Danny Richardson is a photographer and a man. A man with lived experience of life’s struggles, depression and anxiety. Danny decided to document his experience through this ‘depression mini series’ of photographs. Here we talk to him about his life work and his personal experiences.
Tell us a bit about the project?
I’ve had the idea to produce a series of images focussed on depression for a little while but a combination of feeling depressed and fear of being judged held me back.
I’ve experienced periods of low mood and anxiety at different times in my life. I’m in a better state of mind at the moment so I decided to take the plunge and try to share my experiences with others through my artistic expression.
It’s sometimes hard to be emotionally unattached from my photographic work because it’s a form of self-expression. This is why it made sense to me to try to document my own emotional experiences, good and bad, through my photographic work.
How did you get into photography?
It took me a while. I’d left school with a decent set of exams but a lack of direction – and like many people (particularly those in Jersey where I lived) found myself working in the finance industry. I personally found it soul destroying and after three years I decided to go to University in Brighton and study my passion at the time which was music.
After I finished University my long-term girlfriend and I moved back to Jersey, as she really wanted to be closer to her family. There’s not much demand for a Music Production degree on the island so I ended up back working in finance!
I put up with it for a while, until I left to work at another finance company where I found the working environment and my new boss truly horrible. I dreaded Mondays so much that I would often feel horrendously sick on a Sunday afternoon and by Monday morning I was physically sick with anxiety.
I decided to leave and my wife and I travelled to Canada and then France for snowboarding seasons. We didn’t have a care in the world. Our biggest concern was what run we were going to take and what we were going to have for dinner. It was here in the snow capped mountain environment that my love for photography began.
Having returned to Jersey I again ended up in finance in order to pay the bills but I knew I had found a passion that I had no option but to follow and develop. I decided that my monotonous office job was not for me and I was going to pursue my love for photography no matter how long and hard the road ahead.
Then my wife fell pregnant. It was planned, in so much as you can ever plan for something like a baby, but perhaps I was a little naive about the situation. I still wanted to pursue photography, which by this stage was starting to take off.
However, the frustration of not being able to instantly quit my office job really started to get to me. I knew that I was not cut out for working in finance but I was stuck there whilst I tried to develop my photography business.
This created a huge amount of pressure as I was working a full time job as well as shooting 20 weddings from May 2014 (which incidentally is when my daughter was born) to December 2014. I was therefore juggling 3 things… Job, business, baby… and that’s not even taking my wife into account.
I decided to reduce my hours at my office job in order to develop my business further and whilst this seemed like the right idea, it simply served to increase the pressure upon my shoulders. Money became really tight and we were struggling at times to make ends meet.
All the while I’m still working 3 days a week in an office… Hating it… Knowing that I am built for something else but unable to fully reach my potential and give 100% to my business – or anything for that matter. All these things the money, the unknown future, the pressure they all build, and build and build and sometimes I really didn’t know how to deal with it all.
So how are you finding it now you are a professional photographer?
Even within photography I still experience periods when I am anxious and depressed but I’m much happier now that I am following my passion again. As pretentious as it might sound I now consider myself an artist who happens to use a camera as my medium of choice.
When I first started out I would be taking all sorts of work in order to make ends meet and like any job some parts are hugely stressful. It’s only now, after 30-odd weddings that I am no longer sick with anxiety on the morning of the big day!
I’ve also come to realise that one thing I should be able to deal with – but can’t – is criticism. In my photography I found it hard to receive criticism from unhappy clients. It doesn’t happen a lot, but when it does it cuts right through me. My heartbeat quickens, my palms become sweaty & I feel a painful ache in the base of my stomach. I find it hard to be emotionally unattached from my work, which is maybe why I care about how it is received by other people.
So what is it like for you when you feel depressed?
I don’t eat properly, I have no appetite and if I’m honest it can feel as though I’m wasting away. It doesn’t go unnoticed. I constantly have people asking me if I’ve lost weight. It might not seem like that big a deal but it happens all the time and I’m never quite sure how to respond. If I was over weight and I’d put on even more weight I doubt anyone would say anything. But because it’s the other way round people seem to comment on it.
I guess my experiences have made me more honest and aware of some of my failings. We’re all human, we all have our issues and we all deal with them (or not) in our own ways.
My way of dealing with it now is through my photography.
You can find out more about Danny’s work at:
‘Hold On, Be Strong’
‘Weight of Expectation’
Some more of Danny’s Photos
Although not part of the ‘mini-series’ Danny felt these following image also captured something about himself and his inner emotions.
Your mind is a garden
Your thoughts are the seeds
You can grow flowers
Or you can grow weeds
Working Nine to Five
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” — Frank Herbert