Well, another year has ticked over. I am well on the way to my 55th birthday. Life is not always easier, wait, strike that, life is darn hard with mental illness. Be that as it may, as all illnesses I learn to cope, adjust and hopefully move forward. I have decided to take a radically different direction this year.
I have decided to go back to something that use to make me incredibly happy. The one thing that growing older gives me is perspective. I can look back and see what worked and what hasn’t. Not that I want to be too philosophical about life. I sat down not long ago and thought if I could go back and do anything what would it be. The answer was immediate; Photography.
Back in the days when Kodak and Fuji battled it out on a global stage for the hearts and minds of photographers. When film ruled and digital wasn’t even a concept, I taught photography and darkroom technique. There was always something so powerful about squeezing off the shutter button and knowing I got what I wanted in the frame. Photographers have to be able to tell a story in one frame. Those who take still images have a far more difficult job than filmmakers: they get two hours to tell a story we have to do it in a fraction of a second. Unlike painters we have to work with what was in front of us we couldn’t just omit to paint that telegraph pole that we had to find a way to work around. There is joy in taking a photograph that you knew, just knew, was a goodun. Ah the joy of the days of not being able to see what you had until the film was processed.
When it comes to the darkroom. I will never forget that amazing moment when I saw the photograph I had taken suddenly emerge on paper in the developing tray. I cannot describe the emotions at that moment because how could I ever put into words, joy, happiness, electrifying ecstasy and wonder into one encapsulating phrase or term.
Long before I stepped into a darkroom I was taking photos but that moment galvanised my determination to be the best. I would never be another Diane Arbus (http://www.artnet.com/artists/diane-arbus/2) though she was always a hero of mine. A hero because she to had mental illness but was able to express herself though the art of photography. I probably would never be able to be as great as Annie Leibovitz (think the great images in Rolling Stone Magazine, think the pregnant naked Demi Moore shot on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar, think the last photograph taken of John Lennon where he was curled up naked in the fetal position next to a fully clothed Yoko Ono, then you will know her work) but I was going to be the best with a lens that I could be.
I managed to win a fair few awards back in the day. I have not achieved two goals that I set out to accomplish. I have no produced a calendar and I have not had a solo exhibition. I will make these happen.
I decided that 2016 was the year I fight back. Now this doesn’t mean that I don’t do everything to beat my illness that I can but this was different this was a proactive start. I was going to take control from the very beginning. I was going to be in control. On the front foot and pull its nose in the process. This will not be the year I am defined by my Schizoaffective Disorder, Anxiety, Paranoid Delusions, Panic Attacks or even my Agoraphobia. So I formed a plan and on January the first I enacted the very beginning of that plan.
I along with my psychiatric service dog, Buddy, took my camera down to Balmoral Beach in Sydney and took photos of the first ray of light for the dawning new year. This became important. This became almost an obsession. I had to be there to see the new year in. I didn’t want to see the dark at midnight. I didn’t want to have some drunken bum slobbering the words Happy New Year. I didn’t want to be at a party. I wanted to stare down the new year as it awoke on that first day. I had to be there and capture this in an image or images. I wanted to stand tall as if to say… well illness I am still here, I am alive and I plan to live. This was my great moment of defiance. My moment to claim this year as one I will live. I was here to say I will not go quietly into that good night. I will thrash. I will not be crushed. I will not be driven to my knees. I will stand up and be counted. Illness you do not own me!
On the first of January, 2016 I declared my independence. I drew the line in the sand and said here and no further.
On the first of January, 2016 I captured that moment in photos. I plan to make this a year of creative photography and with ever click of the shutter I declare I am winning and my illness will not break me.
If you are suffering with mental illness or any other demon then make this your year of independence too. Find one thing that makes you happy. It doesn’t matter what that thing is. It could be:
– Colouring In
– Fixing Old Cars
– Cross Stitch
Whatever it is do it and bring joy to your heart and tell the illness, demon or monster in your life that you are not living their way any more. Draw your own line in the sand and say “here and no further”.
In 2016, live!