Trending: Channeling The Pain of Depression Into Photography

By David Schonauer   Wednesday January 30, 2019

For Tara Wray, photography was a way to fight depression.

“Just forcing myself to get out of my head and using the camera to do that is, in a way, a therapeutic tool,"  Wray, a photographer and filmmaker based in central Vermont, told NPR in December. "It's like exercise: You don't want to do it, you have to make yourself do it, and you feel better after you do.”

Wray’s use of photography to channel the pain of depression resulted in her book “Too Tired for Sunshine,” which features images she made between 2011 and 2018. “Some of the images show a stark beauty, others a raw loneliness, and some capture hints that the world may be slightly off-kilter,” noted NPR. As a photographer, Wray notes that she is drawn to light, the honesty of dogs and "things that are humorous and maybe aren't trying to be.”

Having a camera, she told NPR, functions as "a sort of protection, a buffer that gives me a reason to be somewhere. It helps me move through an environment with a purpose when I might otherwise feel out of place.”

"There were moments that I felt alone and isolated in a dark place, and I wondered if I would see the other side of it," she said. "Photography has given me those moments back ... I can now see them in a different light.”

See Tara Wray's work below:

Wray is one of several photographers who have recently opened up about using photography to combat depression. At PetaPixel, Swedish photographer Gabriel Isak described making a series of images “inspired by the years I went through depression.” The series, writes Isak, depicts “the internal world of solitary people who symbolize our own unconscious states.” His goal, he states, was to “reflect human experiences that would allow the viewer to reflect on their own journey.”

The work resulted from Isak’s own journey. “I began exploring photography about 12 years ago; around the same time, I faced depression for the first time in my life as a way to express my state of mind,” he writes. “Photography allowed me to escape into a different world, the one which I was creating, a place and a story that was lead by me, not that I was led by. But after a few months, I fell deep into the arms of depression and lost all passion for the medium.”

In 2014, Isak “had come out on other side of depression” and began taking pictures again. “Everything I created reflected on the years I was living with depression, inspired by psychology, surrealism, and the Scandinavian landscapes that I grew up around." Here is a sample of the work:

Like Isak, photographer Greg Sheard has suffered from depression for some time — in his case, nearly two decades. Two years ago, he began using photography to cope with his mental health issues. Sheard described his experiences in a five-minute video:

“One thing always remains in common when I go out to do photography, and that is: suddenly all of my problems seem to go away,” Sheard notes. “I feel at one with my camera and the location I am in and I have this sense of focus and perspective.”

Tara Wray stressed to NPR that photography wasn’t her only tool for dealing with depression: “You've gotta have a whole arsenal of things to deal with mental illness, and I try to do all the things I can to stay healthy," she said, adding that she knows she is fortunate to have a supportive family and access to therapy, medication and good doctors.

A month after her book was published last July, Wray started an Instagram account, @TooTiredProject, "to help those struggling with depression by offering a place for collective creative expression," and asked people to tag their images #TooTiredProject.
At top: From Gabriel Isak


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