Do you see what I see?

I’ve had an interesting revelation this week about how photographs can sometimes capture things that neither the eyes nor the mind are ready to see. 

In this way a photo is worth a thousand mirrors.

It is, to me, reminiscent of Van Gogh’s self-portrait series. One of the most interesting and revealing series’ of work he ever made. 

[For those who don’t know, Van Gogh painted over 30 self-portraits between the years 1886 and 1889. And it’s these, more than any other of his work, that capture his descent into “madness” during this time.] 

The similarity here is that this was not Van Gogh’s intention to capture his deteriorating mental health, it was simply a thing he did. 

And in doing so, he unintentionally revealed more than he could have known. 

The most famous of these portraits is, of course, the one with the bandage across his ear. 

But I find looking at the entire series much more fascinating than looking at this one single “rock bottom” portrait.

So back to my story…

The first photo I am going to share was a simple selfie to show off my new haircut. But when I looked at it I saw a panicked, slightly manic determination, to me it epitomised “crazy”. 

And I was feeling crazy too (I use crazy as a positive term #takebackcrazy). 

And another photo, taken 4 days prior to the one above, had cemented my realisation that I needed to restart my antidepressants before things got messy. I felt “happy” when I was taking this photo. 

But when I looked at it, all I could see was depression pouring off me in waves. 

Seeping from every pore. 

And I remembered. 

Depression is not sadness. 

And mania is not happiness. 

And there is a difference between riding the wave and letting the wave drag you out to sea. 

And then it occurred to me why I struggle to take decent selfies or even to pose for photos. 

Because what comes through, when I’m in my resting state, not feeling any other intense emotion, is the fear in my eyes. 

So when you tell me to smile, you capture a twisted grimace. 

Unless you catch me off my guard in a moment of true and pure happiness (and I do have them).

The fear pervasive to every fibre of my being. 

And anger. 

The seething suppressed anger that constantly bubbles in my veins.So do you see what I see?

Copyright Katy Matilda Neo, 2017.

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