When I was about seven years old, I remember going to bed utterly terrified and anxious of the dark to the point I would start crying. I'd beg my grandmother to sleep next to me just so I could hold her hand to cast my fears away. Because of this I had an irrational apprehension of nightfall. This was my earliest memory of my ongoing battle with anxiety.
In my entire existence I have come to believe that every human on earth experienced anxiety as pervasive as mine: a basic, raw human function similar to our capability to experience the emotions of love or anger by default. Several months after my 30th birthday, I finally confided to the first person about my anxiety-- my wife. This was a decision I made after I finally imploded mentally due to the terrorizing heap of thoughts conjured in my mind. To my disbelief, she then later told me she does not know what anxiety really feels like. I also had a friend whom I had revealed about my anxiety-- he too had said the same thing to me. As naive as this sounds, this is the reason why it took me a very long time to disclose my severe anxiety disorder. I thought feeling anxious was a normal standard sensation everyone experienced on a daily basis. I was completely wrong.
All the sitters I photographed are homeless. I paid them $5 each to coax them to participate in this series, and in return they helped me personify my anxiety. To personify it so I can further shed light and understand this debilitating illness.
The process was simple but at times extremely frustrating. I combed through the streets of Downtown Los Angeles in search of an ideal location. Once I chose a spot, I kept a record of the exact time the sunlight hits a certain specific spot where my sitter will be eventually placed. However, the sun's movement was rapid. Therefore, I have to return the following day at an earlier time and hopefully find the ideal sitter before the sunlight passes over or else I'd have to wait until the following day-- and that's if the sun decides to show up. There were several times I was stuck in a pre-determined location for several days because I was unable to find a sitter. Furthermore, I couldn't bare the recent surge of storms that hit California for weeks. Consequently enough, this gave the sun enough time to substantially shift its trajectory, rendering my long-awaited location useless.
Anxiety is the killer of positive thoughts. It taunted me during the construction of this series. My creative process clashed constantly with melancholy and fear, and I was no longer free to think. Subsequently, as my thoughts got darker, my work became so much clear to me: my anxiety was a symbiotic work of sheer terror kept silenced by the boundaries of my mind and the dialogue of photography. Through mental exhaustion and by any means necessary, I fought through and see to it I finished what I started.
I structured my photographs with striking shadows to symbolize my fear of darkness. It is still to this day a triggering factor of my crippling anxious thoughts. My dependency to sunlight to accomplish every single photograph signified hope, something I've always hung on to in order to keep my sanity. The homeless sitters, who are amongst the forgotten in society, embody who I am— a mirror image of my current fragile mental state.
I never once thought of my photography as a viable means to alleviate my mental illness. However, anxiety is what motivated me to accomplish this series. Without it, I don't think I would have created something as profound in this early stage of my artistic career. It's usually the other way around; it's supposed to disable me and severely burden my thoughts. But instead, my anxiety inspired me.
“And no Grand Inquisitor has in readiness such terrible tortures as has anxiety, and no spy knows how to attack more artfully the man he suspects, choosing the instant when he is weakest, nor knows how to lay traps where he will be caught and ensnared, as anxiety knows how, and no sharpwitted judge knows how to interrogate, to examine the accused as anxiety does, which never lets him escape, neither by diversion nor by noise, neither at work nor at play, neither by day nor by night."
—SØREN KIERKEGAARD, The Concept of Anxiety (1844)