Chasing Mania (in progress)
“A large number of studies in the past few decades support a link between creativity and mental illnesses, particularly manic depressive disorder and schizophrenia [which] forces us to reexamine our attitudes towards the mental states that we call “diseased”...If mental illness can produce powerful and important art, then perhaps, instead of trying to eliminate them by medication, we should embrace these mental states as valuable in their own right.”
- Adrienne Sussman, Sanford Journal of Neuroscience, Volume I, Issue 1 - Fall 2007
There is power in names. I have been photographing and researching this project since November 2016 in order to put words to, understand, and accept my bipolar II diagnosis.
“Madness” has been used to describe and romanticize artists and poets for hundreds of years. This same mental instability, melancholy, or hysteria is also used to discredit women who have a different opinion than society expects, who refuse to fit into gender norms, or who simply assert that we are equal to men and worthy of the same pay/respect/safety/etc..
Photography is a calming force that reminds me to be present and can bring me back into my body when I’m spinning in mania or spiraling into depression. Photography is tangible - a reason to pause the rush or pull me off the couch and create. Looking at the spaces around me, really seeing them, grounds me in reality. Through this work I have learned that I see differently based on my brain chemistry and mood at the time and recording the changes over the last five years, even before I knew what I was doing, documents my (sometimes daily) cycles.
I photograph what can’t be known. What isn’t there. Mystery. Memory. Chemistry. Emotion. Abyss. Seeing the struggle instead of romanticizing it. Seeking personal truth, learning empathy, and trying to remember that the questions are more important than the answers.
The images I make when I am manic, depressed, or centered between the two (a rarity thus far) become evidence of moments, decisions, people, and physical places. They are memories given form and shape. They show the disparate threads that, when braided together, form this mad and beautiful life.
There are so many layers and compartments in my personal cabinet of curiosities. As I work to dissolve the barriers I formed in order to cope and appear “normal” and to integrate these often disparate pieces back into a whole (cracks, repairs, black holes, and all), these photographs bear witness to the many different states of mental illness. My many different selves. Familiar, intimate, foreign. I began to recognize them only from a distance.
This portfolio of work is ongoing.