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The Dark Room: Depression in the Photography World

This past winter, I surveyed the P4P audience asking people to share something quite personal:  Their experiences with depression.

Answers poured in from around the world in a matter of hours.  I copied and pasted the survey answers into a Word document, and the result was over 50 pages long (single-spaced).

Clearly, this was something we needed to talk about.

We all have individuals in our lives who live with depression, whether we know it or not.  For that reason alone, it’s worth educating ourselves.  As I studied depression in college and graduate school, I came to care a lot about lifting the stigma surrounding this illness.  Depression may be chronic in some, but it is treatable.  However, the stigma surrounding it prevents many from asking questions and finding treatments which work for them.  (Imagine if people were afraid to seek treatment for a chronic joint problem, or felt compelled to hide it because they were worried about what their friends would say.  An arresting and terrible thought, isn’t it?)

I spent one summer working in a depression clinic in Germany.  On my first day, I attended a group meeting with all clients and therapists present.  And you know what?

As I looked around, I could not tell who was a client and who was a therapist.

It was just a room full of people, young and old.  We may have a certain image in our mind of what someone with depression “looks like,” but it truly is an invisible illness, and it is not limited to one segment of the population.  There are wonderful, successful people in every societal group imaginable who live with it.  And that includes the photography world.

After reading through all 50 pages of anonymous, personal experiences of photographers with depression, I sat down to write an article for Professional Photographer, a UK-based industry magazine.  They published it last February, and I feel grateful to them for opening their pages to this topic.  Even though we are having more and more conversations about depression, the discussion is long from over, and I am grateful to their editors for allowing me to speak up about a topic you don’t normally find amongst lens reviews and industry talk.

(And as I’ve read more from Professional Photographer, I’ve been quite impressed by the breadth of topics they seek to cover…truly worth checking out.)

Professional Photographer has graciously agreed to let me share the published version of the article with you on this blog.

You can click here to download it as a PDF, or here to download it as a JPG.

(You may need to make use of a “zoom” button to read the document.)

I somehow feel nervous sharing this article here, even though it’s already been published.  Feeling nervous is usually a sign that something is important to you, and I think more than any other topic I’ve covered on this blog, I feel the need to “get this right.”

There’s no way to cover everything in one article – not even everything that’s important.

But I hope it gives some people hope, understanding, or just the courage to learn more.

 

If you would like to hear more about this or similar mental health topics, please let me know in the comments.

Allison - I love that you used the British spelling of “honor.” :) Knowing your audience 101!

Excellent article, Jenika – very useful. I’m glad you put in the 5 tips for those who may not personally experience depression, but still need to know how to deal with depression – because it’s all around us.
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Laura - Thanks for writing that article. The more people that understand, the better.

Leanda - Beautifully written article xoxo

Ron - It seems like sometimes we talk about everything but the most important things. Here’s to your courage for sharing the article.
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William Torres - Your blog site is for me like a Constitution, is a guide for take important decisions about my business.

Laura - Excellent post and article. I’d like to add a comment on this. I understand you need to support people, especially those who are close to you, if they suffer depression. A close family member, a very close friend and a work colleague that used to sit by my desk, and several other people I know have suffered from this. While I *know* they have the hardest part it is also draining for myself. It may sound selfish but I have certainly tried to help these people. However after YEARS of doing so I was on the verge of falling into the hole myself. So depression is not only for the one that suffers it, it is also VERY hard on others as well

Jenika - Hi Laura, thanks for bringing up that additional difficult issue. You’re right that it can be difficult for friends and family, for one because there is only so much that can be done, and for another, it may go on for awhile. Everyone needs to practice self-care, including family members of those suffering for mental illness. (I would add that there are also people in this world whose friends and family have no idea that someone is suffering from depression – things do vary). Being honest with yourself and with others about your limitations, and judiciously being aware of your own energy is important. I hope that both you and your friends/family can find the care that you need.

Tamara - Beautifully written. I’m glad I found your site.

Kristin - Just found this and it totally hits home. The thing is that I’m nervous/embarrassed to share it bc of the stigma of depression, but I want to bc it’s explains everything for me right now… we’ll see whether I get up the courage. Thank you for writing and sharing this.

Jenika - Hey Kristin, thanks for your note.

By way of getting up the courage, I’d encourage you to check out Kristen Kalp’s recent post on Brand Camp Blog, and the amazing comments she received:

http://www.brandcampblog.com/battling-depression-running-a-business-holy-crap-this-is-scary-to-share/

Jedna Chwila - nice article… and nice photo too! :) :) :)

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