The Great Escape
Photography like most creative pursuits works on so many levels and offers a difference in experience for different people, some view it as purely a creative & expressive outlet, others use the medium to document social history or changing environments, furthermore some for just the social aspects of a camera club with the added community elements it brings to proceedings.... certainly not a one size fits all pastime or job, but this is also what makes it such a fascinating field to be involved with!!
On a personal level as a mostly landscape photographer, I can directly feel the benefit of being out in the wilderness, it somehow affords me a clarity and peace of mind, helping me to be able to shoot what I feel is some of my best and most important work. This working environment can certainly be a stark contrast and a very different shooting experience to the bordering on claustrophobic locations that finds me photographing in music venue's or derelict buildings on occasions. Please don't get me wrong, I do enjoy that aspect of my work, but it is mentally a very different beast and almost always challenging.
As we sit here within the confines of a government social lock down due to a viral pandemic, more and more research continues to surface showing that getting outside into the countryside may play a bigger part in our mental well being than was first thought. Although the current restrictions on movement hamper our ability to get out & about, it is now starting to be actively promoted as having very tangible benefits, sitting alongside the generally accepted treatments through the currently raised awareness in the media and such like.
I would certainly not claim to be an expert in this field, so can only comment on how the time I spend outside (pre-lockdown I might add!) directly affects me, but it is this sort of gathering of information that we can collectively do that will potentially make a difference in people's lives, and even if it's to just one persons life, it's worth the effort.
As someone who is now in my mid 40's, I am able to finally look back over my life with a clarity, and realise that for large periods of time was probably suffering with depression, un-diagnosed I might add. Whilst I can honestly say that there was no one catalyst, there were dark times when suicide was very much contemplated, other times a very real sense of feeling disconnected from the world and not really understanding my place, have even had thoughts (at the time) of up and just walking away from my middle suburbia life and just keep walking endlessly. We all have worries in our lives, as you get older it becomes impossible to avoid accumulative pressures of life, but these times that I went through felt unrelated to how I was feeling, but surmise that it must have been part of the problem, had I had the understanding and access to the knowledge that is now available, then maybe the ride would have been easier.
The physical benefits of a more outdoors lifestyle are obvious to most people, with walking known to be great for joints and general cardiovascular fitness, but sitting right alongside that are the improvements to our overall mood and ability to think with increased clarity, with higher levels of positiveness, furthermore the effects appear to be cumulative, so the more time you spend outside in the fresh air and the more earthy the surroundings, the better you will feel, which has nothing but a positive knock on influence in all aspects of your life. It is not a magic cure all pill, it will very likely be an ongoing battle with yourself, I know it is with me, but it is certainly a way to help balance the negative impact it can have on us as people.
As someone who is in a lucky enough position to be able to have photography as a full-time career and the great outdoors as my main office, the effects on my state of mind are immeasurable, so really feel a responsibility to do my little bit to help raise awareness of mental health issues in these challenging times, especially as it is something that has affected me in the past. It would be wrong for me not to speak up about the positive aspects of being outside when I spend so much time doing just that (just not at the moment), I know that my work largely requires that, but it really is not just about the photography, being outside makes me a better, more thoughtful person & photographer, and allows space for my mind to breath.
In my work I am fortunate enough to work with some great companies, some to a greater degree than others, but always try to work alongside businesses that are promoting an active outdoors or adventure lifestyle, thus encouraging people to get out there and enjoy the world, reaping the mental health benefits whilst having fun.
Two such companies are 'Vanguard Photo UK' and 'Kase Filters UK'.
Both of these companies are very proactive with their support of photographers and the benefits of being in the great outdoors, with equipment that makes you want to be outside. Furthermore, demo days actively encourage the 'getting together' mentality that is so important. We are all in challenging times at the moment, and a lock down only serves to increase mental pressure, thankfully these companies are going above and beyond with weekly competitions across social media to win camera gear, and even tips and idea's to keep your mind active in this unique situation. They really should be commended.
Mental Health Awareness is at an all time high at the moment, and the momentum needs to be kept going through general media coverage, Mental Health Awareness Days and companies who from a grassroots level are actively encouraging people to get outside and enjoy the wonder of the world for what it is, by doing that the benefits will sort themselves, believe me I know from experience.
Even if you do nothing else after reading this, I encourage you to research the benefits
and give it a go. Live life and just keep talking.......some of us understand
Until Next Time