A Post About Mental Health

Photography to me is a secret language and one that is universal. I could spend hours looking at photographs others have taken. I fool myself every time I see a beautiful series that looks like it was crafted in this calm and safe environment. In reality, we know the behind the scenes can be much different, more hectic and chaotic. 

I have very specific visions that are nearly impossible for me to capture. I have mini movies that play over and over in my head each day. What kills me is the fact that I can’t ever truly create them. They require my subjects to be in lands that don’t exist, planets we can’t access, clothes I can’t afford or find. Even worse, I see others who have created something special and I’m overcome with bitterness and jealousy for not creating it myself. I know, a terrible quality of mine and one I’ve been working on. 

This day was very hard for me. I dreamed of sun, a perfect fall afternoon, blue skies and Jaraé glowing in gold. I had poses and ideas of angles that I was going to attempt. When I woke up that day, I was welcomed by New York City cold and a moist haze. By the time I was half way to Brooklyn, it began to downpour. I wasn’t in N.Y long and this was the only time for the shoot. I had no umbrella, no waterproof rain jacket, way too much equipment and a monster growing inside me as I crossed the bridge into BK to Jarae´s home in Bed Stuy. Her friend was visiting from out of town and I was met with the most positive energy, something I so desperately needed as my anxiety grew. 

My anxiety/depression talks to me in ways I would never talk to another living, breathing creation. I sat in Jaraé living room, listening to the intensity of the raindrops growing in size wondering how I was going to pull this off. Multiple times I got up to tell her I was going home and we’d have to do another day when I’m back in the city. 

I was feeling unprepared and unprofessional and a failure before our day had even started. I’m an east coast girl. I grew up with rain that over stays its welcome. I should have known better. If I’m ever going to move back and be accepted as an east coaster who abandoned the east coast to become a photographer in a whole other state/city, I’m going to have to learn how to be tough. And on this particular day, I didn’t know how to be strong. 

From the outside though, I looked pretty calm (I think). I usually do. I’m bubbly and talkative even though a darkness is transforming internally. 

Jaraé suggested a diner run by these Russian ladies serving some donuts and some cold looks. Fun fact about me: I’m terrified of getting yelled at in public spaces. The photography rules are so iffy at times and I’ve been kicked out of enough spots to know you just walk away and find a new backdrop before things get ugly. When this fear grows in me, fear of confrontation by someone who might not understand what we are creating, I mess up shoots. One time, in an abandoned amusement park outside Las Vegas, I ruined an entire roll of film by loading an already used up roll into my camera because I wasn’t paying attention. I had a natural instinct to fly away and it was all I could focus on. 

 All my energy is being used to calm the pit in my stomach and the feeling that someone is behind me about to grab me and tell me to leave or put my camera away that I forget the basics and the real reason I’m doing what I’m doing. Instead, I want to leave my body and not be seen. Take photos without anyone watching or asking questions. It’s funny how we would rather disappear than be seen because of the feeling we will be misunderstood. 

I stood in the corner of the diner with my donut, frozen and paranoid that all eyes were watching me. Jaraé ordered a sticky bun and a milkshake and once some of the crowd had left and we had some counter space to sit down and eat, my anxiety was able to have a seat too and let me enjoy the moment for a little bit. After that, we ended up on the subway taking photos before we went our separate ways. I sat there for 30 minutes while I made my way to the Upper West Side repeating how badly I fucked up this day. I stayed in my head like that for the rest of the day. 

The photos came out though. Not in the way I expected or had planned for but in the way they were suppose to. This is such an accurate depiction of how I felt that day. Dark and grainy. The opposite of my normal colorful self. 

It’s okay to allow yourself to fuck up, not be the best, to struggle with unknown forces that battle your mind daily. The point is we have to fight through it and keep going. Keep creating. Keeping living. Don’t let the depression and anxiety control you and don’t talk to yourself like you don’t believe in you. I wanted so desperately to go home that day and cry in bed. I was so ready to forget this day even happened, bury my film with all the other rolls that are waiting to get developed. But I didn’t. 

You are capable. I know from personal experience that a huge chunk of our day is dedicated to our passions. It’s the ultimate form of inception, a never ending looping thought and desire to accomplish what we dream of. We can’t accomplish those if we don’t allow ourselves to learn and overcome. 

The moral of the story is anxiety sucks but we are vessels and cameras are tools. Every photo you take matters because we are the eyes of the universe. Your story as well as every other living souls story serves a purpose. I refuse to let anything stop me, even my own mental health. 

Using Format