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Special post and photo by Danielle, the founder of Broken Light Collective.
The beginnings: After a major depressive crash several years ago, my therapist – who was exploring the art of photography herself – encouraged me to start photographing again regularly, not just when I was hired to do a portrait or feeling hypomanic. We started doing shared assignments, which made me get out of bed and think creatively, even if I was feeling utterly depressed and hopeless, or having negative impulses of self-harm or suicide. Sometimes the themes we explored were intense, and the photos would end up dictating my therapy sessions because they would at times express more than I was able to say with words. It was a successful experiment, and when the rush of hypomania hit me once again and I suddenly felt revved, motivated, and fearless, I knew I had to find a way to share the therapeutic benefits of photography with others, and create a safe space for people suffering to share their work. So after several years of depression, and several days and sleepless nights of hypomania, Broken Light Collective was born.
What’s in a name?: I wanted a name that would have different meanings. Broken Light can be taken literally, or more conceptually about personal or spiritual light. It can be seen in a dark way that the light is broken, or a more positive inspirational way that the light is being split in many ways, as with a prism. Light is obviously a very important element of photography, and as Broken Light grows, the goal is to keep splitting the light and touch as many people who are affected by mental illness as possible. Broken Light is also a lyric from a Beatles song, Across the Universe. “Images of broken light, which dance before me like a million eyes, they call me on and on across the universe.” This spoke to me as I was developing the gallery. I wanted the images of Broken Light to call to those who are suffering, and that it has.
With support and inspiration from my husband and therapist, it was quickly launched on March 1st, 2012, in honor of Self-Harm Awareness Day. That day, 365 days ago, our little Broken Light team – all of whom are directly affected by mental illness – came together and committed to sharing someone’s photo and story every day, and we have managed to make that happen no matter what was going on with our own health and treatments. We take this site seriously, and no matter if we were stuck in bed from depression, caring for a loved one suffering, or receiving treatment at a psychiatric facility, we have kept that promise.
Broken Light is not just a project to us, it is a passion, and something that has helped save our lives, and the lives of others. Every time someone comments, likes, submits, or follows it means that we are keeping the mental illness dialogue going and fighting stigma. We are putting ourselves out there, even if anonymously, and helping ourselves as well as others who may be going through something similar and feeling alone. I thank each and every person who has joined this voyage as a contributor or reader – people suffering, friends, family, and mental health professionals. Those who have sent our link to friends or posted it on your Facebook page. This is your site as much as ours, and we hope you will continue to share the ‘Light’ with other people who you think could benefit from, and contribute to, our community.
The photo above is of a cake I made, or at least decorated. Clearly cake-decorating is not my forte, especially when I’m depressed, but it does represent the sweetness and hope of this journey, and the butterfly that is Broken Light. Our little caterpillar of a site has taken wings and we are so grateful, but there are many flights ahead. Much to do to help as many people as possible and fight stigma. So let’s keep on – keep on photographing, keep on sharing, keep on publishing, here and elsewhere, and most of all keep on supporting each other. Who knows what may be yet to come? Gallery shows? Books? Workshops? Year 2 is yet unwritten.
Wishing everyone love, light, and healing as we continue this trek together.