Filling the Gap – Photography & Mental Health
It’s been one year; on this day in 2020 was the last time I would have been in the office in any major way until August later that year, only I didn’t realize that at the time. It would also be a few months later that I quickly learned that work and going into the office filled a gap in my life. Everyone quickly learned their lives were developing many holes, and even a year on, those holes are still present today. We love to complete things, fill those gaps, see friends, family, travel, attend events, gather in groups, go out and grab a drink whenever we like. It gives us a sense of completion. Why do you think so many people binge-watched entire shows. I know I did, I watched through almost all the Star Trek and Star Wars movies, the entire James Bond collection (even On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), and many others, and no, I didn’t try Tiger King. But what does photography have to do with all this idea of filling gaps, completing things, and mental health?
We saw events, hobbies, trips, and more cancelled throughout the ongoing global pandemic in a near cascade of disappointment. That left many people stuck inside, losing that sense of completion and poked a lot of holes in people’s lives either by choice or mandate. It took me a couple of months before I realized that working from home lost its shine, but it would be the way of things for a lot longer than anyone could even know at that time. While travel in any major way was out, so was large gatherings with friends. There was still something I could do that didn’t involve watching endless streams of media. Photography. Sure, I enjoy heading out with groups on photo walks, but I could get out and safely practice photography, and there is something else that photography could give, that desired sense of completion.
I found that it didn’t matter which medium I shot with, film or digital. I could head out, choose a route or location. Pick up a camera (or two, or three) spend an hour or two out enjoying nature. Then come home and develop the film, scan it the next day or load it up into Lightroom and edit the images to where I wanted them. But I also made sure these trips had a purpose. Working towards finishing up a review, trying a new camera, lens, film. Maybe making photography part of running an errand, even if it was only going to Burlington to get Sunshine Doughnuts. But I also made a point to find special photography days. I participated in World Wide Pinhole Photography Day, Expired Film Day, even an informal FP4Party. But I also completed some of my own projects. I got ‘zines published for my Hometown project, did a ‘zine with images from 2019’s Grand Tactical Event for the War of 1812 Reenactments. And even wrote and photographed an entire project on the Welland Canal!
Now, I’ll admit, I’m lucky in the sense that I had the freedom and continued employment through the continuing pandemic that I had the privilege to continue practising my hobby. And I’m also not saying that simply picking up a hobby or completing a project will help with all mental illness, nor am I downplaying mental illness in any form. Photography is what helped and continues to help me when I’m feeling down or feel like I’m spinning my wheels. Everyone’s situation is different. If you need help, there are people out there who will listen, not judge, and help you work with your situation. And there’s no shame in seeking out professional help if that is what you need. Mental illness is a serious thing, both before everything went sideways and even more so today as we get into the second year of the pandemic. I urge you not to let your illness go untreated; seek help.