Photographer Damon Baker on #DBforCTL and Mental Health

This week, Crisis Text Line partnered with photographer Damon Baker to launch an interactive campaign that aimed to deconstruct the ‘highlight reel’ nature of social media and encourage users to be honest about their mental health. #DBforCTL is an opportunity for everyone to remember vulnerability, honesty, and empathy can be a vehicle for change. See how you can get involved in the campaign here.

What made you want to get into photography?

Honestly, there was never a point in my life where I decided to delve into photography, I just always was a photographer. I couldn’t necessarily communicate what was inside of my mind or how I was feeling in any way other than using the camera as a tool to scream who I am. It felt natural for me this way, my art is my voice, my soul. As a kid I was very observant of people and my surroundings so the camera gives me a way to capture what I see.

You’ve met a lot of diverse personalities during the course of your career. How has that influenced the way you see people as a whole?

I’ve been alone in the world since a very young age now and I’ve met many many people. Good and bad. It took me a while to really see that everybody is just trying to survive and figure life out in the best way that they can. Life will introduce you to different types of people who will hopefully help you build character and strength. I can safely say I found myself entirely through the help of others, bits and pieces. The diverse personalities you see in my art were the first community that I truly knew I belonged, a community of artists and characters who accepted me and loved me for me, my honesty, my differences.

You talk a lot about embracing our vulnerabilities. Can you expand on that a little?

Everything that I say is how I feel and I can only truly speak for myself in the hopes that it will connect with how others are feeling too. For me, I feel we are almost made to believe that our vulnerabilities are a weakness. I disagree completely with that, I enjoy to feel, I respect my pain, without it I don’t think I’d be half the artist that I am. I channel my emotions and my vulnerabilities into my creativity and into my connecting with other people. I believe that is strength. Weakness, in my opinion, is denying yourself to feel.

What prompted you to speak out about the mental health crisis?

Simply because I am part of the crisis. I have been, for a very long time, through sexuality, identity, anxiety, depression, not knowing what to do next. Every little part of life that feels hard, I’m part of, we all are. I found my therapy through art and creativity, it is not my job as an artist to sugar coat reality, it is my job to share my voice and inspire.

How do you think art, in whatever form resonates with people, relates to mental health?

Art is subjective and personal. For some it can be an escape, another world to get lost in and find their peace. For me, creating helps me digest how I feel inside and connect with others. Expression is therapy. Also I think it is the responsibility of art to tell the truth about our society and to keep digging deeper and deeper to uncover more truth. This is a principle I hope to honor in my work.

How has your relationship with your own mental health changed over the years?

You know when you look back on your life and you think wow, was I that person? How did I handle that? How at seventeen did I run away to one of the biggest cities in the world? How did I cope with nothing and nobody? I think we are in many ways stronger when we are younger, we don’t fear as easily, or maybe we just have nothing left to lose? All I know is that I am proud of young me. My mental health recently changed because I’ve accepted it and I’ve befriended it and I’m not ashamed of me.

What are some words you’d like to share with someone struggling with mental health?

You are not alone.

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