Master Craftsman – Mental Health Awareness


I drove to the Guild of Photographers Office in Stoke this morning, armed with my 20 mounted prints and some products, to attend my Craftsman Submission Review Panel.

This Panel is based on a subject that is very important to me.

Depression is the predominant mental health problem worldwide.

Whilst the message is “be kind, as you don’t know what people are going though” unfortunately there is still a huge stigma associated to depression.  This is often due by a lack of understanding of what depression.  Many people are afraid to speak openly that they have had or are suffering from depression due to the fear that they will be judged or spoken about.

Most often, depression photography and depression concept images are portraits however, I wanted to use inanimate objects, items that are often considered unnecessary, items that are used everyday but overlooked or took for granted and items that you could just take or leave.  The main reason for using these items is that’s pretty much how a person feels when they are depressed, overlooked, unnecessary and just not needed.

Not all of the concepts of my images will be 100% clear.  I didn’t want all of them to be obvious.  Depression isn’t obvious to others and people suffering hide their depression well. I therefore wanted to create images that would invoke some sense of reaction or feeling whether the viewer understood about depression or not.  Art is subjective, and I think it is amazing when people view an image and take a story from it themselves, even if it was not the story in your mind, as it means you still have reached them and invoked a feeling in them

The Images

As above, not all of my images are self-explanatory as to their full meaning.  Some have a lighter note to them, some are more obvious and are darker in their story telling.  With these images, there are some with a few different meanings.  Depression is very confusing when you are going through it, trying to work out how you are feeling and why.  Many people do not understand depression when they have not gone through it themselves either.  People often do not see when friends or a family member are suffering, and therefore some of my images have a hidden story behind them.

  • The Lonely Candle – This image represents an individual, among friends and family.  When depressed, people often feel excluded in situations as they can not emotionally join in with their happiness or excitement.  People feel like they are watching from the side-lines.  They feel isolated, The lonely candle represents people feeling their “flame” has gone out, they are on their own, not understanding why they feel the way they do and not being able to join in with those around them.
  • Burning the Candle at Both Ends – self-explanatory.  This is feeling like you are struggling with day-to-day life whilst feeling depressed.  You have not energy or motivation.
  • Time and the Hanged Man – This is a little tricky to explain and is also, in part, mixed with image 8 “The Pills”.  This image represents that people with depression feel that they will always feel this way, and unfortunately some people feel the only way out is suicide.     
  • Glass Half Empty – People with depression may not be a glass half empty type of person normally but yet when depression sets in, they will always see the bad.  This image reflects that, when people are feeling down, they will think that no matter how much they try to “fill up that glass” it will never be full again
  • Caged Time – A tricky one to explain, especially in writing.  However, I will give it a go! When you are feeling depressed you feel very much trapped in your own head.  You don’t see a way out.  You don’t see that things will get better.  It feels like it will go on forever. 
  • The Noose – Another hard one to explain.  Often people with depression will have, at some point, had suicidal thoughts.  They think it is their only way out.  The little man is hanging in the cage as he is thinking that suicide is his only way out of the cage.  The reason for the noose around the cage is that when people get so low, the thought of suicide being the only option is just too much and tightens in around them. 
  • What Time is It? – On the face of it this image does not represent depression, I mean I think a lot of people will relate to this image especially after covid and lockdowns! This is however a double meaning image.  This image represents that people suffering from depression get themselves into a routine.  They do the same thing, day in and day out just to get through another day, often going through life masking their feelings so that friends and family often do not spot that there is something wrong. 
  • The Pills – This image represents that often anti-depressants do not work.  Pills are not quick fix or a magic solution.  People need help through support, someone to listen to them, to feel they are not alone.  Even those who are taking medication, if they do not get support etc, it can lead to a devastating ending.
  • Burnt Out – This follows from Burning the Candle at Both Ends.  You always end up Burnt Out in the end!
  • Persecution – Inspired by history of people burning “Witches” at the stakes as they were different.  When you have depression, you feel you are being judged by others for feeling the way you do. 
  • Make Yourself Happy – “Happy Pills” don’t make you happy, far from it! They only give you that little bit of a boost to hopefully bring you up enough that you can fight against the depression yourself.  There is no magic fix for depression.  Often when you are depressed, you do not feel the same joy and excitement in things that you normally would have.  Recovering from depression is very much about being kind to yourself, realising this isn’t because you are less than everyone else, and to take that time to do things just for you.
  • Broken Home – Depression can often lead to families breaking up and familes being torn apart. People are afraid to communicate and be honest about how they are feeling.
  • The Weight – this image represents anxiety and depression.  It could be just about any one thing that will tip someone over the edge, often the most stupidest of things.  This image is a way of trying to remind you that no matter whether it is a little problem or a massive problem, things will work themselves out.
  • Mending a Broken Heart – well haven’t we all been here at some point! However, this is more about fixing our own hearts when we are suffering from depression. Realising that we shouldn’t feel less than other when we are depressed. We are not our depression, depression is an illness that just takes over.
  • The Mask – This image has a few meanings.  The use of the mask represents that people often look happy when they are depressed, they hide how they feel when around others.  Inside they are feeling low, worthless, and often cry when they are alone.  The cage represents feeling trapped in those emotions, and the mask is crying when alone.   
  • Caged Rose – Again, this is feeling caged in your own mind.  The withered rose is feeling trapped, not feeling their best, feeling sad, whilst looking out at all the other “perfect” “happier” looking roses. 
  • The Grinder – this image represents not feeling whole and a fragmented version of yourself. 
  • Man in the Mirror – this image represents to others you look “normal”, happy and like nothing is wrong.  The mirror reflection shows how the person is actually feeling (not necessarily suicidal but the suicidal image was used to get the story across) 
  • Boiled Eggs and the Soldier – when ever I was ill when I was younger, my dad used to always make me boiled egg and soldiers to make me feel better.  Whilst I don’t make myself boiled egg and soldiers, this is a happy feeling when I remember this from my childhood.  This image represents, feeling broken hearted. Either you are in love with someone who is with someone else or the loss of a loved one. Quite often through depression we can loose people that we once thought we were close to as they do not understand what a person with depression is going through.
  • Cracked Under Pressure – self-explanatory.  We have all felt like there is too much pressure going on around us for us to cope.  The use of the plaster is to represent self-healing and trying to fix yourself so you can try to cope with the pressure

Depression is a very hard thing to explain to yourself sometimes, without having to explain it to others who have not experienced it.  Depression is not a one size fits all illness, and many people will experience different versions of depression.  If you have never been through it yourself it is very hard to understand how people with depression can feel when they are suffering. 

Depression takes over a person, their depression does not define them!

Depression is not obvious, it is not “in your face” and it is very often masked by the sufferer.  I hope my images have reflected this.  My images have been designed to be subtle on purpose.  Hidden meanings in the images were done to show that on the outside a person can appear to be fine and happy, but inside they feel completely different. 

People who have not experienced depression themselves may believe they understand, may believe they can describe how it feels.  It is one thing knowing someone who has suffered from depression or anxiety, it is entirely another having gone through it yourself.  It is confusing at the best of times and very hard to explain let alone put into picture form.

The message here is not to be ashamed that you are suffering from a mental illness, it is nothing to be ashamed of. Dont hide it, be open and honest and speak to loved ones.  

Whether or not you got all my meanings from my images, I hope you found some story within the images, even if that story is personal to you. 

So what is Master Craftsman status?

As you know I have previously achieved my Qualified status in 3 categories: Newborn and Babies, Professional and Weddings.  I have also achieved my Craftsman status in Newborns and Babies.

Our ‘Craftsman’ status is, as one would imagine, aligned to the exacting standards of a true ‘Craftsman’. Therefore to attain this level we add an increasing level of professional critique to evaluate our members work. In other words we get increasingly ‘fussy’ and look in minutiae at all the elements of photographic understanding. Those that achieve this accolade have demonstrated the finest technical skills and an exceptional creative and artistic ‘eye’.

Finally, in the same way as when a ‘Craftsman’ was granted the highest accolade of ‘Master Craftsman’ having created something truly exceptional (their ‘masterpiece’), a ‘Craftsman’ within the Guild of Photographers can only achieve the acknowledgement of being a ‘Master Craftsman’ by producing their own photographic masterpiece.

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