The black dog of depression

Photos from inside the tunnel, Dec 2019 – Jan 2020.

“Being anxious at this extreme level is bizarre. You feel all the time that you want to do something, that there is some affect that is unavailable to you, that there’s a physical need of impossible urgency and discomfort for which there is no relief, as though you were constantly vomiting from your stomach but had no mouth. With the depression, your vision narrows and begins to close down; it is like trying to watch TV through terrible static, where you can sort of see the picture but not really; where you cannot ever see people’s faces, except almost if there is a close-up; where nothing has edges. The air seems thick and resistant, as though it were full of mushed-up bread.”

Andrew Solomon – The Noonday Demon: An Atlas Of Depression

A night in Alfama

The calm of the old quarter of Lisbon built on the shore of Tagus.

There are different ways of travelling. There’s travelling to see and travelling to be seen.

The first one is about discovering and losing yourself in what you’re discovering. It is about trying to become part of the scene without altering it. Staying low key, watching, letting things happen.

The second one is about affirming yourself wherever you go. Making your mark, letting people know where you are and what you think about that. It’s about imposing yourself on whatever is happening.

Time

Time is perceived differently at different ages. I remember the endless days of my childhood, the agitation of waiting for something that was just a few hours away but seemed to be forever frozen in the future.

Now I cannot make sense of many days before they’re already gone. I just record their passage. It’s like sleep – you go in and out of it and meanwhile time has passed. Only that it’s not sleep, it’s life. It’s what should have been life but has been replaced by schedules, meetings, worries, urgencies, fatigue, anxiety. And some sunshine in between.

How do you convey a sense of time in photography?

Of course, you can show a wrinkled face. The frailty of old age. A building in ruin. An abandoned park. You can put side by side photos of the same scene in different moments of the day or year. You can capture change by working with longer exposures or intentional camera movement. Or, on the contrary, you can freeze movement with short exposures, capturing expressions or gestures that would have been otherwise lost in that micro-fraction of a second.

You can work in black and white, desaturate colors or otherwise manipulate the color space in order to evoke the past. Or you can simply evoke a mood that is closely associated with the passage of time. Nostalgia. Longing. Irreversibility.

The photo above was taken in a small graveyard in Transylvania, close to a wooden church. Despite the somewhat dramatic editing, there was nothing sad or morbid about the scene. It was serene. High grass moved by the wind, nature slowly reclaiming the graves.

Letting go

When it comes to photography, learning to relax and accept what happens, to let go of control, is as important as technique. Serendipity is behind some of the most interesting photos.

It’s important to make plans. It’s even more important to realize when they need to be abandoned or changed.

Get into the scene, be present. And work with the situation as it is, not as you would have wanted it to be.

Photos do not have to be truthful to what was really out there when you took them. They have to be truthful to what you wanted to convey, to your interpretation of that scene and that moment.