Through my whole life I have been prone to periods of dark moods, anxiety, a lot of ‘what if’ and worries about the future, health, everybody and everything and all in between. When in my teens and early twenties I didn’t even understand what it was as I couldn’t verbalise it, just feelings that crawled inside and outside the body that I tried to push away and in doing so just made it worse. Through the years often fleeting and passing but sometimes for longer periods and that’s where I had to get a little help with the likes of CBT and Mindfulness to get some tools under the belt and if nothing else a better understanding of myself and what my triggers are. One of the best advices I got from a friend that is a psychologist was to ‘invite your anxiety for tea’, acknowledge those feelings rather than push them away as they then fight even more to invade your being consequencently caused panic attacks.
With time I have learned that the big triggers are when sudden ‘out of my control’ life events happen (you try to deal with it there and then but in the aftermath you put a brave face on and try to emerge out of it like the phoenix from the ashes if a bit singed and dusty) and stress - be it work, home and family, extended family or friends , I also used to obsessively worry about future events that are out of my hand, big gatherings, presentations, routines/work changing, family - the darkness does not discriminate.
Early on I realised I needed more than just talk and tools, I needed something tangible for me to do and occupy myself with. Gym and exercise is great and I have done different things on and off but never quite stuck by it and it didn’t quite still that mind. Theatre, film and music are great but still not enough immersion and escape. Due to some surprise money around 12 years ago I picked up my first DSLR and I was sold. Initially just family, London landmarks, macro and aesthetically pleasing shots but as everybody around me now know the camera started to come with me everywhere and I began capturing what I saw and observed around me to and from work. That camera being heavy I soon upgraded to a Fuji mirrorless as smaller, sharper, love the output and colours and not so in the face for the people I capture.
My walks before work got longer in distance and time. I started getting off at tube and train stops way before that days specific work destination. Taking earlier trains to catch the low and golden morning light streaming across the faces of my fellow commuters or pounding rain bouncing off their umbrellas. Grabbing a cuppa around the corner from Charing Cross at 6 am and then slowly make way through the backstreets of Soho to emerge an hour or so later for the job in hand but with images on the camera to review with excitement when I got home. I’m also very lucky to somewhat self manage my time and workload so when finished on site for the day and no meetings before going home to write reports I can wander off for further exploration and capture the inhabitants of our fair city.
If working in Tuffnell Park or Belsize Park I will walk down through Camden, Mornington Crescent until Warren Street and then West End & Soho until I reach Charing Cross. If in Angel, Islington I would route my movements through either Old Street, Brick Lane, Spitalfields, City & then London Bridge or Camberwell, Farringdon, St Paul’s & Cannon Street. The other day I was in Bayswater and did a little spin around Portobello and Notting Hill then Marble Arch to follow the sun down Oxford Street and Regent Street. For me most routes lead through Soho at some point, even this weekend. Started in Liverpool Street & Shoreditch at midday with my friend Shel to then end up in the middle of Soho and Pride what an amaizing atmosphere.
The majority of the time is spent alone, this is when I destress and put my demons to right. The walks exercise both the body and mind and whilst concentrating on observing events and details of what is around to capture niggling thoughts and fears tend to become much smaller and fade into the background like just little whispers. I find that if I feel a bit wired from life and work these walks slows both heartbeat and breathing down and everything resting on my shoulders a bit lighter and easier to manage. There is nothing quite like putting 25k steps on the Fitbit immerse yourself in an area with light, shadows, smells and movements to come home and then go through your treasure trove even if you only like to or three out of the 700 images taken. It’s that bone tiredness, creativity and achievement that still those little snapping snakes in the pit of the stomach, sleep suddenly comes easy and it also makes me a happier, kinder and a more patient mother, wife and friend.
I said often alone but through photography I have also made amazing friends that I meet with regularly for walks and talks. We have rarely if ever met each others partners, families or friends but freely share worries, problems, stress and anxieties but also laugh a lot, discuss, help and coach and put the world to right. We explore and roam the city together, capture and share images (incredible what different things we see despite being in the same location at the same time). We then say goodbye until the next time and go home with spring in our steps.
I think it is incredibly important for each and all of us to have something that is ours, a hobby, an interest, a sport, an activity and /or outside friends to help with the stress in life and to aid mindfulness and happiness and for me - the camera has done all this and more.
Light plays a huge part in my photography and I try to capture how it disperses the darkness and the negative space, the shadows it creates and then how it warmly displays or puts a spotlight on my chosen frame. Looking at past and present images I think they are brighter and more positive but then all that depends on the day. Weather and mood can very much influence the output and I think it is probably quite easy to see how I feel if you look at that days clicks.
The darkness is not so dark anymore, always a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel and those feelings doesn’t worry me as much as it used to in the past. I feel much more philosophical about life and not obsessing about how things are supposed to be or behave.
A tip is also to surround yourself with people you truly want to be with, people that equally give and take as much as you do in the friendships and relationships, truly loves and respects you for who you are and don’t try to change you.