Melanie Renee Photography | Shooting in the Dark: Depression and Photography

Shooting in the Dark: Depression and Photography

January 31, 2016  •  2 Comments

I want to preface this discussion by stating first that everything I will talk about in this post are my experiences; I am not trying to tell someone else how to deal, or how to live.  This isn't self-help, or a motivational post, just me.  Also, I would like to add a trigger warning: I talk about an episode where I was suicidal. 

It's no secret that many artists and creative types suffer from mental illness.  The question, then, is how these artists and creative types continue to work and create when simple tasks like getting out of bed and interacting with people seem impossible.  I know that personally, when I am at the bottom of my own well, I try to photograph, but often feel unmotivated, or like everything I make is garbage.  No amount of support or kind words from friends can convince me otherwise.  Everyone in the world does better work than me, and I will never be able to make a go of this thing that I love.  Happiness and success are out of my reach.  I had such a period of time last year, and, even in the best of times, I have this nagging thing, like a grey blob, constantly a step or two behind me: always there.  I tried shooting through it, but when you can't see the light, how do you photograph it?  

The truth is that I don't really know the answer to that question.  For me, personally, when I am feeling the pull down, I plan trips.  Imagining new places, and creating real plans to get there, is usually enough to keep me from getting swallowed up.  It's possible that this is me running away, but I prefer to look at it as a reset.  I have been to many amazing places because of these trips: India, Paris, Scotland, a move to the UK, Yosemite, Glacier, San Francisco, Jackson, WY. I never have enough money, and often I have to live off a bag of granola and willpower to get myself around, but this is how I cope.  

But once the bleakness really comes on full-force, no amount of trip planning or driving can pull me out.  

I am lucky, in that there has only been one episode when I was actually suicidal.  I had just upended my life to go to India and marry the man with whom I had been in a relationship for three years. We were just denied a fiancé visa so the only way to be with him was to marry him and bring him over as family.  When I arrived to India, after I was already married, this guy revealed himself to be a drunk, abusive shithead.  I was devastated, but it wasn't until I got back to the States, and was sleeping on a couch, with a job that I loathed, and was super-broke, that I hit rock bottom.  I would lie on my couch, listening to the trains just a block away from me.  I wanted to jump in front of one, and it took all of my willpower to keep myself lying there.  I self-medicated, but I was terrified of getting too drunk, for fear that my willpower would disappear.  I lived in constant fear of myself.

I can't say how to climbed out of that hole.  It could have been a number of things: meeting my partner Chris, letting go of my relationship with my husband, going back to school, getting fired from said job, moving to a house where the trains weren't so loud and present.  But I think, in all honesty, that it was simply time.  


I created nothing in that time.

It wasn't until Chris and I went to Yosemite that I was able to pick up my camera and start shooting again, and those are still some of my favorite images.   

I am now trying to transition from waiting for the next wave of depression to come crashing down to a state of more proactive self-awareness.  Instead of waiting, I am starting to try to shoot my way out of it.  Recently I've been struggling with feelings of inadequacy, and loneliness.  I'm trying to take deep breaths, reach out to friends, and keep pushing through.  I am so lucky to have my partner, and our animals, and to have a place of beauty to draw inspiration from.  

I have made a promise to myself to try to keep shooting, no matter what.  


Beautiful, honest post!!
Laurie Gano(non-registered)
This is a courageous and moving statement. Thanks for sharing it.
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