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how photography helps me with depression

At some point in my college/grad school career, I remember reading something about depression from a philosophical POV. I can’t remember who the author was, but I do remember a line about depression being akin to a restlessness of the soul. Maybe. I certainly feel restless when I get depressed. I want to do nothing, and yet at the same time, I want to do anything but stay still.

My mother, who I never think of as being depressed, told me recently that whenever she’s felt down, she wills herself out of depression by just doing something, anything. I don’t think this would work for people who are clinically depressed, but it seems to work for her. Still, I don’t like the sound of it. I don’t feel like I can will myself out of anything when I’m down. So, I just remain stubborn and somewhat miserable until the clouds pass.

And then, this year, I started filming things and taking photos. I even started getting paid to do so as a second shooter for a local wedding/event videographer.I think I have a decent eye, and I think I have some instincts for a good versus a bad shot. BUT, learning how to use the camera–really use it–is not easy. The hardest part about taking a picture is the fact that I have a great little camera in my IPhonbe, and it takes good pictures with no effort. But to jump up to really good pictures, you need something better. AND if you want to control exactly what your image is going to be like, then you really need to bust out a camera and not use the auto settings. You have to think about light–quality and color. You have to think about composition and exposure. And if you’re shooting moving pictures, you have to think about all these things plus make sure you are in focus and not walking into a wall.

But the first step is to slow down and experiment and learn your camera. And this, unexpectedly, takes me back to the depression thing.

The other day I was walking with my son. HE likes to explore the smallest things–cracks in the sidewalk or a patch of black asphalt or even a leaf. He has all the patience in the world for this. I now am bringing my camera on walks with him, because he teaches me to look at old things in new ways. But still sometimes, I get impatient. Why are my photos looking crappy? How can I make what I want in my mind to come out? Which button? I can feel my blood pressure rise, not out of anger, but out of an almost desperate need to figure out the problem, so I can move on to the next.

And this when it hits me: it’s this kind of thinking, this kind of need to speed through things that often leads me to depression, to that boredom of my soul. I’m trying to go faster and faster through the things I can do so I can do more. But to what end? It’s like that idiot who gets behind you on a Sunday morning and is hugging up against your back fender only to finally pass you. But then you see him up at the next light, stopped at the same red light that you are stopped at. And you wonder: what was the rush?

Maybe the rush, the need for speed, both on the road and in life, is just a palliative for boredom, an attempt to run away from depression, but ironically, at least for me, I think, it also is what rushes me towards depression. Instead of just sitting back and letting myself explore, I get anxious. But the camera, as with anything else that’s worthwhile, will not be rushed. The camera asks me to slow down and just be with it, and eventually, it tells me its secrets. And though I hate to be slowed down at first, in the end, I appreciate the lack of speed.

It makes me calmer, and yes, though I don’t always realize it, happier, as well.

It makes me happy.

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