I’ll be honest with you, I’m a photographer…some days I would say ‘at heart’ but most days I would say ‘it’s the best way I can create things visually’. It’s taken a long time for me to discover what it is I should be doing with a camera. I’m easily distracted… by trends, by ideas, by social media, by my kids, by squirrels. The list is very long. I’m also prone to drop out of existence from time to time and focus intently inward. The balance is very hard to maintain…it’s not just a metaphor, I’m actually bipolar.
6 years ago I picked up the camera with the intention to learn how to shoot well and start a portrait business. With some hard work I was going to make the transition from my day job to the photo industry. I attacked this ferociously. I shot every day, I read every book, I listened to every podcast, I invested several thousand dollars in my equipment. I wrote a detailed 30 page business plan that forecast my financial future 4 years ahead. I created a specific social media strategy/website and gained a following, I was so immersed in this idea nothing else was even in my peripheral vision. That’s what one does when you are riding high on a manic cycle from bipolar disorder. Your ideas and your vision is based in a false reality. It’s all very euphoric, there are few drugs that can compare to that high. Unfortunately, I was not properly diagnosed nor aware I had this mental illness until this year.
As expected and easily predictable in hindsight …I failed hard. I could in no way explain how I would simply wake up and not care.. or even be repulsed by taking photos. I would shoot what I had previously arranged, then not take on any new work for weeks or months. I would become incredibly introverted, and detached from society. Then as quickly as it left it would come back, I would do a complete 180 and be a shooting and social butterfly. Building momentum, gaining trust in my community, getting great at taking photos…when it would leave me again and I would quickly spiral into depression and the thought of shooting anything would give me anxiety attacks. With each passing cycle between manic and depression I would inevitably build friendships, working relationships, trust… only to let all of them down by becoming unreachable, unreliable, and unpredictable. So, around one year ago I simply quit photography completely.
I felt defeated. I knew by looking at my portfolio that my work stood out and was reaching a level that I’ve been aspiring to since day one. I knew I ‘could’ be great. Respected. Yet…I also knew there was no way I could get there if I wasn’t mentally stable to maintain any type of consistency. I learned a lot in my year off. I drank too much, I took unnecessary risks with my career, I created a monster of a social media presence that would have been funny in any other context outside of self destruction. I gained weight. My antidepressants stopped working. My marriage and family life was being bent to the max. Then, I suppose… like anyone who reaches a level of rock bottom you choose to end it all or you start to fight. I got help.
It only took a psychologist a few sessions to tell me something that I’ve needed to hear for 20 years. I am not a failure, I am suffering from Bipolar Disorder. The self hatred could stop now. And just like that…it did.
Right now I am still in the middle of reconstructing my place in the world…but right away I went back to the drawing board with my photography. How can I do this one thing I love within the new realm of knowing what to expect when I wake up and can’t face a camera. A traditional portrait studio will not work for me.. I know this. I’ve proved this. What other talents, skills, interests, can I combine to make a stable impact in the creative world yet allow me to ride out waves of depression and being manic? The answer didn’t come to me in a flash of inspiration…more like a lifetime of experiences and failures. I have mentioned this briefly in the past but now it has my full attention and is under development. It’s a quarterly art publication called Division Square. In it will feature what I am able to create within each yearly quarter and be available for digital download or (fingers crossed) actual print. The website will be the hub of all things I want to share with you on a daily basis regarding the process of creating this publication. I am in LOVE with the process. Trust me when I say that… meeting new people, hearing their stories, making connections through the camera, seeing new things… all of this is what I am passionate about, the photo is the cherry on top.
Thanks for reading this LONG WINDED story of what the hell happened to me in the last year and why I haven’t shot anything. I think a lot of people were left scratching their heads as to what I went through as a creative and if in fact I would ever return. The answer is yes. 2014 will be a good year. Thank you all for still being here to read this.