those around. It shares insight into experiences, opening people’s eyes to a perspective that they may have never seen. I used to make photos expressing my struggle with anxiety and depression. Taking people into my mind and see what I see. Showing dark experiences with a simple use of lowering exposures and creating morose environments. People ask me why I make such grim pieces, and it gives me a reason to talk about myself through an image without asking for help. It is this connection that creates a bond with the artist and their audience to bare honest emotion with one another.
When a situation in life happens, people develop from it, so, why not share it with the world? Life is all about learning and growing. The wonderful aspect about problems is that they are universal, and photographers have the power to convey these common struggles. We can connect and make a difference in people’s lives if we are willing to lend a hand. A lot can be learned from shared problems. It enables us to reassure one another that we are not alone in darker times. That, asking for help shouldn’t be feared and doesn’t always have to be said out-loud. Photography empowers us all. It gives us the voice that we may have never had the courage to use through the simple shouting of a shutter. The message will be heard by some, but, in the end, it all comes down to you.
Not everyone will accept the message that is being shown. They may not be willing to understand it. With that being said, not every person will like it. Do not be discouraged by this. What matters is the process. The whole act of creation is suppose to open the mind and reevaluate. The therapy is being behind the camera. The result of the therapy is the image an artist creates. Not all of my work is understood or liked, but that does not stop me from being willing to share it with others.
When nothing seems to be going right, pick up a camera. There is no harm in trying. The best one can do is go through the process of reliving that moment. Being able to reconnect and ask ‘why?’. The therapy of re-evaluating through a different lens creates a better understanding of your mind. It is not about the final image, it is your process of creating that image. It is about learning from the past and creating a lesson to expose to the world. Don’t let doubt or the fear of judgement stop you from this therapy. Photography has helped me collect my thoughts and has given me the opportunity to share a part of myself with the world. I hope that, in the end, you all are willing to share too.