I considered titling this ‘Art Therapy’, but, rejected that on the grounds that it was too vague. This is certainly the longest, and most personal, post I’m ever going to make on this blog, but rather than leap right back into posting about cameras and techniques without a word about, well, the last 8 or 9 months, I thought I’d write a combination update/things that help when your life’s imploding kind of post.
I suppose the biggest problem has been a lack of enthusiasm about, well, anything. There have been smatterings of creativity, but, let’s just say that I made a few incredibly bad decisions earlier in the year, and my time has largely been spent both attempting to repair those, and working out why the hell I made those choices in the first place.
At times, art has undoubtedly helped. In fact, so far this year there have been times when I’ve realised that, perhaps cruelly, I am at my most adventurous and productive in terms of creative output when my life feels at its absolute lowest. During a short period of time when I felt powerless and lacking control, making a gigantic mess of mixed media work helped to focus some of that emotion. Back in May or June, during a period of crushing depression and borderline suicidal thoughts which frightened me so badly I sought medical advice, I produced a series of what I consider some of the most best (self) portraits I’ve ever made.
The absolute sole reason these even exist is because I had my Mamiya and flash set up on a tripod in my room from an earlier shoot. There was about half a roll left in the camera, and for reasons I can’t remember or explain, at a moment when I pretty much hated myself so much I could barely look in the mirror, shooting a self portrait seemed like the most perverse, contrary thing in the whole world. So, I wanted to do it. Over the next few days, I kept going back to it, different moods, different frames of mind.
Around the same time, I published a couple of booklets, in a sort of zine format. The first, a 24 page A6 booklet, uses a combination of childhood photographs, recent photographs and typewritten text to tell the (somewhat personal) tale of the house in which I grew up, and have since moved back into. Rather, it tells the story of the intervening years, and the events leading up to my decision to be back here again.
The other publication is a very ‘stripped down’ version of something that I had been working on, I suppose as a sort of unintentional therapy, throughout the horrible months mid-year. In part, these were relationship difficulties which had been brought on by some very messed up stuff going on in my own head, and my inability to ask for help. Or, I suppose, to even recognise that I needed to, or could, ask for help.
About a month or so earlier, J and I had the idea to cut a sketchbook in half (a small, staple-bound booklet with a cardboard cover), and work independently on projects with our separate halves. The idea was that the two would ‘fit’ together physically (the jagged edges left by the uneven cutting of the scissors would make it clear that it began life as a single object), but our different interests and methods would create something completely different. It might have worked, it might not.
Sometime during the problems we were having (and I put it that way only because I don’t want to articulate why and how things were so bad), I found my half of this sketchbook whilst tidying up. And I typed out the word ‘Faultlines’, something that had been in my head as an artistic concept with no real direction as yet, and I stuck it to the cover. Over the course of the next few weeks, I filled that booklet with photos I’d taken, the self portraits, scans of the mixed media work I’d been doing, and typewritten snippets of thought, or of conversations/arguments we’d had, and the things I’d wanted to say in anger or frustration but had held in because they wouldn’t have helped at the time.
It’s probably one of the best, most personal, most raw and honest things I have ever done. Nobody but J and myself will ever see it in its entirety, but part of it became a smaller, second publication. Less wordy than the House project, but for me, no less meaningful.
On a trip to Brighton during July, I left a few of each ‘zine’ in a couple of pubs and shops. Something I’ve been trying to do since early in the year is to stop second guessing myself, and stop worrying about what people think, and just get my work out there and seen. This was a step in that direction, and (I have to admit), a scary step.
In the months since, a lot more has gone on, although a combination of self exploration, working on problems in my life, and just better ‘luck’ has contributed to things looking up a bit. I’ve got more work to write about, and project ideas ongoing, but for now, I think this post has gone on long enough.