Broken Light: A Photography Collective

We are photographers living with or affected by mental illness; supporting each other one photograph at a time. Join our community, submit today!

Functional But Not Quite Right

Photo taken by contributor John Nooney, a 47-year-old gay man from a suburb of Denver, Colorado, who has been HIV+ since 1989. John has dealt with mental illness for most of his life, including chronic depression and severe anxiety attacks. His first bout of depression occurred when he was 14, though it wasn’t until he was 22 that someone finally told him what his “horrible, black episodes” were.  Sometimes his depressions last for just a few days, other times, they last for months. He has learned that when they start getting bad that it’s time to go on medication. He typically stays on an anti-depressant for 9 months to a year, and then weens off. He is grateful for the help the medications give him, but, after a couple of months on them, he stops feeling like himself, and feels like his creative mind is boxed off — he can’t write, his camera goes unused, even reading becomes a chore. He has been interested in photography since he was in high school, but, back then, it was all about film, and, it was a hobby that was too expensive. With the advent of digital photography, his interest in photography was reignited. He can take as many photos as he wants, experiment as much as he wants, and not have to worry about the cost of the film, or the developing supplies.

About this photo: “This photograph is of the front of an old, red shed that was in our backyard for many years. It’s since been torn down, and replaced by a newer, bigger, green shed.

I don’t often take photos that call my depression to mind … I prefer photos that are not representational.  I live with the depression and anxiety, and, my photos give me something bright and cheerful to look at on the days when my world looks dark.  This photo, however, I think of as a strange-sort of self-portrait.  The door of the shed is still functional, still does it’s job — but, it’s not quite right, it’s missing a piece, the boards are falling off, the lock is rusted — it all seems to be a representation of how I feel when I’m in the grips of an anxiety, or a long bout of depression: functional, but not quite right, not as good as I should be.”


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

*Like us on Facebook & Twitter. Follow below for e-mail notifications.

8 comments on “Functional But Not Quite Right

  1. Victoria Sawyer
    June 3, 2013

    I’m always amazed to hear about someone who feels like I do while on meds. I was on them for 9 years and I slowly but surely lost that creative part of myself. Once I had been off the meds for a few months, all that creativity came flooding back to me. It felt amazing and so I’ve strived to stay off my meds so that I don’t lose that part of myself. However it’s not always easy to get through the day with anxiety/panic attacks/depression. I certainly feel you! I’m glad you’ve found a good balance.


    • John
      June 3, 2013

      I take them when I have to… when the depression is too much, and I can’t get up off the floor. But, eventually, I do have to stop them, because I seem to just end up drifting around in a fog, not feeling anything. I can get through the minor anxieties and depressions on my own — they may knock me down for a bit, but, I muddle though. It’s a much better option than constantly being on the meds.


  2. Syncopated Eyeball
    June 3, 2013

    I like this shot very much, John. With its asymmetrical symmetry it describes visually what you’ve said in words very well.


    • John
      June 3, 2013

      Thanks, Ashley. I don’t like taking self-portraits, or even being in photos … I think I look like a big toad, so, this was a good way to express how I often feel. Glad you like.


  3. John
    June 3, 2013

    Reblogged this on Johnbalaya and commented:
    This morning, another of my photos was published on the Broken Light Photography website. I thank them for that… and, for what they are trying to do with their blog,

    If you have yet to check out their blog, I highly recommend it!


  4. seeker3133
    June 3, 2013

    John, I loved the composition and your ability to use is as an expression of such a powerful introspective thought. Thank you for sharing 🙂


  5. pushlp
    June 5, 2013

    Even before reading your words I felt and saw the symbolism which is both awesome and amazing.


  6. amateurproductions
    June 14, 2013

    Reblogged this on amateurproductions.


Please Join the Conversation!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Crisis Helpline

1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Badge For Contributors

%d bloggers like this: