Mental Health


As we move through life, most of us find that we need to reinvent ourselves multiple times. These “changes” can be a result of starting or changing schools, going to college, getting our first job, getting our first home away from our parents (or guardians), changing career, becoming a parent, losing a parent, losing your children, losing a job. All of these things represent huge change in our lives which has many and varied impacts

As humans, we each adapt to things in different ways. Some things are chronically devastating (I use the medical understanding of “Chronic” here to mean long-lasting) and impossible to recover from without considerable outside help, others are temporary but when you have a generally low mood, falling into despair is both easy and frequent. 

Passing Time

As intelligent beings, we have developed many thousands of ways to “pass the time”. I say this as though time is an infinite concept that is there to be spent or even wasted. Clearly, we all know that it is not, but we all do things that just allow time to change from the future to the present and swiftly to the past often without anything much actually happening to us in the interim and for some of us that’s just boredom which, as best as I can describe it is the mind telling you that you can’t be arsed to do anything and, worse still, you’re determined to get bloody depressed about it, so there. 

This happened to me a lot as a teenager: especially on a Sunday because back then, the only shops that were open were newsagents, the house was being cleaned (not by me, obviously) and there was some boring political crap on TV or someone spouting nonsense about some fella that has houses in every town and village in the country but nobody has ever seen or even spoken to (in recent times) yet was so prevalent around 2000 years ago according to the greatest compendium of stories ever written. No, I am not remotely religious. 

On these boring days, I would need to reinvent myself, somehow. I often failed. Usually, I would become restless, agitated, argumentative, resistant. To everything, even perfectly sensible suggestions from my mum and dad who would be rather fed up of being told I was bored. Boredness is basically a total lack of motivation and not doing anything except entering a cycle of being bored reduces motivation. One day, my father would say (often), I would have a “rude awakening”.  I have had many. 

So, what has this got to do with the camera and photography? 

As a child, I loved taking photographs. Whether it was with the pocket Hanimex 110 camera or later with the Kodak Junior II that my Grandfather gave me or even the Zenith B ultra-reliable brick that was at least 15 years old when my father gave it to me, I liked taking photos. The barrier then was cost: film has always been expensive as has developing and printing. In the 1980s and 90s, these costs dropped significantly with postal services and mini-labs on the high street, but still, every photo had a cost and that cost was a significant barrier to taking many photos. Even when I had my own black and white darkroom, (which consisted of a board over the bath, a panel of hardboard over the window and the absence of air in a very small room full of pungent chemicals), a barrier still existed: the motivation to build and dismantle the setup on a regular basis. 

I have always taken photographs regardless of the barriers but with the olden-days’ barriers of cost, fumes and motivation removed, there are still barriers. Some remain cost related, but most are related to the age-old-problem of motivation. 


Thus, today as I write this, I need to reinvent myself again. I awoke at about 5:45am. Sunrise was at 6:15am and I live on a cliff with a sea view (if I crane my neck or step out of the front door). I took a look and the colour was OK, obviously some cloud bank was going to block the sun’s appearance. Buggerit, I said and sat down to look at some garbage on my phone. It’s now half past nine and I’ve written about 600 words of this blog, drunk probably 5 cups of coffee (I lose count) watched my Youtube Metrics of the video upload yesterday, played Merge Mansion on the phone (a mind-numbingly dull game yet with the addition of heroin), edited a photo (badly) and toyed with the idea of putting the washing on. 

The sun is beginning to get blisteringly hot and the light is now so harsh, it’s like  Jimmy Carr heckler comeback (Jimmy Carr is a cutting stand-up comedian for everybody who’s not of these shores – his comedy may not translate well into other cultures, I dunno, but just watch a YouTube video of him, you might like). Oh, yeah, the sunlight is harsh. Not ideal for landscape photography any more. I now have hours before it is and have totally wasted another morning’s shooting opportunity. 

So, do I reinvent myself as a harsh light shooter today or do I sit here and mope, wasting time and losing more motivation?

Of course, I could sit here and just finish writing this blog. I can probably duck in and out of it all day, interspersing it’s creation with watching YouTube videos that I will lose focus on and never get to the end (that’s happened on at least three videos already today, sorry Nigel, nothing to do with your content, I just lost the motivation to even sit on my arse and consume your words). Hell, I have someone offering me money (well, crypto) for a collection of my images a NFTs yet I don’t have the motivation to properly understand WTF an NFT is and why anybody would want it? 

This is how low I get: I can’t even be bothered to earn money for artwork I have already created. 

I am broken and now there’s a wasp in the room.

It’s gone with some encouragement from a flickling cloth. 

These ramblings describe a “normal” day for me. The most active I have been thus far is getting rid of a wasp. Actually, that’s the most motivated I have been too, if you discount the coffee making. 

Reinvention, no matter how small, is a necessary part of life. I need to reinvent myself to regain motivation on a very regular basis. I also need to reinvent myself to recover from the terrible life changes that have impacted my family and that’s much harder. Yet the small reinventions to get my ass out of the door more often have an impact on the other reinventions. The more I get out, the more likely I am to get out again and conversely, the less I get out, the harder it becomes.

Perhaps reinvention is the wrong word. Maybe the word(s) should be “comfort zone”, “practice”, “habit”, “routine”, “normal”.

All of the above

In one way or another, all of these apply.  What it really boils down to is change and mostly, humans resist change. Yet even that isn’t true. There’s the analogy that you can boil a frog if you gently heat the water it’s in (it’s not true, it will jump out), but this myth is an apt simile here. Gradual change is not something that sentient beings tend to notice (often until it’s too late: the rise of the right, global warming, austerity are classic examples). But sudden change cannot go without notice and its impacts can be very difficult to recover from and too few of us recover at any speed. Yet, the age-old “get back on your bike” mentality having just fallen off can empower us in ways that are hard to imagine when you’re having gravel removed from a wound. Rather than sitting moping about how awful it was, we could get back pedalling and swiftly learning and enjoying.

And so we’re back to photography. It’s a never-ending learning curve. Discovering new shapes and patterns to capture, new light to harness, new places, different angles, wide apertures, slow shutters, movement, finding the “decisive” moment, practising hand-held or staying static with the tripod, trying a different genre, experimenting with ISO, checking out the “creative” modes in your camera, getting inspiration from others, even RTFM. All of these things and more will help you become a better photographer. It *should* help you believe more too, but don’t get me started on Imposter Syndrome…. 

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