Photo Essay

Photography and Depression

Man on Corner

Can photography be used as form of therapy? I believe it can. From my early teens and well into my mid-thirties I was always deeply depressed and filled with thoughts of loneliness and suicide. Later in my life I would be diagnosed and treated for two forms of depression. At the time, however, I knew nothing about why I felt the way I did. What kept me going in my darkest moments of despair... photography. I discovered photography at an early age and decided right away that I wanted to become a photographer. It became my reason to live and a motivating force in my life when I felt I had nothing else.

By the time I reached my early twenties I had become quite fond of "street photography." Actually, I didn't even know there was such a thing as street photography. All I knew was that when I walked the streets of downtown with my camera, looking for images that captured the way I felt inside, I felt better.

My camera was my therapist and I could express my thoughts and feelings with it completely. My camera knew my pain and my suffering when nobody else did. I would walk the streets of downtown for hours at a time with my camera looking for inspiration... looking for relief from my despair. And it responded with images that captured my most inner feelings. In fact, my camera often recorded feelings that I wasn't aware of myself. It was years after I had recovered from depression that I realized that the lonely man that always seemed to find a way into a lot of my images was, in fact, me.

While photographing downtown I liked to stand on the top floor of parkades and other high points and look down at the people on the streets below. The hustle and bustle of the people rushing around was both fascinating and depressing to me. Fascinating, because the city, to me, represented man's mind and his creativity. I liked the strong lines of the city and the uniformity of the buildings and streets around me. The strength and the power I felt when viewing man surrounded by his creations was invigorating. At the same time though, I thought the city was the most depressing place on earth. Where else can a person stand on a street corner and be surrounded by so many people and yet feel so totally alone. At the absolute depth of my depression my greatest fear was that I would be walking down the street one day and I would fall to the ground and lay there, unable to move, for the rest of time... and nobody would notice me.

What came through in the photographs I took at that time in my life was a world that was dark and lonely, where people were seldom portrayed as strong independent individuals, but rather as small, insignificant figures surrounded by concrete and glass. This was the inner turmoil of my own world.

I knew I was lonely. I knew I was depressed. I knew there was something wrong with me, but I couldn't find the answers alone. Picking up my camera and walking the streets of downtown, however, always seemed to give me a reprieve from those feelings of desperation. My camera and my photographs were my therapist, and together we made it through the most difficult times of my life.

Today I no longer suffer from depression and I haven't been downtown with my camera since those early days. I have moved onto other subjects and projects with my camera but I'm still tempted now and again to pick up my camera and walk the streets of downtown for a couple of hours some day just to see how I'm feeling!

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Hi there!

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—The JPG team

1 response

  • Mira Fertin

    Mira Fertin (Deleted) said (29 Apr 2010):

    thanks for giving me hope!!!

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