Breathe. Moments of personal contemplation, captured periods of mediation. The sound of the waves inspiring images that capture time and motion, that are a step removed from the photographic image and into painterly images that can be interpreted differently by an individuals viewpoint, experiences and memories.
For me, photography is seen as the poor relation of the art world, even more since the rise of digital photography and now online platforms. The approach in photography as art seems to be to attempt to mimic other mediums, however photography is restrained by a set of traditional ideas of how photography should be created and exhibited, for example; film is better than digital, documentary should be shot in black and white, photographs should be framed in black frames with white mounts and displayed in straight lines, that photographs with saturated colours are too commercial. I wanted to push my work to the boundaries of photography and art, to create work that conformed to the specifics of the medium, were undeniably photographs, but that were exhibited and discussed as pieces of art. Through this project I created work that I consider to be art.
Much of my previous work revolves around the theme of mental health and raising awareness of mental health conditions including depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and PTSD. This work has been based on either my own or other people’s lived experiences of mental illness and with every project I do, whether relaying my own experiences or someone else’s, it has a significant negative impact on my own health. My intention is and always has been to explore coping strategies, experiences which have a positive impact on mental illness. I considered abandoning the mental health theme with this project, but it is something I am incredibly passionate about. I have continued the theme by exploring ideas around positive state of mind, relaxation and alleviating symptoms.
Many people use meditation or relaxation techniques to deal with stress. My own personal method is spending time outside in nature, among the trees, up a mountain, in a forest, by the sea. There has been a great deal of research that suggests that the outdoors and nature have a huge positive impact on mental health: so significant that the psychotherapeutic practice EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) is based on the idea that the movement of trees and water in the wind has a relaxing effect and this can be simulated in a medical setting to reduce the intensity of disturbing thoughts. EMDR therapy was developed by Francine Shapiro in 1988.
For me EMDR had no positive effect and talking to therapists, psychologists and those who have undergone treatment, the anecdotal evidence is that EMDR is no more or less effective than any other treatment. However, this does not take away from my own personal observations that being by the sea, watching the waves, being outside, the sound and smells of the environment all have a positive effect on mental health and stress levels.
Throughout this year long project, I have created contemplative works, often during long periods of mental anguish, loneliness and anxiety, all symptoms of complex PTSD attributed to my military career. The project consists of a large body of work that includes still images, video and sound.