Who we are & why we are

Welcome to the gallery site of Broken Light Collective. We are artists of all levels and abilities who are affected by mental illness. We create and we share our work for the therapeutic benefits to us, as well as others who may be struggling and feeling scared and alone. Together we can move from disconnected to collective.

Photo taken by Jan Austin Smith, a 27-year-old man living in Northern California. His mother, a Psychiatrist, has depression, and his closest aunt is bipolar, so he has been around people with mental health issues his whole life, and has a tremendous amount of compassion for them. He thinks that mental issues are so maligned in the dominant culture, it is tragically sad. Jan has also suffered from depression and anxiety himself, which has been hugely exacerbated by disabling chronic nerve pain in his knees, and 5 knee surgeries. On his website, TheRewildWest, he writes about human, Earth, and animal liberation, as well as displays his beloved nature photography. He’s also a novelist, and editor/book reviewer for the Green Theory and Praxis Journal.

About this photo: “This photograph is of “Shine On,” my first (and current only) tattoo. Its profound meaning to me is threefold: it is a tribute to my favorite band, Pink Floyd, who created high art in the form of sonic landscapes; it is a reminder to live how I want, to not let anybody but my own conscience and heart dictate what I say or do or write; finally, it is a tribute to my older brother David, who killed himself 9 years ago when he was my age, 27. The passionate, intense way he lived his life is inspiring, and had a profound impact on my own personality–you can read my full piece on “Tattoos and Suicide” here.”

*This week is National Suicide Prevention Week. We honor and remember loved ones who we have lost. Please speak up if you are having overwhelming thoughts of suicide or know someone who might be. Seek out a medical or psychiatric professional immediately, or call a crisis help line, such as 1.800.SUICIDE or 1.800.273.TALK.


**Visit Broken Light’s main gallery here. Currently accepting submissions.

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10 responses to “Tattoos and Suicide”

  1. Emilio Avatar

    My heart goes out to you…


    1. TheRewildWest Avatar

      Thank you, Emilio ❤


  2. TheRewildWest Avatar

    Reblogged this on Rewild the West, and All the Rest! and commented:
    This is so wonderful! It is National Suicide Prevention Week, and the lovely and beautiful blog Broken Light Photography posted a blog about my SHINE ON tattoo and its meaning, and linked to my “Tattoos and Suicide” post about my brother David. This was totally unexpected, and a heartwarming surprise! Please read, and check out their blog! ❤ A million thanks and my intense appreciation to Broken Light for using my piece, my story, to highlight the issue of suicide for this week. I hope it can reach more people and help them deal with the loss of loved ones, and maybe even help people who have suicidal thoughts/ideations realize how horrific it is for the loved ones left behind.


  3. TheRewildWest Avatar

    If anybody is interested, I did an Artist Profile on my tattooist and her amazing, powerful, gorgeous ecological and animal-themed artwork:


    –Love and Liberation–



  4. DeeDee Avatar

    Lovely artwork – I’ve been considering a tribute tattoo for some time, but even grief that’s 11 years old is too fresh to give it the thought it requires.


    1. TheRewildWest Avatar

      Everybody responds differently to grief, you know? There’s no universal bilateral truism when it comes to the pain of the human condition.



      1. DeeDee Avatar

        The wonderful thing about the design I’ve been contemplating (for around 10 years now) is that my youngest sibling had the same design tattooed as a memorial as well. So clearly, it’s the right piece – one of my brother’s drawings that obviously reminds us of him. I just need to be in the right place for it.


      2. TheRewildWest Avatar

        That’s beautiful. I encourage you to go for it, when you’re ready. Do you mind my asking what the design is?


      3. DeeDee Avatar

        It’s a sort of jaggedy downward spiral thingy – sort of like the tribal style, but more raw. My sister got it done in black work, as he drew it, but I’d probably go for something with color to remind me more of his brilliance than darkness (not suicide, though he really struggled with mental health issues too, but a different sort of truly tragic death as a teen).

        I haven’t looked at it in a very long time. It was part of a collection of my brother’s drawings that my folks gave copies of to family and close friends. Sadly the only drawing in the bunch that was not a zombie, drug-oriented, explicitly self-destructive, or a cry for help.


      4. TheRewildWest Avatar

        Wow. That’s tragic and beautiful and terribly sad, all at the same time…thank you so much for sharing.


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