I’m a big fan of conceptual photography. This is in no small part because it’s something outside the scope of my capabilities, both technically and imaginatively. (FYI: my range of interests is wide while the scope of my skills is narrow; grass greener elsewhere.) I dabbled in photography during my early years of college (I met someone and we got to talking apertures with one thing leading into to another and we experimented some in a dark room), and while I had an eye for composition my technical skill floundered. It didn’t help that my first camera had all sorts of things wrong with its innards whose symptoms I kept misdiagnosing as my own ineptness behind the lens. With that shaky start I never got the momentum going to really pursue that avenue of creativity, but I really appreciate the work of others. And conceptual photography is a fascinating outlet to express one’s inner demons.
Christian Hopkins (Flickr: Capt. Truffles) was interviewed in a Yahoo! article describing his work. Having battled depression for a while he nearly killed himself, but was able to find a method of therapy in conceptual photography.
It started becoming a form of therapy I could use to fight my depression. I would create an emotion I was feeling so that I could see it. Once it was on the page it was no longer in my head and that was incredibly relieving. Creating this image and knowing that I have the control to know what it looks like, to decide whether it’s happy, sad, positive or negative; that control was the therapy for me, that is what gave me that freedom.
Hopkins’ favorite piece is titled Inner Demons, which is something many pagans will be grappling with during the post-Samhain season/dark half of the year. Following a holiday that has us confront death, Death, and other elements we fear or consider taboo, introspection makes sense. And the longer nights coupled with the recent time change has all of us coping with seasonal changes that can trigger strong emotional responses. It’s just that time of the year.
Shifting to a cooler, darker time is actually very emotionally lifting for me. I live in Los Angeles, but I’m not of those types who are energetic and happy in warmth and sunlight, so this time of the year gives me an energetic boost. That’s not to say I’m not aware of inner demons that have collected over the course of the year. I make an effort to clean house, remove the buzzing gnats from psyche, and basically recharge. Ironically, the cooler weather makes that so much easier for me. I can spend more time outdoors, hiking, visiting the ocean, getting out on the street and seeing the sights, because I don’t feel like I’m walking through a furnace (I really don’t like the heat). I can start projects at home that will engage me during the quieter evenings that descend so much earlier these days. I’m fortunate that the convergence of seasonal changes and a culturally approved period* of introspection and recharging are so much in my favor here. Now if I could just do something about the rest of the year…
Two pieces of Hopkins stood out for me with ringing clarity, so I think I will be setting those aside on my desktop for further contemplation over the next few weeks. One is Defense Mechanisms, featuring a bound heart in the chest cavity. The other is an untitled piece whose simplicity only enhanced the message, a pawn chess piece whose reflection in the mirror reveals a king piece. Yet, when I see this image I think of the Mirror of Erised. (“It shows us nothing more or less than the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts.”)
During the next few weeks I will be brainstorming some guided meditations for myself, as I usually feel inspired to do at this time of year. My psyche will dredge up all manner of phantasmagorical imagery during meditations which I’ve only written notes about in the past. Perhaps, when I have a little extra time during the longer evening hours, I will dig out my camera and conceptualize some of these inner demons. Such pictures would certainly make more useful aides in my work, even if the technical skill is seriously flawed. Right now I’m in the mood to play some online chess.
*I think it’d important for people to find the most advantages when facing inner demons. If seasonal depression makes the dark half of the year difficult to do so, consider Samhain’s counterpoint, Beltane. Themes of eventual death, rather than death materialized, as well as emotions running rampant, paired with sunny days could make that confrontation easier.