After receiving a DSLR for Christmas when I was 16, I wondered what to do with it. I come from a family of keen photographers (hence the Christmas present), who take photos to be ‘pleasing to the eye’. Especially to the customer’s eye. They edit photos by softening skin tones, removing spots and using black and white where they think appropriate. So I set about taking photos of my family, beginning as soon as the camera was set up and ending about 1 week later. Once the initial fun was over and family members lost interest, I got bored. With some last shots of my family and the cat, I stopped taking photos.
The next time I picked up my camera it was 4 years later and I was starting my recovery from an eating disorder, with help from the Recover Clinic. I was encouraged to be creative and enjoy myself, and there was something I’d enjoyed about photography, so I decided to try it out again. I started to take my camera everywhere with me, from gatherings with family and friends to days out and holidays. I let myself enjoy the process, and became less bothered about the result.
The more I carried my camera around, the more I noticed the happiness I felt just by having it with me. I also moved my focus from portraits to street photography, after finding interest in the amount of interesting things I saw on the streets. This move in focus was driven purely by what captured my imagination and interest, and to follow this part of myself was a huge step in rediscovering a sense of identity; one which I once thought I had eternally lost to my eating disorder.
With this development of a combination of self awareness and self identity, as well as feeling totally focused when taking photos, I began to value the mindfulness aspect of photography. Noticing expressions, colours and other ‘small details’ has opened my eyes to the beauty of everyday experiences. This extends to when I am not carrying my camera or looking for photo opportunities.
Photography has also given me more self-confidence. There have been several times when something within me is drawn to a shot where self confidence can be a barrier. For instance when I want to get out my camera but my eating disorder wants me to be invisible. Listening to my inner voice and going ahead despite my fears has been a great way to build up courage and confidence.
I have found photography to be the ultimate source of fun, self-expression and self-awareness. All parts of my brain are engaged when I’m taking photos and I lose all sense of time. In my opinion it’s been one of the greatest tools in my recovery so far. I wouldn’t give away my camera for anything now!