Using Photography to Help Highlight Men's Mental Health

Constructed photography is the art of illusion. As photographers, we cover the cracks, which compounded with social media, makes it hard to talk about underlying real issues.

With November being men’s mental health awareness month, Imran Shrimp bravely shares his own mental health trauma. If I may digress, as an aside Movember coincides with November and is a great resource to access for mental health awareness as well as to help combat this unfortunately deadly disease. But back to Shrimp, he not only helps make mental health ok by sharing his own troubles, but highlights that as photographer, we are the tastemakers. We control the conversation so it’s parament that we not only talk about difficult issues, but use our craft and our community to spread important messages.

Photography is a lie. Mechanically, a photo is grounded in reality, but photography’s relationship with truth is a tenuous and muddy one. This, more recently, has been compounded and exacerbated with social media. We often only show our successes. “I got this great new piece of gear. I’m making this amazing work. My life is wonderful.” But that’s not real, that’s social media. So it’s refreshing to not only talk about important issues but also show how we really are doing.

The last few years have really highlighted how connected we really are and how important it is for photographers to reveal something more than just the glossy images we are used to. I’m eager to see where Shrimp’s project ends up. I think it’s wonderful that he is making work that talks about mental health. But I’m also wary that that is a single drop in a massive ocean. I don’t have much else to contribute to the conversation, but through sharing, I think we can make a difference. What big issues have you navigated with your own photographic practice? Perhaps it’s mental health; perhaps it’s something else. I’d love to know in the comments below.

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1 Comment
Eamonn McKay McKay's picture

This is incredible, and very timely, on many fronts. It is Movember, and it is critical that anyone - male or female - take the opportunity to check in on their mental well being. The holiday season in particular can be difficult. Visit a doctor. Call a therapist. Make one small step.

Imran, I wish you a return to full health and happiness, and thank you for sharing your insights into your experience of loss, grief, and transition, and if your skills as a photographer.

I am a therapist. I also take pictures with a camera, but I don’t consider myself a photographer. I just take pictures, random and ill-composed usually, but they’re moments caught via a sensor that I find worthy of note.

I’m a therapist who like taking pictures. I’m also a husband who has just gone through acute relationship trauma; in an instant I lost my marriage, my kids, my home, and every item I owned that couldn’t fit in a suitcase. As a therapist I have blamed myself for not seeing this coming, but, as I have realized recently, many therapists who have survived what are termed “pathological love relationships” - which usually have a personality-disordered individual as one of the partners - will engage in this inappropriate self-blame, worsening again their mental health. Therapists are not immune to relationship trauma, and yes, the experience of grief and loss at these transitions, despite knowing all the insider tricks. I have been utterly devastated by recent events, and many would say “physician, heal thyself.” It’s never that easy.

However, what I am doing to heal and attempt to ground myself again, is putting together a blog - mostly photographs - of the end of my life in my current city; documenting the drawing down of my life here - resigning from my job, losing healthcare, losing friends, losing my relationships with exhausted colleagues, losing all financial and housing stability - and my preparations for moving across the country to be close to my children. I’m giving up everything for them; more devastating loss with the intention, at the end of the day, of gaining a life with them again. No sacrifice is too much for me to be with my children.

My blog is at youbroughtacameratolunch.com

I hope it’s okay to post the link here.

Be well.