In February, I wrote an article about why I love my Fujifilm XT2. While I’m not one to pat myself on the back, I’m very proud of that article. Not because it was popular with our readers, but because I was able to put into words my feelings for something that those on the outside would see as merely a tool. Beyond my camera, there’s something I love even more; street photography. Allow me to try to put that love into words.
Starting Street Photography
I began shooting street photography around 2011. That’s 11 years of simultaneously exploring the streets and creating immortal memories. What started as something to keep me out of trouble quickly became the foundation for an extremely pivotal period of my life. Because of street photography, I’ve had the honor of traveling across the world, learning about different cultures and communities, and seeing some breathtaking environments.
Street photography also brought me here, to The Phoblographer. Starting as a contributor, I’m now (the proud) Arts & Culture Editor for the publication. Working alongside Chris, as a team, we’ve been able to showcase so many talented street photographers, most of which have a body of work I envy that drives me to improve. Some may see this as just a job, but it’s more than that for me. I get to think, talk, and write about street photography every week. I’m grateful for that.
So, as you can see, street photography helped shape my life for the better. And while the external success is more than enough to explain why I love street photography, it’s not the main reason I adore this craft so much.
Street Photography and Mental Health
I’ve written about how photography was an excellent healing remedy for my depression. Five years ago, I was at the lowest point in my life. However, street photography (amongst other things) was a shining light that helped me find the right direction to escape my darkness. I’m not the only person in the photo industry to talk about how photography helps to keep our minds healthy. The Phoblographer has featured many photographers who have opened up about their personal experiences with depression, anxiety, and PTSD, explaining how photography was a catalyst for healing. However, despite its healing effects, it’s still not the main reason I love street photography.
Something I’ve kept close to my chest for most of my life is that I have Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). I’m not self-diagnosed; I had assessments with a physiatrist at the ages of 7, 13, and most recently, 33. For years, I didn’t talk about it because I know the stigma and lack of understanding that people with ADHD experience. I don’t blame people for that. For years I ignored the diagnosis. I refused to believe I had some type of disorder that limited my capabilities in certain areas.
As I began to grow older, certain symptoms became worse. ADHD isn’t just some lunatic running around screaming, “Look at me, everybody!” Other symptoms include heightened irritability, mood swings, and crippling anxiety. Completing even the most basic task can feel like climbing a mountain. Even when I write, I struggle to complete a paragraph without feeling some kind of mental stress. I don’t use it as an excuse. If I drop the ball, it’s on me, not because of an acronym. But it does mean that life can be a challenging ride when it feels like you’re brain is working against you.
Street Photography and ADHD
How does all this tie in with street photography? Well, for reasons unbeknown to me, street photography is one of the best ways to medicate my ADHD. I don’t take traditional medicine for the condition. I’m not anti-medication, but I feel certain side effects of the meds outweigh living with the condition.
With street photography–walking and creating–I can focus on the process for hours on end. (I get distracted doing my shoelaces, so being able to concentrate on something for so long feels like a miracle.) When shooting street photography, I feel like the weight on my mind disappears. I feel calm, at peace, and blissfully in the moment. I don’t feel overwhelmed, nor do I feel like hitting my head against a brick wall. I feel the purest version of myself, not tainted by a chemical imbalance in my brain. That’s why I love street photography.
Everyone has something they’re struggling with in life. And this article isn’t about how difficult my struggle is. It’s to encourage you to find “your thing.” I believe there’s something out there that can help us manage and overcome whatever personal struggle we face. My “thing” is street photography, and without it I’m sure the consequences of my condition would be far more destructive.
This article does not serve as medical advice. If you’re struggling with your mental and/or physical health, speak to a medical professional as soon as possible.