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Photography :Focusing on Mental Health by Bridget Lapworth

.There is no doubt that immersing yourself in a hobby or interest can have a positive effect on your mental health and wellbeing. While 1 in 4 people have mental health issues, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a mental health issue each week. What does this mean in the UK? There are around 20 million people in the UK alone who will experience mental illness in one form another, a frightening statistic, made worse by the Covid pandemic we currently find ourselves in. The economic costs of mental health issues in the UK have been estimated at £105 billion each year! I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression way back in 2013 and have continued to battle with it ever since, while it’s true to say that medication does help, there’s no doubt that doing something you enjoy, whether it’s a hobby or just going for a walk and being at one with nature can really improve your mood. So, you may be wondering how my love affair with the camera began, like everyone else I took the obligatory holiday snaps, you know the ones, lining your family or friends up in front of a famous landmark or the endless snaps on the beach, all taken with my little point and shoot camera. When I got back home, I would go straight down to Boots to put my film cartridge in for processing, then 3 days later excitedly collecting my prints only to find out that at least half of the images were rubbish, either over or under exposed or I had several headless friends! Let’s face it we’ve all been there, haven’t we?

Thankfully in this digital age we no longer have that problem because we have so much more control over the images we take, being able to review them instantly is such a game changer.

So, fast forward to 2013 and my depression diagnosis. I took the advice of my GP and started walking, luckily for me living in Kettering, Wicksteed Park (147 acres of parkland) was literally on my doorstep. I found that being outside and among nature really helped elevate my mood and took my mind off my negative thoughts and gave me something to concentrate on. I would go armed with my smartphone and I would take a few photographs during my walk but I didn’t do anything with them, they would just sit on my phone, until I discovered Instagram! I downloaded the app and set up my profile and began to post my images, within a week or two I had gained around 100 followers and my images were getting plenty of likes along with some great feedback. It was such a good feeling knowing people liked what I was posting and it really piqued my interest in photography as well as helping me cope with my depression.

Several months passed and I decided I wanted a DSLR camera, I did a bit of online research and bought an entry level Nikon D3100, as much as I enjoyed using a smartphone, and I still use one (the cameras are amazing nowadays) I'd become much more interested in the creative side of photography. I took the Nikon everywhere with me, practise makes perfect as they say and I started getting some great pictures.

I decided to enrol in a part time photography course at my local college and it was the best thing I could have done, I learnt so much and I would advise anyone with a keen interest to sign up, I found my photography improved so much over those 12 weeks.

I was still sharing my images across social media, primarily Instagram, it’s one of the best platforms to get your work out in the world. Instagram has 1.08 billion users, 29 million of those are in the UK, surprisingly India has the most users with 180 million closely followed by the USA with 170 million. I met Mark via Instagram a few years ago, his images of Coventry are stunning particularly those of the cathedral and its testament to his hard work and determination that he is now reaping the benefits. I joined a local photographic society back in 2015, and this is where I found my photography improved in leaps and bounds. The group met once a week, they had professional photographers talk about their work and held regular practical workshops where I learnt a lot. The group had a substantial calendar of competitions which I entered regularly; I won several and often got an image placed in the top 3 which was always a great feeling. The competitions were judged by photographers who gave some really good critique and advice which proved to be invaluable. I primarily focus on nature - and still do, but I also photograph a wide range of subjects including flowers, churches, still life, architecture, etc. It’s good to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Joining a group is a fun way to improve your skills and I’d highly recommend it.

I’ve been lucky enough to have my images shown in local exhibitions and many of my church photographs have been featured online. There are so many avenues to explore nowadays from selling your images online via a photo agency to selling prints via Etsy etc I follow several photographers on Instagram who have published books, it’s a dream of mine too! I’ve been to Gibraltar on holiday for the last 4 years and I love it, it has such a charm and I love exploring the old town. It is such a special place and I’d love to publish my photographs in a book sometime in the future.... watch this space! My advice to anyone who wants to improve their photography is to keep practising and experimenting, join a local photographic group, enrol in a course (there are plenty online) and watch online tutorials, you’ll be amazed at how much your photography progresses. There is still so much more that I want to learn, I feel like I’ve only just skimmed the surface, there is so much more to discover on my photographic journey. They say every cloud has a silver lining, my cloud was my anxiety and depression but without a doubt the silver lining has been my photography, yes, I have days where I don’t feel like I want to go out but I know if I make the effort, 9 times out of 10, being outdoors and doing my photography helps improve my mood and wellbeing. Bridget Lapworth

Below is a small sample of my work

Social Media

Instagram @bridgeadaire _________________________________________ My thanks to Mark Pemberton for inviting me to write a piece for his blog, I wish him continued success and good luck with his website and future projects. Regards Bridget

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