Iris Chia and I sucessfully produced this photo series on December 29, 2018 as the heaviness of last year slowly came to a halt. I had hit a mental low and it was possibly the lowest I had ever been. However, if there was one thing that has ever helped me progress through anything at all, it has been my craft. So I came to Iris with the concept and together we formulated both an inspiring and healing collaboration which we found we could pour our hearts into. We were honored to have the incredible Lory Nixon and Joshua Ongcol birth the vision into life simply by allowing their vulnerability to unravel right before our eyes.
One thing about art that I’ve always found beautiful, is the idea that one person’s creation (or in our case a group of us) can share the capacity to connect to all kinds of people in many different ways. We can all look at the same painting that triggers and stimulates -yet feel in complete different paces based off of our own personal experiences as individuals. I feel like all four of us, Iris, Lory and Josh had our own stories held close to us as we were involved in the making: A story that is universal and interwoven. Personally, for me to call myself an artist of any kind means to find strength in the nakedness of that. Everyone has a different truth and this series was a representation of mine among any one whom is going through something similar or the same.
Everyone has a shadow, some of the most powerful people we know in our lives, or the quietest, the person sitting next to us on the bus, the girl with the contagious laugh- we wouldn’t know it. They don’t need to look like they’re carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders.
I can’t stress enough when I say that depression is no joke. Mental illness is serious business. Society has time and time again wrapped it into a taboo topic. We will so much as give it a nod but won’t speak it's name. We throw on our hoods and turn the other cheek. Dare someone show any sort of uncomfortable emotion, we freeze. We are simply not taught how to acknowledge or respond to feelings. In return, it comes back to us ten fold.
Last year, a domino of unfortunate events hit me hard. I ran into a lot of scary emotions. I remember the mornings. I couldn’t move. I felt numb. There’d be moments where I would shut down but my body would be going through the daily motions of my routine while everything inside me felt ready to die. It actually felt as if some one was physically holding me down each morning. As if I was waking up next to a monster. It was the first time ever feeling thoughts as intense as those where I felt convinced there was no light at the end of the tunnel. It’s one thing to not have control over your surroundings but when you lose complete grasp over everything inside yourself, it’s a fucking scary hole to be in. Depression was something I had mildly dipped in and out of since high school, but last year felt like the first battle and internal war with it in myself. I battled it and I continue to battle it among many around me.
With this shoot, I wanted to acknowledge mental illness as secondary being and not something I would allow myself to identify with but a haunting that could be put to peace. I also wanted to give a voice to what the inner turmoil would look like if we painted it into a picture. Iris and I played with fabric, color, ambience, and overall artistic direction. Lory and Josh played with movement and connection/disconnection. I added to the “rise and fall” tone through make-up and hair. If this series is uncomfortable and uneasy to look at- good. That’s intentional. I can only hope for people who are still learning and struggling to understand- will gain prespective in some way.
I think we forget the amount of power we carry as human beings. The way we move and speak has a ripple effect on our surroundings. I learned recently how valuable it is to simply hold space for someone and allowing them to feel what they need to feel. I also learned how easily shame is formed and its paralyzing cloud can swallow us the second we are told it’s not okay. At a certain point in time, it felt like spilling open infront of someone or at all for that matter- was the worst thing I could possibly do. I found myself surpressing and detaching until it physically took its toll on not only my mental health but physical too.
My therapist shared with me how important the cycling of emotions was. Leaning into the sadness and allowing self compassion to shine through was vital. In fact, we are surpised how much faster the flooding gates of healing comes when we allow ourself to feel. I also have to say that the people that truly hit home for me in those moments were the ones who could sit still and recieve without judgement. I can go on and on about this but every one’s struggle is a little different and really there are limitless layers to it.
I want to express how incredible it was to have worked with such a powerful team in the creation of this. Iris Chia, by far one of the most make-shift creative photographers I know who I am also honored to call one of my greatest friends. Joshua Ongcol a gorgeous human of movement and meaning. He is a walking masterpiece that is intentional in every way and Lory Nixon- calling her a model is a simple understatement. She carried so much power in being able to tap into emotions and feelings during our process that not many would have the courage to do. She is an artist of all sorts beyond just the camera but through her voice and hands.
My purpose with this piece is left to be an open ending. I want to share my own truth and hope that you can gain your own from it as well. whatever it may be. So I want to end this off by saying you a few things: You’re not alone. I’m proud of you for existing. You are strong for peeling yourself out of bed each morning. You are strong for allowing yourself to feel. You are resilient. You are a warrior to have gotten this far. You are worthy and everything rooted in you has purpose and value.
Be kind, be careful but be intentional.
All the love, and good vibes,