Waking up early on Friday morning, 8th June 2018, I checked the morning news on my cell phone to learn that one of my past photographic subjects, Mr. Anthony Bourdain had taken his own life. I was then dispatched on a 48-hour journey of self-reflection. Pardon me if I am wrong, but I have perceived that a disproportionate number of people in arts and culture, authors, journalists, musicians, painters, designers and others, were doing the same.
Maybe Mr. Bourdain wanted to take the ultimate journey to the unknown, or perhaps he was hiding his true inner demons from the rest of the world and protecting everyone from the darkness that lived within him. When your career revolves around you being you, it takes on a unique perspective. You become your brand, becoming immersed in yourself as you are your career. It drives you! It becomes you! However, when you are away from that career, with your demons for companionship, you are ultimately stuck with that secret and perhaps shameful part of you, to wrestle, alone.
You are inspiring others and have seemingly achieved so much, so how can you possibly be so unhappy? You believe you would be dismissed if you showed a pathetic, weak persona, and so you go about life doing anything to avoid facing your real self. This situation is a recipe for severe depression. You get into character more and more and spend less and less time with the real you, the persona that you loathe.
Being a self-taught culinary and portrait photographer, designer and journalist, I have spent most of my adult life in some way or another, within the creative arts industry. One of the benefits of my career is that I have met, photographed, and interviewed hundreds of fellow artistic people from around the world. I love to do this, it drives me, I feel like I am doing something right, and I am in some small way making others feel appreciated and good about themselves.
Unfortunately, the other side is intense, but it’s the only way you can be an artist. You must reach down deep into your thoughts, and you must have empathy for others to be able to see into their worlds. It becomes difficult to hold non-career-based conversations, you have become your career, and you have no idea how to share this inner side of yourself, especially when you despise it.
Among many artists, there is an inexplicable feeling of losing the persona they have created should they expose the demons manifesting in their minds. Of course, it may or may not be true, but the risk, to the depressed artist, is not worth taking, so the anguish remains often hidden until it’s too late.
Another misconception of being a successful artist is that others assume you have abundant love, wealth, success and beauty. A perception you intend to display - the value of your work. Often artists are struggling beyond belief to make their art known and seen. Social media has made it more accessible to a broader market, but it has many pitfalls and leads us further away from facing and slaying our inner beasts.
What can you do to help your fellow human beings?
- Try to be kind and patient, as you can never assume to comprehend the confusion within another’s mind. The brain is complicated, and the fuller the brain becomes, the less room there is to hide difficult issues under the rug. We often misconstrue outbursts of crying or displays of grief as anger or insanity, and likely we have all been there at one time or another, and we know that it's probably a cry for help, love, and compassion.
- Don't assume another’s happiness or sadness; no one can be in another's head. Outward appearances are often very deceptive.
- Finally, my last but not my least crucial point of view is that a great phenomenon is that human beings are not entirely treasured until death. Then, suddenly, there comes an outpouring of love that we regret not expressing. We have all seen this when Robin Williams, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain left this world. Think about that. Imagine being that alone and feeling that invisible. If we make an effort to take ourselves away from the harshness and ruthlessness of life and listen to each other, the world will be a better place.
We should all be communicating our appreciation when possible, to those who have influenced our lives in positive ways, while they are alive!. That is where I am going to start, how about you?
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.