The above words are not the words we are hearing most often at the moment. We are more likely to hear the words fear, anxiety and panic as we all negotiate our way through this unprecedented health and economic crisis. Unfortunately though, these states of mind are not conducive to long term health and while anxiety might be a very normal reaction in a situation which seems to be worsening every day and in which we are so powerless, we do have to take steps to reduce our anxiety levels, for the sake of our mental health.
While self-isolating, which many of us are doing at the moment, we need to practice self-care while also reaching out to others to give and receive help and support. Self-care involves not constantly checking news reports and social media feeds, which only serve to increase fear and anxiety, but rather becoming involved in creative, nourishing activities. Often, out of chaos and confusion comes innovation, and over the course of the pandemic there have been a number of online initiatives aimed at supporting well-being in the community, with an increase in online meditation and mindfulness practices, including free introductory sessions, and various campaigns to promote creative activities for children and adults. Creative challenges are being announced on TV, radio, social media and online, aimed at stemming the spread of fear and anxiety in the face of this enormous crisis and getting people absorbed in using their creative mind to support their own mental health. TV presenters and influencers are sharing challenges that will get young people creating while maintaining social distance. They are being encouraged to take on creative challenges in music, comedy, dance, art and craft, story-telling, photography, fashion or beauty, with social media being used to advantage to showcase the best of the creative talents. Cultural centres are promoting family creative activities with daily art challenges for children, while artists are providing free art classes online. In my own particular area, photography, I am delighted to see that some photography teachers are offering free ‘isolation friendly’ classes online, to support those in self-isolation.
All of this support from the creative community can prompt us to set our own creative challenges. As I wrote in a recent blog, I am setting aside time each day for photography by doing a Photo a Day for Thirty Days challenge. It would be easy to abandon my photography practice as I am not out and about so freely, so I am committing to taking at least one photograph every day of something positive, something beautiful, something colourful or something that speaks to me in a way that is affirming. One day I might look for an object that is a particular colour, another day I might look for something old. I might photograph beautiful flowers or focus on trees. There are many buildings that I can shoot from different perspectives or use different lenses to capture their essence. I can do some close up photography in my back garden, or still life indoors.
I can give myself a theme such as ‘something beautiful’ or ‘after the rain’. I won’t worry whether I use a camera or phone, what will be important is the act of choosing a positive image, and doing so every day as a therapeutic action. If it’s easier to grab a moment with my mobile phone, I’ll do that. Some days I may share my photo on Instagram (wildwillowways), sometimes not, but doing this project will give me a reason to think positive, look for the positive around me and share that positivity with others. It will be a daily act of self-care, a chance to develop my creativity and, most importantly, it will be a way to absorb my thoughts and keep negativity at bay.
Shooting close to home
If we can go to parks near our home we will always find interesting subjects for our photography and when we are in the ‘isolated but not confined’ situation we can go off to a more remote location in which interesting opportunities for photography surely abound. I find that in any wooded area there are countless subjects which can make for compelling photographs. Unfortunately, this situation has changed or may change for many of us, but there can still be opportunities very close to home, even in our own back garden, for creating interesting images.
I recently saw an online photography challenge which asked participants to photograph something no more than 100 metres from home. I didn’t take part in the challenge as I felt I had nothing of interest to take that close to home, but then I realised that the whole point of the challenge was to change that type of mind-set. And there is no time like the present to change that mind-set. At the time that the challenge was taking place I had a look at some of the entries and, while one or two of the participants did have an amazing lake or mountain view on their doorstep, most of the photographs were images celebrating ordinary things close to home. I decided to expand my limited thinking and look for photographic opportunities on my own doorstep. I recommend it as a challenge as it really does help us to become more creative; to dig deeper, to observe more closely that which is around us and to find beauty in the ordinary.
Shooting close to home lends itself to abstract photography.
The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul – Dieter F. Uchtdorf
We all need to keep negativity at bay during these challenging times. Taking on a creative challenge, however small, can help to do this and, as well as developing our creativity, these challenges are a boost to our mental and emotional health. Have a look at what's available and find a creative challenge to suit you.