Using Photography as a Medium to Help Cope With Depression?

Winter time, especially with the intense festive holidays and the arrival of seasonal affective disorder, can bring a lot of us down. For others, it's a lifelong battle. So, in what ways can photography help you battle through depression?

I am sure many of you will have noticed people around us, both in real life and online, bringing awareness to how difficult winter period can be for some, especially in and around Christmas. Unfortunately, for others it's an ongoing fight to get through every day, regardless of the season. Greg Sheard from Sheard Photography shares his experiences and thoughts on using photography as a medium to help him find peace and bliss during the darkest of times.

It's not always about becoming the best of the best or earning a top dollar, in moments like this, photography instead becomes something more personal and meaningful. Whether it helps you connect with others in a way you otherwise wouldn't, or maybe it gives you a definite goal of traveling somewhere, even if it's just a morning walk to get you out of the bed, it's something you can hold onto and focus on, and let the rest of the world switch off around you. 

https://www.instagram.com/p/BqhDfbIjNkR/

If you have any advice or thoughts on using photography as a way to cope with depression, or other mental health issues, please share it with us, and as Sheard puts it, " if it could help just one person then for me it would be a success."

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17 Comments

Chris Silvis's picture

For 2 decades I have battled with depression and anxiety that stemmed from PTSD as an LEO. Several times I even thought about ending it. But I was given a reprieve when I found photography. Im not even close to the level that most of yall are here, but I do find inspiration and beauty in your work (speaking to everyone). To me its the chase that attracts me the most to photography. Hunting down elusive breathtaking pics that when you capture you know instantly thats the one. The high you get from it is addictive. Also the soliditude that comes from it when your out and about doing landscape. Its nice to be alone and in the moment with nature and having no distractions. Thats refreshing to my spirit. Anyway, I believe photography gave me a new lease on life and plan to captialize on it.
Good hunting peers and mentors.

Greg Sheard's picture

Great comment Chris and I echo those feelings completely when I made my video. I’m so glad you have found photography to be helpful in the same way I have :)

Chris Silvis's picture

Thank you. While its not easy to openly admit my "condition"; my goal, like yours, is to open the door for others to walk thru so that they too can share their story and see that there is others out there who suffer from the same thing and are able to survive if not learn to thrive. For the longest time I saw no beauty in the world but only chaos, torment and destruction. With the help looking thru a camera lens my perspective has changed for the better. I wish you the best and keep fighting. Its worth it.

Greg Sheard's picture

I know that feeling for sure, photography, editing etc you can just lose yourself in a good way and get this sense of focus you don’t or can’t find outside. It’s an escapism that works and can give you just a few minutes, hours of peace.

Alicia Tsai's picture

Thank you guys for sharing your struggles and story. While I may not personally battle with the same issues, photography and mental health are two of my passions and I’ve recently been struck by the huge role that photography can play in bettering mental health and I’ve been trying to explore the relationship between the two. I want to use photography to help those who may be battling mental health issues and I’ve been trying to figure out how to go about teaching an introduction to photography course to youth through the lens of empowerment and mental health. Reading how you’ve used photography in your own personal battles is a huge source of inspiration to me and I would love to hear about any others who have used photography in the same way :)

Greg Sheard's picture

Absolutely blown away by the response I’ve had so far not just here but on numerous Facebook groups etc I’ve shared this on. Many photographers are opening up on this and it makes me so proud to be able to share my story and hear many others.

I’ll be doing a follow up on my YouTube channel tomorrow about all of this.

Mr. Shepard can consider it a dissed , by his defining... he’s helped me. And I’m grateful.. signed a Combat Vet

Angus MacKenzie's picture

Had a friend going through a relationship rough patch last year. As an unfortunate expert/participant on the subject of the Big D, I advised him to try the usual routes to fight ie exercise, diet, get the fuck out of bed, get counseling, meds etc.
But one of the key recommendations was for him to expand out his photography ventures.
Sure enough it helped him stay distracted from his brain feeding on itself while also feeding his creative diet.
I still suffer brutal days where can't get out of bed, socialize, etc But if I can shoot one or two good frames, then find my overall sense of well being re-energized.
Great article and one worth sharing.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on depression, and how photography can help. I could so relate when you were talking, I almost wanted to cry-but that would defeat the purpose of the video, right LOL. I have suffered from depression pretty much all my adult life, including being in the hospital with it a year ago last Summer. I had started doing more photography the Fall before going in the hospital, however had not thought about how it could help my mental outlook. As I have become more engaged with photography as a hobby, it has helped me more and more to lift myself out of the depression. It gives me something to focus on, and is a joy to share the beauty I see around me, I particularly love photographing landscapes, flower and and critter close ups(particularly butterflies, bees, lady bugs), and my dog. I enjoy taking photography classes at my community college, and being challenged to grow in my skills in taking photos and using Photo Shop, and even got to share three of my photos in our Community Education's first ever Photo Show in the college's library art gallery.That was fun and exciting! I am not really planning to become a professional photographer, as I enjoy my Nursery Sales Associate position at a local hardware store,however, would like to try creating and selling photo greeting cards at some point.

Best wishes in your journey to become a professional landscape photographer, and thanks again for sharing your experiences. Take care,
NC

Greg Sheard's picture

Thank you so much for sharing and for your support, I certainly wish you all the best and I can’t wait to see the greeting cards :)

David Moore's picture

I think it makes mine worse. lol

I'm still new to photography to say the least (around 2014 before eventually growing more to using a decent camera), but over the years I've used it as a coping tool for depression.

Depression has always been a vague concept for me, I always tried to hide I was depressed and at times felt I was useless or not good enough for people. Photography (along with other things) helped me cope with that and even still to this day, I can still manage through them. Even through my self depreciation comments, I can never bring myself into saying my photography is "terrible". Because I feel I can capture something either beautiful, odd, or abstract, whether through color or black and white.

Greg Sheard's picture

wow 796 shares already on this! I'm truly proud right now that this message is being spread. I've just recorded a new YouTube video on my channel discussing a bit of this and also today's landscape photography 'attempt' which went wrong haha

Greg Sheard's picture

My latest video is now live where I discuss the response i've had so far to this, thank you all again   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5J6tUui9M34&feature=youtu.be

marc Pecquet's picture

Winter days are short and grey where I live... Not many photo opportunities at this time of the year and it does get depressing.. One can only work out and watch so many hours of TV a day ! BUT, what keeps me geared up is the opportunity to "work" on my digital collection of photos; I have over 300,000 pictures I like and my favority photo software provider typically rolls out a new update at Christmas time (no, its NOT the best selling brand, but it is that small Danish company - great stuff!). So January through March I will spend up to 8 hours a day - including WE's (!) - retouching and enhancing many of those shots, which I often print. When that's done, time to get the camera out ! And I smile a lot throughout the year thanks to that routine !

Greg Sheard's picture

That does sound great, I try and get out all year round and shoot to the conditions as for me it’s a fun challenge although somethings like today it doesn’t go to plan at all when there is thick fog and rain

I have a project called "Same Tree, Different Day" in which I photographed a tree behind my home every day for a year. I learned throughout the process that having a daily goal helped manage my depression. I lecture about it regularly to help others who deal with mental illness. You can learn more about the project and view the photos at www.sametreedifferentday.wordpress.com.