Mental health is something that we have all experienced in some way be that stress, anxiety, depression or something more challenging and we know how important it is to have a balanced outlook and input in our lives.
During the pandemic I felt my own mental health being affected by the lack of direction, the loss of my complementary health business of 20 years and the uncertainty of what will come next.
What helped me was exploring how I was feeling through my photography, which evolved into more abstract self portraits. These have been my way of expressing my journey and I have found the process very therapeutic .
It has led me in a new direction that celebrates self expression and shows who people are rather than what they look like in an attempt to help others express how they feel. The process has been instrumental in instilling self confidence, self worth, self assurance and as a knock on effect lessen mental health challenges. I’ve been amazed at the depth of expression I can produce through these visuals.
I love how there is nothing to judge about me in them. You can’t tell my culture or any qualities that are distinguishing or relatable to. All you see are the colours in the images, and the emotions they trigger within you.
Sight can interfere with connection when there is nothing similar or familiar to identify with. We can only be really known through feeling, emotion and unconditional love. We are all the same – Humans being perceived depending on who is seeing and the cultural and societal norms that have been instilled in them.
At the moment I am working with teens to express who they are as a way of promoting balanced mental health and self acceptance. What better way to share this with others than through people who are usually judged on differences and what they look like; plus the pressure that can be faced to be seen as perfect all the time.
When someone is seen for who they are and not what they look like it is easier to feel accepted and to be able to have a voice around what matters. This can also give a sense of worth and value around themselves being good enough because of what they stand for and what their values are.
The images I have shared here are either representative of coming out of
depression, feeling fragmented through anxiety and stress or just a general sense of either hope or sadness. There is no limit to what can be created, and nothing is right or wrong.
I take some photos that are personal to the person I am working with and
spend time getting to know them to get a sense of what they are all about, what colours, themes and emotions they want to invoke from the images. Then through a process I create something that is personal and unique to the person – which could be obvious or not.
People have said that they are more likely to hang an abstract representation of themselves on their wall because they can relate to it more than a normal portrait, and it is more meaningful to them without it having to be obviously an expression of their mental health – unless they want to share the story behind it.
I am currently in the process of trialing a photoshoot at a distance during the lockdown as a way to reach people in different parts of the country or even the world. Its all very exciting.