Photography is an interest of mine that has had a significant and positive impact upon my mental health, helping me stay mindful, giving me a reason to explore new places, and allowing me to connect to people with similar interests. I received my first digital camera as a Christmas present in 2004, and ever since then, photography has become my main hobby.
I have purchased new cameras and lenses since then which have helped me expand the photographic genres I engage with; this in turn, helped me develop and nurture additional interests. For example, after buying a macro lens I started photographing insects and other invertebrates, which in turn led me to start taking an interest in their life cycle and behaviour. In terms of my own recovery journey, photography can link to each of the five ‘CHIME’ factors.
For example, it has helped me connect to people with a similar interest to myself and share photography tips with them. It has also helped me connect to nature and the planet as a whole by becoming more aware of how the light, shadows, and weather conditions change over the course of a day.
Through photography I feel more ‘connected’ with any wildlife I encounter.
Photography has brought me a sense of ‘hope’, particularly during the first COVID lockdown in 2020. During this time there was a lot of uncertainty going through people’s minds about how the pandemic would end, and when we would next be able to see our friends and family. However, getting out into nature on my daily walks in the warm, sunny spring weather, watching nature and the seasons progress regardless, gave me hope that we would, as a planet, get through this.
Photography can assist with the development of a positive identity. When you experience poor mental or physical health it can be easy to identify with your diagnosis. However, in a similar way to being an ‘artist’ or ‘musician’, participation in photography enables one to adopt a more positive identity of a ‘photographer’. Connecting with other photographers online or through photography clubs can help bolster this identity.
In a similar way to hope, photography has provided me with meaning, and something to get up for in the morning. In addition, during those times when my mood has been low, looking at photos I had taken in the past can sometimes transport me back to the places I had visited, and remember any positive feelings that being there had evoked.
Finally, photography can help me to feel ‘empowered’. To be empowered is to feel like you have control over things in life, whereby one can focus on and nurture any strengths. I know that I am fully in control over the camera and what I choose to photograph. In addition, sharing photos with peers and receiving positive feedback has allowed me to feel like my hard work and talents have been recognised.
I would recommend photography to anyone who wants to become more mindful about the world around us. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to take good photographys, and many people today use their smartphone as their only ‘camera’ that is with them almost 24/7. Utilising composition techniques such as leading lines, juxtaposition, and symmetry can allow anyone to take a striking photo, whatever the device that they use.
All images used in this story have been taken by, and belong to, the author.