Bowled over by Katie Crawford’s interpretation of her experience of anxiety, we just had to find out more:
Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Occupation: Student (graduated May 15th); Freelance Photographer
Education: BFA, Louisiana State University
Do you find words a limitation for expressing your feelings with anxiety and does this have an influence on why you use photography as your medium?
I find when trying to express something that is so much of an internal experience, you need both verbal and visual elements to accurately depict something. I’ve chosen to use both in my art. I feel that without the writing, there’s maybe a disconnect from their intent. The writings don’t say enough either. I find that they complement each other. I was drawn to photography for the appeal that I can depict something nonverbal when using it as a tool.
A lot of your imagery in relation to anxiety features symbols like clocks, do you find symbolism an important communication tool in your work?
Symbols are incredibly important to me. In the same likeness that I see words as being an important addition to the work, symbols are needed since it is an expression of a feeling. Feelings are so difficult to express that I found it was necessary to utilize symbolism to strengthen the message of each piece.
Have you any artistic advice for those struggling with mental health?
It was incredibly important to me that I create something that depicted what it was I was experiencing. I would make pieces that I really enjoyed but the feedback I received was so far from what I was aiming for. That forced me to dive further into myself and find exactly how I felt, what caused it, and which parts of me were affected. In that process, it actually helped me deal with my mental illness. I was addressing what it was that was making me anxious, thinking about it outside of mid-panic attack, and able to point out how illogical my fears were and make sense of it. I’m not cured. I’m still anxious. But by researching for the sake of a project, I was able to research myself and truly understand what was happening. I encourage those that are struggling to find what it is they’re suppressing and try and deal with it. Most of the things we fear are illogical and irrational. If we can address them when we’re in a level-headed mindset, than we’re more likely to realize the truth. That’s not to say thinking about them won’t cause panic or that you’ll be healed after you do it. But it’s important that people understand that there’s usually an event, a time in our lives, or a place that really affected us and instilled fear. It’s ok to address it and identify it. Our fears are much less scary when they’re unmasked.
Could you tell us more about your projects “because we are alive” and “transitory utopia”?
Because We Are Alive is a series very similar to My Anxious Heart. They were created around the same time and are both very precious to me. My Anxious Heart was made to battle the internal demons. Because We Are Alive is a message to life. Living with anxiety makes you feel like you’re just existing in this world. It’s hard to remember that we’re supposed to be exploring, creating, dreaming, grieving, crying, and releasing. We’re supposed to do these things as a part of life. I let anxiety rule anything and everything I did. I didn’t take chances I wanted to. I didn’t let myself really hurt in moments that I needed to grieve. I didn’t venture away from what I was taught and try to do new things. I was too scared. I was scared of pain, I was scared of failure. I made this series to encourage myself that it’s not too late and I need to do as much as I can – feel as much as I can – because I am alive.
Transitory Utopia follows the same theme in an abstract way. When I had my first anxiety attack, the next day, I remember feeling like my world was gone. It was different. Ever since then I’ve felt a constant uneasiness. I feel dissociated from things. When you get homesick, as soon as you get home you feel better. I’ve felt homesick for 12 years. Transitory Utopia is an abstract expression of the moments that keep me grounded in a constant state of unease. The fleeting moments where the sun touches a leaf just at the right moment layered with the dew of the morning create an abstraction of how I feel. I know this world is beautiful. I know there is happiness to be found and pleasure to be had. I feel closer and closer to it. However, I simultaneously can’t make sense of any of it.
Have you found any limitations in making the work you produce? If so what could be improved?
Absolutely! Taking self portraits is incredibly challenging. I’ve definitely evolved in the process and gotten better equipment to help, but it’s still a tricky task. It’s also hard to come up with so many different expressions of “I feel trapped”. I would love other people’s descriptions of their anxiety. I would like to take the imagery I’ve been reading online and create photographs using their experiences. Because my photos are my story. People can relate, I’m sure; but there are certainly plenty of people that feel completely different than I’ve expressed. I’m open to new ideas and feedback!
See more of Katie’s incredible work at http://www.katiejoycrawford.com