Photography can be a lonely endeavor. The landscape photographer rises early, racing the sun to be ready for the best light. The street photographer walks the city streets alone, always observing, lost in his thoughts. We work on computers by ourselves, creating our finished images. We repeat this process over and over.
There are times in our life when this is exactly what we need: time spent without distraction, time to be mindful. Make no mistake about it, there is magic in being alone and focused on your craft. It is healing… it is good for the soul.
All too often, however, people are also suffering in silence. They carry a heavy load, but they don’t reach out for help for fear of appearing vulnerable or weak. I know this, because I did the exact thing a few years ago. I was a part time photographer back then, with a full time career working as an ambulance paramedic, and sadly I developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
My PTSD started with frustration and anger, built to panic attacks and depression, and finally peaked with nightmares and insomnia. It was a crushing, suffocating period of my life. It almost broke me, but you never would have known it in those early years. I put on a brave face, I pushed through the pain, I fought my demons in silence.
And, I suffered alone.
Photography became my saving grace during this time. It was my safe haven. When the darkness encroached I knew I could go out on the streets, with a camera in my hand, and that I would be able to enjoy life again for a short period of time. Eventually, with much help, all of those little snippets of joy added up and I found my way out of the darkness permanently.
A little over a year ago I was asked to speak about my journey with a group of photographers who I have presented to many times in the past.I struggled to find a narrative at first, but eventually delivered an open and honest account of my experience with PTSD and about how photography helped me heal from it. Putting yourself out there and speaking from a place of vulnerability is never easy. On the contrary, it can be terrifying at times. There is magic in doing it though, because it helps people. After the presentation many people told me about their own struggles, and about how photography had helped them as well. I was reminded that we all have a story, even if we are living it in silence, and that sharing our personal experiences can inspire others to find hope with their own narrative.
I have told my story a lot since then; discussing it in podcasts, presenting on countless stages, writing about it in articles and talking about it over coffee with friends who needed to talk. I tell my story because I know it has helped people who are struggling, much like I was helped by hearing about other people’s experiences when I needed it the most.
Over the last year I have been looking for a larger stage, a louder megaphone, some kind of a bigger vehicle with which I could try and help more people. At the same time, my friends at Fujifilm were dreaming up a new project that was going to be a celebration of life, of creativity, of people and of storytelling. There would be no talk of camera settings, which lens is better, or what accessories you should buy. It was a project that focused on the humanity of what we do as photographers. It sounded amazing, and I said yes right away when I was asked to be a part of it.
The people who produced the video, from a company called Muse Storytelling, were consummate professionals. Still though, it is always hard to give somebody else control over your story and then sit back to see what they create. I’ll be honest and say that I had a few moments were I felt insecure about the whole process, but then I would remember how it might help just one person. And, if it does, that it would be amazing.
The video above is just one story that is being told in the Create Forever series. The other stories, which I highly recommend you see too, are powerful examples of how people have fought through adversity to create art that is meaningful and compelling.
Why am I writing this? I write it as a gentle reminder that you are never truly alone as a photographer… even if it feels that way sometimes. We are actually part of a wonderful community of artists, each with their own story to inspire us. FujiLove is a perfect example of what I am talking about.
Please share this video with anyone you think will benefit from it. Please also share your own story if the opportunity presents itself, and never underestimate the healing power of time spent behind the camera. It truly is an amazing thing.
Keep shooting my friends.