It’s no secret that the arts are known for being a powerful, life-saving force. They not only allow you to see the world differently, but to remake and reimagine it, on your own terms.
For Andre, his camera allowed him to shine a bright light that pierced through the clouds of darkness of his depression. And not only did it show him how beautiful life was, but that he could use that very same light to change the lives of those around him.
At a very early age, the arts and music became my first creative outlet and source of expression. At seven or eight years old, I played the guitar, then the recorder. In fifth grade, I picked up the clarinet. Seventh grade I picked up the saxophone, and that’s when I became addicted to music and instruments. I was in advanced band in junior high and into freshman year of high school, where we traveled and won competitions, which was a big deal and important part of my junior high experience.
But in high school, the depression started kicking in. I tried to deal with it through listening to sad music over and over and there were periods where I would not go to school for weeks at a time. I really struggled and didn’t feel like I cared about anything. The motivated, driven, and excited high schooler that started in the 9th grade was unrecognizable by the time I was a senior. But I still knew I wanted to go to college, and that’s when I picked up my first camera.
Through my art, I was able to eventually gain the upper hand in battling depression and that feeling of helplessness that often overwhelmed me when I was in high school.
Even though I didn’t originally see photography as a viable career, I do remember the moment when I knew exactly the kind of photographer I wanted to be. I was walking down in Times Square when I saw this lululemon advertisement with a man and woman throwing powder at each other. I was amazed at how colorful, spontaneous, fun, and bright it was. I knew I wanted to do that. And after tons of research, I found the photographer for the ad, Ty Milford, and I realized I wanted to be just like him, a lifestyle photographer.
At first, I tried to mimic his style by bringing out the same energy and expression in my subjects that he did in his. But eventually I found my own process by focusing on the relationships I had with my subjects that allowed them to express themselves wholeheartedly, which empowered them to turn into the people they were before stepping in front of the camera. And when that happened, every shot and frame became authentically them.
When I realized that I could create a brighter day and experience for other people through my photography, it finally allowed me to do the same in my own life. Through my art, I was able to eventually gain the upper hand in battling depression and that feeling of helplessness that often overwhelmed me when I was in high school.
I discovered the type of photographer I wanted to be, but I didn’t start doing it full time right away. I spent several years working in advertising operations before I found myself feeling helpless again, like I was working so hard but toward nothing. I became jealous of other people who appeared to be living a successful life because I honestly didn’t know how to do that for myself. After many sleepless nights, I realized I had to make a change.
When I picked up my camera again, it gave me something to do and I started to feel excited about life all over again. I still didn’t know I wanted to professional photographer, full-time. But I knew it stirred my soul.
At that time, I still had no idea where to go or what to do. But I committed to wanting a change, even when I wanted to give up. And that’s when I eventually picked up my camera again. Despite the helplessness, fear, and feeling lost, I felt like I had a purpose because photography served as a powerful creative outlet that could get my mind off of the depressive cycle that made me feel crippled, and prevented me from leaving my room or turning off the sad music I would play over and over.
Prior to picking up my camera, weekends were the worst for me–I would be so depressed it felt like there was no end in sight. It felt like depression had stripped my life of its beauty and color. But when I picked up my camera again, it gave me something to do and I started to feel excited about life all over again. I still didn’t know I wanted to professional photographer, full-time. But I knew it stirred my soul. Eventually, after many sleepless nights, I finally walked away from my job. And I’ve never looked back since.