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A story of mental illness

My aim in this body of work is to convey a story of mental illness and living with depression. The series of alternating images illustrate depression as it appears in daily life in contrast to the silent struggles people experience internally. Many people suffering from depression report feeling as if they are perpetually trapped and suffocating in their own overwhelmingly negative emotions. As a result, ten of the twenty photographs feature plastic wrap, which represents the internal force keeping feelings of guilt and worthlessness sealed within and preventing the mind from escaping to experience contentment or hopefulness. Physically, depression may cause low or nonexistent energy levels. Thus, the other ten images in this series depict the loss of interest in simple everyday tasks (such as getting out of bed or taking a shower regularly) and normally pleasurable activities (such as going for a drive or taking a walk in nature). 


A strong emphasis on hands is evident throughout the series. In several images, hands are the central element since they play an essential role in the perception of touch and feeling. When a person suffers from depression, it is quite common for them to become numb to everything around them, a condition known as emotional numbness. With emotional numbness, things that previously caused someone to experience some type of emotion (either positive or negative) may suddenly leave them feeling nothing at all. It is as if there exists a bubble around the individual, stopping anything from contacting or affecting them. Throughout the photographs, we see hands grasping at shriveled leaves, trying to feel the smooth ceramic surface of a bathtub, and trying desperately to break free of a bubble, but to no avail. 

The purpose of capturing all the images in this series in black and white is twofold: to convey a dulled perception of the world and draw viewers’ attention to the significance of colors absent in the various scenes. People suffering from depression often perceive the world as grey and monotonous, causing their experiences also to become more muted. Hence, through the absence of color, these images demonstrate how depression has the unfortunate capability of draining all vibrancy from life. Additionally, in the photographs that capture scenes of nature, viewers would expect to find blue, green, and yellow hues throughout the landscape. Blue usually signifies peace, while yellow and green symbolize happiness and renewal, respectively. Peace, happiness, and renewal are unfortunately diminished when someone has depression, and consequently, the corresponding colors have also been removed from the photographs. 


Throughout the series, viewers will notice that many images capitalize on low-key lighting techniques that flood the background with deep blacks. This visual effect is intended to draw attention to the fact that depression can make people feel as if they are living in a dark tunnel with no light at the end. With that being said, however, one particular image which portrays a semicolon tattoo was carefully chosen as a symbol of hope within the otherwise dark subject matter of the series. The semicolon is often used as a message of affirmation and solidarity against suicide, depression, and other mental health illnesses. It is also a symbol meant to demonstrate that one's story is still being written and that it is not the end. The author could have chosen to end the sentence, but instead, let it continue…

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