5 Ways Making Photographs Increase Mental Acuity and Fight Depression
It’s not about the gear or the images; it’s about our health.
I love making photographs. I have been doing it for nearly 60 years.
I just did the math… I may need a nap.
Anyway, I use photography in some ways that are not often talked about. I not only make pretty photos, and images for clients, but I make images for myself that simply let me explore the chaos of the world and try to make sense of it.
I find the more photos I make, the more I want to dig into a subject and keep shooting it until it makes perfect sense to me.
Whether that is a part of my self-expression in the art world or a tiny trick I use to keep positive when I feel I am being pulled down, I truly don’t know.
Maybe both. Maybe neither.
I don’t really know. Or care, for that matter.
I have been asked why I make photographs.
My answer is always the same, “because I must.”
I simply cannot stand it when more than a couple of days go by without a viewfinder helping me see the world in a frame.
Now that I am exploring the world of tiny, old, pocket-sized digital cameras, I am never without one.
(Yes, I have an iPhone, and yes, it makes good photographs. Almost too good. My little 2008 Fuji makes cool photos too — and they don’t look like a phone.)
Increased originality and mental flexibility
I think that practicing photography could help me think more clearly because it uses the creative parts of my brain.
When I make photographs, I need to carefully consider the subject matter, lighting, and framing. That helps with my problem-solving abilities and being flexible in my thoughts.
Flexibility is key when looking for creative solutions.
Experimenting with different methods and approaches helps to promote cognitive development as it forces me to think outside of my typical routines.
Promotes Concentration and Rewards Mindfulness
When I am seriously making photographs, I get into the ‘zone’, or perhaps that new term, “flow” where I become more and more focused on what I am doing and less aware of the distractions around me.
The subject becomes the locus of all my efforts, and I become enamored with it as I continue to explore.
Whether a portrait or a still life, it doesn’t matter. I simply devote my entire being to making the photograph what I want it to be.
This attention to detail on a far deeper level than just looking at the subject makes the image-making process a sort of Zen practice for me.
I become completely immersed in the act of working with the light, the subject, and the often clumsy, archaic tool in my hands.
And this keeps me from sinking into darker places.
I cannot be depressed and photograph at the same time.
Unless it is the fourth day of an elevator brake parts catalog — I have been there. But even then, it was challenging, and solving problems can be therapeutic.
Photography gets you out of the house, off of the couch, or out of bed.
It gives you a purpose for that time ahead of you.
It doesn’t allow you to dwell on what is bringing you down, it forces you to get a camera and look for something interesting.
And even if you never found it that day, you looked. And the looking is what makes the process so powerful.
Unless you keep your work all to yourself, it gives you something to share. And you can share what you do with everyone. They don't need to be photographers, they can be friends, relatives, loved ones, or entire strangers who all post their work on a Facebook group.
In that way, photography is sort of a social network based on the love of the still image. And that’s far better than narcissists dancing to bad pop music.
Encouraging a sense of accomplishment
This is one of the most important aspects to photography. You get to see your efforts pay off immediately.
Maybe you check the imagery out on your phone, on the back of the camera, or on the screen of a laptop. It comes NOW, giving us instant feedback on our attempts, and lets us continue with that feedback toward making better and better imagery.
This can be an amazing sense of accomplishment. And that can buoy us up, give us a sense of worth, and also be something fun to share with others who will also give us support.
This sharing can be something that creates bonds, begins friendships, and opens one up to even more experiences.
Setting a goal of making something, then actually making it is incredibly cathartic. It is one of the pleasures of life.
And as an added kick, you will see your positivity skyrocket.
Creative expression can be therapeutic, and photography is the tool of choice for me as I wander through the chasms of modern life.
I started making photographs when I was quite young. It has been an interest, a hobby, a business, and an obsession for my entire life.
And that has been a true blessing.