I’m going to preface this post by saying that photography is largely a solitary undertaking. Those who shoot as hobbyists often find therapeutic value in the time spent photographing alone. Those who shoot professionally, may also enjoy being alone when they shoot.
I can only speak for myself on this (I have heard agreement from others), but photography can be a lonely grind. A lot of what we do we do alone, along with the stressors, mistakes, rejections, etc. we face as part of being photographers.
For me, working alone can, and often does does, lead to overthinking. With that comes imposter syndrome and comparison to the work of others. This is the reason I quit using Instagram. I found myself scrolling and asking myself why my work wasn’t getting the same attention. This in turn led to a spiral of self-doubt and being overly critical of where I was, and what I was doing professionally. There were times (more than once) when I considered packing it in and finding another career path.
The worst part of mental illness is that it’s invisible. Unlike a broken leg, infection, etc., the pain caused by mental illness is not localized to one area of the body but seems to rest, unseen in just ‘being’. With this in mind, I began thinking of new ways to comment on this nature of mental illness through images, as a way to introduce myself and my work. I decided to attempt visualizing the invisible; using an analogue process (film) and by introducing the doses of drugs I take on a daily bases—caffeine and sertraline (a commonly prescribed serotonin re-uptake inhibitor) to the film surface prior to exposure. Over two days, the two doses affected the film much the same way mental illness affects those who carry it—invisibly. The result (unexpected and serendipitous) is more representative of who I am and is, therefore, a more accurate self-portrait.
I wrote this post because it’s important to be open about mental illness and how it affects us. There may not be many that read this post (or any of my posts for that matter), but in the event that someone does, I hope it helps them realize that while they may be alone in much of what they do, they’re not alone in how they’re feeling.
Beeple’s Everydays fetched $69 million dollars at an auction by Christie’s in March 2021, and brought the world’s attention to NFTs. Since then, their popularity has grown exponentially. Soon after Beeple’s auction, anyone and everyone seemed to be jumping in with the idea that there were millions of dollars to be had. The volume on marketplaces seemed to reinforce that: in August 2021 the monthly volume on Opensea (the most popular NFT Marketplace) reached a record $5 billion dollars.
I’ll be honest, the idea of a new way to monetize work appealed to me and was what drew me to the NFT space initially. I too, jumped in and shilled experimental work (very different from the images I usually publish) under a pseudonym in the hopes that it would bring financial appreciation for work that was otherwise just sitting on a hard drive. And like many others, I too learned that it was not that easy. I did not feel (at that point) that there was room for documentary work (I’ll elaborate on this later on) in the world of NFTs and so, with my tail between my legs, I stepped back from the marketplaces and chose to observe rather than participate.
Like anything in the art-world (and in life more broadly), no success is without its critics. As more and more artists/creators found success in NFTs, more and more outside of the community called NFTs a scam, a fad, or worse. In more than a few cases, these criticisms were true; billions of dollars have been lost in cryptocurrency scams and rug-pulls. However, alongside these horror stories there were photographers, graphic designers, and artists that had found their work generating a new stream of revenue (and in some cases a very large one).
Since I’ve starting, one welcome and unexpected consequence from joining and engaging with the community is that I have had the opportunity to meet hundreds of photographers (and become acquainted with their work)—something that would not have happened if I hadn’t started engaging with the space that is still very much in its infancy.
The title says it all, and “Burnout” is a phrase that is often repeated in Photography regardless of genre, or where in the spectrum one is working. Often whenever I mention the word “burnout”, or the phrase “burning out” amongst colleagues I’m met with sympathetic nods in unison with an agreeing “mmm, I hear you” or “I know what you mean”. It’s a phenomenon experienced by so, so many in the photographic community (and across many industries more broadly), but many have yet to find a winning formula or solution to the problem of burning out.
Right now, I am burning out. I wanted to write about it because being able to read the words back might lead to some perspective and that, might lead to feeling better about taking breaks. It also may be read (unlikely!) by someone experiencing the same and offer some consolation that they are not alone in feeling this way.
My burnout is not due to working long hours, but rather from not working. I find that when I’m still, I have a lot of time to think. That, in turn, leads to overthinking, which often causes stress and anxiety and leads to me feeling emotionally drained. This, in turn, leads to feeling uninspired and forced creativity. In times like these I remind myself that it just takes a fraction of a second to feel better and find that energy again. That fraction of a second is a made image. I just need one image that comes together in such a way as to remind myself of the journey that I’m on. The challenge is in finding that fraction of a second. With this post, I’ve included a fraction of a second that helped rekindle my energy following a past burnout.
When I’m working, it’s the opposite: I’m simply too busy to think too much and I’m, therefore, able to avoid overthinking. This is all part of a broader pattern of anxiety and depression—a topic for another post—, but I think many can identify with the feelings of overexertion regardless of how they’re wearing themselves out.
In the unlikely event that you are reading this, I hope you too can find perspective and remember why you picked up a camera and what drives you to create. Thank you for reading.