How Photography Has Helped Me With Mental Illness

I’ve learned over the years that photography has become more than just a hobby for me. It became something that has basically saved my life in many ways. Everyone has hobbies, that one thing that they are good at and that they love. everyone with a mental illness finds things that they love, and yes they are hobbies, but in most cases these hobbies help them to cope with their mental health issues. Photography has done this for me in many ways, and has helped me to cope with my anxiety and depression. When i get upset, and if I have time I grab my camera and go outside, and just take photos. Most of my great works come from when my anxiety and depression are at it’s peak believe it or not. But that’s my story, that’s how I cope, and the result from tragedy for me is beauty in my photos.

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I got into photography when I was a Sophomore in high school, I loved it so much that when I went to Holyoke Community College it became my major, and got my Associates degree in it when I graduated. I didn’t realize that photography was a deeper thing for me until I went through a self-induced tragedy in my mental health journey that this became my therapy. Shortly after this incident, I felt the urge to just go out and take photos for some reason, and I realized then that this was not just a hobby.

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I also take photos that relate to mental health. What I mean by that is when I take a landscape photo, you will see the emotion in it, I will have darker colors if I’m feeling at my worst with my mental health, and more sun on my good days. The photo above is a metaphor I used one day when i took it to describe how my mental illnesses fog my brain up and the light on top and the dark on the bottom represents my ups and downs. The wet leaves represent when I am sad, but also how there is beauty inside you even on your darkest days, because the leaves look beautiful with the beads of water all over them. I didn’t realize I did that at the time of taking this. But that’s the metaphor I can get from this particular photograph.

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I took many photography classes at HCC, considering that that was m major, and these classes strangely helped me with my mental illnesses as well. The photo above was taken during class, the woman was one of my classmates. i remember vividly that i was sad that day, I can’t really remember why. But when our class went into the studio my sadness went away almost immediately. When i took my black and white film classes hose were also therapeutic for me, and I realized after I was done taking those classes how much they had actually helped me with my mental illnesses as well. Whenever I was in the dark room I was at my happiest, and oddly enough, the fumes from the chemicals we had to use to develop the photos calmed me down as well. I didn’t realize the significance of it at the time, and it’s astonishing how something as simple as photography can help me so much.

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I read some articles about this, and apparently it’s a real thing. People use photography as a way to help them with their mental well-being. they use subject matter that is fitting to their mental health, and it helps them to cope with their problems. In one particular article, a man who was a picture editor for The Times, does workshops and photographic tours to help people with their mental health issues. To know that this is an actual thing makes me feel better and that I’m not alone. This article gave me more insight on the photography community, and how it, in many ways, is a great tool in helping with mental illness, and I’m living proof of that because I do it myself. Here’s a link to the article if you want to read it. photography and mental health

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I didn’t realize all these years that I wasn’t just taking photos as a hobby, but that I was doing it to cope with my mental health. I didn’t realize that my subject matter correlated with my mental health, or that some of the photos had hidden metaphors. Reading the articles, and really evaluating my work has helped me to to put the pieces together and understand how important photography actually is to me. It has always been a passion of mine, and to know that my passion is helping me with my well-being has really shaped me in so many ways and makes me who I am today. An being able to share my work with the world, and having them interpret my photos in their way is so humbling. Knowing I’m not alone makes this experience even better.

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