The Benefits of Photography Projects: My Experience

It has been 11 months since I last shared anything here. While I have been quiet here I have still been involved with photography and taking pictures but naturally, and out of necessity for my well-being, I took a break from social media and this blog. Perhaps one day I will write about that experience. During the past 11 months with less involvement online I realized that photography projects have become more of my focus than my former way of operating—taking photos to share on Instagram. Just over a year ago during a therapy appointment my therapist mentioned to me, based on what I was saying about my AMonthOnFilm projects I had done, that perhaps I might consider starting another photography project because it sounded like something that was helpful for me. I knew I really appreciated these projects and her mention of this was just the encouragement I needed. I had been contemplating beginning a 365 on film and after our discussion decided that I would, in fact, commit to doing a 365 on film (which I recently completed in December of 2021). I had done several digital 365’s but this was quite different with film since I didn’t have instant, visible results and needed to wait until I developed the film. Each morning while doing 30 minutes of walking I would listen to photography videos on YouTube. Throughout my time listening to what other photographers were sharing I began to see the value of not only sharing images online through my website and social media, but was encouraged to get more of my own work into print where I could appreciate it and hopefully it could maybe be of benefit to other people as well.

Currently I have 7 different photography projects in the works at various points of progress. During my time working on these photography projects I have observed some ways these projects have been beneficial for me. Maybe all of these will not apply to you and perhaps you can relate or gather some of your own ideas based on my experiences. Here are just a few of the benefits of engaging in the process of doing photography projects that come to mind for me.

Project: Looking for Light, Nikon D750, Sigma 35mm f/1.4

A coping tool

As I face intense, severely impairing mental health struggles, photography is a helpful way for me to cope. I naturally practice what I call therapeutic photography—basically just engaging in photography in a way that is helpful, healing and beneficial for my well-being. Just to clarify: I don’t see photography as a replacement for mental health therapy but more as a supplemental support, or a way to express oneself or an aid to cope.

Just doing normal, everyday tasks like getting out of bed and taking a shower can be incredibly challenging for me. And often throughout the day I have awful feelings, memories and past experiences trying to overtake me in the present and have found that sometimes I’m able to try to focus on something more pleasant like one of my photography projects which helps these terrorizing emotions, physical symptoms and awful memories to not receive all my focus. This can help to keep these incredibly unpleasant things from fully taking me over and completely incapacitating and debilitating me. Not that it’s easy or always works but it can be a helpful option in coping. While I’m not always capable of being physically involved in one of my photo projects, just thinking about a project without having to be actively working on it can be helpful and energizing for me, motivating me to keep fighting for life. Sometimes thoughts and ideas can “randomly” come to mind for one of my photo projects which can be inspiring and seems to give a little boost of energy, mood and motivation. I am sure there is neuroscientific research to go along with these points. I don’t have that information but have learned from my own personal experiences what can sometimes be helpful for me. Each person is unique so maybe these ideas aren’t a great fit for you but I would venture to guess that perhaps some of these concepts could apply to you as well in your own unique way.

Project: Alone, Nikon D750, Sigma 35mm f/1.4

Goal setting

Photo projects have given me a place to practice setting goals. Perhaps this sounds unimportant. To me, I value this chance to practice setting goals which can also translate to valuable lessons learned for all areas of life and growth. I can work out a plan to meet a specific goal. The goals can be big and elaborate or they can be simple. When I meet a goal I also receive the benefits and blessings along the way and once the goal is achieved. In my experience with my 365 on film there were some days where this goal of taking one film photo each day felt too big and unmanageable. And, by sticking to my daily goal, there were many times on those days filled with extremely intense struggles that taking that one picture for the day was something that helped me make it through the day when I wasn’t sure it was possible to survive or even take just one picture. And after I took that picture my struggles were not magically erased but I could feel a difference. Sometimes I noticed a very slight improvement with my sense of healthy self-expression, victory and achievement. Over this past weekend I was working hard and so thankful to meet my goal of getting 142 images ready for print—a step closer in the process of getting my zine I’m currently working on into print. While it was tiring this felt like a huge, energizing accomplishment that inspires me to keep working on photo projects to share with you.

Project: Clouds, Nikon D750, Sigma 35mm f/1.4

A chance to give myself grace

Along with setting goals I have a chance to give myself grace when I don’t meet a specific goal. Just because a goal is not met does not mean it’s a complete failure. Perhaps it was an over ambitious goal given the cares and responsibilities of daily life and could use some adjusting. And maybe I can still learn and grow in some way—whether photography related or something that can be applied to any area of my life. It’s a chance to be realistic and show myself the same kindness I would extend to a friend. There’s an opportunity to look deeper and maybe find out what caused me to not meet a specific goal. I can possibly make adjustments, work out a plan and give it another try if that would be appropriate. This can be a unique time to re-evaluate rather than severely criticize myself.

Project: A Month on Film, Nikon F100, Nikon 35mm f/2, Kodak Portra 400

A sense of achievement

When a goal or project milestones are met this can lead to a sense of achievement. I find a healthy sense of achievement can be very satisfying and can inspire me to continue my photography work as well as helping me cope with life and my personal struggles, helping to give me the drive to keep breathing and persevering.

Project: From the Passenger Seat, Nikon D750, Sigma 35mm f/1.4

Growing in photography skills

As I work at photo projects this helps me to learn and grow in my photography skills. Personally, I’m afraid of producing poor work and not doing a good job at making photos and photo projects. For me it can be scary to take on a project because I’m fearful of what level of work I will produce when I know that I want to share high quality and captivating images and photo projects. Having an idea for a project that I want to work toward, a motive, something I want to express, share or convey can be a big motivation for me to work at photo projects and along the way help me to work to overcome my fears of producing mediocre work so that I can share something meaningful with you.

Project: A Month on Film, Nikon F100, Nikon 35mm f/2, Kodak Portra 400

A way to communicate

Along with growing in photography skills, photo projects give me a way to communicate with those who view my photos. Often, faced with my intense daily struggles, I am unable to speak and sometimes I am not able to find words to adequately express myself. So I can use my camera to try to communicate. This can give me a healthy option to choose rather than always choosing some forms of self harm I have engaged in to try to cope. I believe this process of communicating can potentially be beneficial for both me and you.

Project: Kids were Here, Nikon D750, Sigma 35mm f/1.4

Potential benefit, inspiration or encouragement to others

Through my photo projects it is my hope that I can share a part of my story, experience and perspective with you. That somehow maybe it can be useful for you to possibly provide you with some encouragement, hope, a perspective you haven’t experienced yourself, or gaining awareness and possibly some insight into an unfamiliar experience or way of life. The fact that you may, in some way, take something useful from my photo projects motivates me to continue working on them. I press on in these projects with you in mind.

How about you? Is there anything I mentioned that you can relate to or that you find interesting-either with your own photography projects or perhaps another skill or interest you may have? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! Or let me know about something I didn’t mention that you find to be beneficial in working on photography projects.

Looking For Light – Sunbathing Salad

Looking For Light -Sunbathing Salad – Nikon D750, Sigma 35mm f/1.4

Sunbathing salad freshly washed and drying in the late afternoon light shows a reminder of life, light, growth, health and hope. Even in the dead of the winter this is a welcome reminder of the figurative warmer seasons to come.

Looking For Light -Sunbathing Salad – Nikon D750, Sigma 35mm f/1.4
Looking For Light -Sunbathing Salad – Nikon D750, Sigma 35mm f/1.4

Looking For Light – Healing Change, Nikon FE, Fuji Superia 400, Developed At Home

Looking For Light – Healing Change – Nikon FE, Nikon 35mm f/2, Fuji Superia xtra 400

Healing change takes a tremendous amount of courage, hard work, and time. Keep growing and do what you can when you can.

Looking For Light – No Words

Looking For Light -No Words – Nikon D750, Sigma 35mm f/1.4

Maybe it’s ok when we have no words. Sometimes our tears can communicate and be a part of the healing process when there are no words to express and explain.

Looking For Light -No Words – Nikon D750, Sigma 35mm f/1.4
Looking For Light -No Words – Nikon D750, Sigma 35mm f/1.4

Created For Connection – A Pair Of Fall Leaves, Nikon FE, Fuji Superia 400, Developed At Home

Created For Connection – A Pair Of Fall Leaves – Nikon FE, Nikon 35mm f/2

It’s ok to crave connection. We are created for community. We heal and grow in healthy relationship.

Looking For Light – Borrow Hope, Shot On iPhone

Looking For Light – Borrow Hope – iPhone 11

When walking through the dark sometimes it’s necessary to borrow hope from others around us.

Documenting The Everyday – Summer Salad, Fuji Superia 400

Documenting The Everyday – Summer Salad – Nikon F100, Sigma 35mm f/1.4

Mundane tasks come alive when I am looking for light. Some freshly washed, garden grown, summer salad comes alive in the beautiful, golden sunset light.

Looking For Light – Illuminating Imperfection

Looking For Light – Illuminating Imperfection – Nikon D750, Sigma 35mm f/1.4

Maybe we can still find light in imperfect places. Keep growing, no matter how it looks.

Looking For Light – Summer Sunset On The Porch, Fuji Superia 400

Looking For Light – Summer Porch Sunset – Nikon F100, Sigma 35mm f/1.4

Sometimes it’s not possible to look up. That’s ok, sometimes we can also find light beautifully dancing at our feet.

Kids Were Here – Seasons Collide

Kids Were Here – Seasons Collide – Nikon D750, Sigma 35mm f/1.4

A cheerful, yellow watering can right where the kids left it. Didn’t seem necessary with the current freezing cold weather that day when I spotted this outside. Taking the time to notice this silly situation helped to bring a little light into my day which was filled with difficult moments and anxiety.