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Depression in Focus - Let There be Light! How Photography is Helping me Slay a Monster




No matter who we are, what we do for a living, what house of worship we attend, or what our socio-economic class we come from, each of us must stand face to face with monsters in our lives and either choose to surrender or stand and fight. For many of us, one of those monsters comes to us cloaked in the guise of depression. I am one of those who has had to continually fight this particular adversary, as it appears determined to confront me at different intervals upon my journey through this life. There is a very damaging and dangerous stigma in our world that says we should not speak about mental health issues if we have them. The stigma itself is a monster, one that keeps the individual locked in shame, fear and doubt. Thankfully, talking and sharing my feelings has never been an issue for me. Being candid about my battles with depression, PTSD and anxiety have helped me understand the entire scope of what these afflictions are and how they are nothing to fear if you know how to attack them and put them in their place. There are several weapons that I have taken up to keep these predators at bay, be it therapy, oral medication, meditation and chanting in the Zen Buddhist tradition, and YOGA. There is one more weapon in my arsenal that has proved to be equally powerful and eternally creative, and that is photography.



To say 2011 to 2021 was a difficult decade would be a very gross understatement. In those ten years my father, mother and two brothers died. One of my best friends, a person who was like a sister to me and my former secretary died as well, and a divorce that I neither saw coming or wanted transpired in the middle of all of this. Every time I seemed to recover my emotional gait, another heart-breaking event would introduce itself to me. A tidal wave of sorrow, frustration and confusion swamped me almost daily. As my artistic and spiritual inspiration, Jimi Hendrix, sings in his song, The Burning of the Midnight Lamp, "Its a little more than enough to make a man throw himself away." I was in a fight that at times I confidently felt there was no way to win. Wanting to throw myself away was a daily desire. At this point on my journey I desperately needed to feel connected to something bigger than myself. ENTER PHOTOGRAPHY! LET THERE BE LIGHT!





The arts have always been front and center in my life. My father was a renowned architect and illustrator and my mother was a very accomplished oil painter. I followed suit and majored in Fine Arts while in college at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. Oil painting, vine charcoal and pencil drawing were always my primary mediums, and though photography always evoked deep and intriguing spirit within me I simply did not pursue it to any great degree. I had lived overseas for six years, in Honduras first and then Liberia, in those six years I traveled the world and always had a camera of some sort with me, still I was simply a tourist taking pictures. Because of a neighbor of mine in Beaumont, Texas who has become my photography guru, I fell headlong into a deeper relationship with photography, technically and artistically in 2019, and as the old adage chimes, "I haven't looked back." I found a wonderful spiritual correlation between photography and Buddhism. Staying in the present moment, looking at things openly and honestly, examining subjects from more than one vantage point and focusing, be it on the breath or the horizon line were familiar to both disciplines. Photography began to become a beautiful meditation in my life. It became a medium by which I could could create, bring joy to myself and others. My camera, my walks with Mother Earth and my talks with God were starting to make a beautifully dynamic impact on my life. Every photoshoot was a session of healing, and as I like to call it, I had started undergoing phototherapy.





Suddenly the monsters became more conquerable and less imposing. Fear, depression, phobias, stress, lack of concentration, and low self-esteem suddenly were unmasked and for the first time I could stare at them without falling completely apart.I also found the more I photographed and the more trips I made out my front door my ability at self-expression and artistic communication became more robust and authentic. I was beginning to remember the joys of life. I was in fact resurrecting from the dead, and photography was playing an incredibly powerful role in this reemergence. I had seen ugliness and experienced unspeakable heartbreak for almost ten years, now whenever I had a camera in my hand I saw a beautiful vision of our world and its spiritual power. As well it gave me more ammunition in my fight against mental health issues in the form of having a sense of direction and sense of pride in something I was creating. This was good soul food. It was a gentle mother putting the fraught nightmares of her child to rest. It was photography and it was holy.



I owe so much of who I am today to photography. It has helped me focus on positive life experiences, helped me develop a greater self-worth, and expand my circle of friends. Photography has also helped me to develop a confidence in creating and most importantly, it has created a balance of mind, body and soul within me. Since picking up photography seriously in 2019 I have had three solo exhibitions in the Southeast Texas area, I am presently working on my first out of state exhibition which will be in Lake Charles, Louisiana, opening in August of 2023. My photography has been published in a myriad of magazines, newspapers and has been featured on television and radio programs. Along with this has come several awards and recognition at competitions and expos. As I said, I owe so much to photography and I am forever indebted to her for introducing her healing light to me. There are stories to be told, smiles to wrinkle the corners of my mouth and innumerable destinations of beauty my eyes are looking forward to seeing. This is just the start.. so.. please excuse me while I grab a camera and tell a story!



Jerome













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