When dealing with grief you should use every tool in your toolbox. You probably already rely on your tools of rational and emotional intellect to learn about yourself and your experiences; but what other instruments do you have to help heal? Writing, supporting, reading, watching, listening, meditation, humor, advocacy, art – do any of these jive with you?
All tools are good, but if you have any creative leanings or desires I urge you to indulge them in your dealings with grief. Not only does creative expression have the capacity to connect and communicate, but research has suggested it also increases engagement, catharsis, distraction, positive emotions and meaning-making. So, if your skills include drawing, painting, sculpting, or writing prose then by Jove! I hope you’re already using the talents bestowed on you. The rest of us will be over here drawing stick figures.
I’m kidding though because, here’s the thing, you don’t need talent to use art as a coping skill as long as you’re open to trying something new and willing to accept your results might
be ugly not be beautiful (because ultimately results don’t matter). Whether your final product is abstract, literal, or stick figure-y; we believe there is healing power in mere contemplation and creation of a work of art.
Specifically, we like using photography to deal with grief because it’s versatile, accessible, and easy to use. Most of you have practice with photography and most of you have access to a camera. We’ve previously blogged about the many ways you can use photography to deal with grief and today we want to expand even further by talking about photographing emotion and mood.
We dedicated a whole post to using self-portraits to express emotion because the self-portrait is the most obvious way to photograph your feelings. Unfortunately it’s also challenging and apt to make you feel vulnerable, although I count finding the courage to be vulnerable as a positive. Just remember, you don’t have to show anyone your photos if your embarrassed with the outcome. Taking the portrait is healing in and of itself and you never know what you’ll discover in the process.
Take this first photo for example, before taking it I had been in a dark mood. The winter has made me feel cooped up and despondent and I had just woken up to another cold grey day. I intended to take a photo expressing my bad mood but while in the process my daughters came in the room. The next thing I knew we were snuggling up taking photos and quickly my outlook turned from grave to gratitude.
Landscape and Atmosphere:
Okay now that the moody self-portraits are out of the way, there are a number of other ways to capture emotion in a photograph. These methods require you to pay attention to your surroundings and identify environmental elements you relate to.
First let’s think broadly, look our your window and ask yourself this weird question – if my mood determined the weather, what would it look like outside? On those days when your mood is in perfect harmony with the atmosphere, photograph it.
Another way to express mood and emotion in photography is through symbolic representation. You may identify with something metaphorically, you may just happen to notice someone or something personifies how you feel, or perhaps you decide to create your own scene.
Sometimes a photograph’s symbolism will be obvious and sometimes the meaning will be more abstract, especially when it’s the representation of something that is personally meaningful to you. Either outcome is okay, it’s common for the viewer to find meaning in a work other than what was originally intended. Here are a few different approaches…
A little less obvious (The title, ‘Mother’s Day Flowers’, makes it more transparent):
Esoteric and weird:
An semi-orchestrated scene (also kind of weird):