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These Hauntingly Beautiful Photos Capture the Struggle of Depression

Photographer Ritz Marie raises awareness on mental health through her work.

by Maura Rodriguez | Jun 9, 2018

These fashion photographs shine light on the topic of mental health—an issue often perceived as "ugly" and hidden away from public view. 

Depression and anxiety have been a constant topic of interest circulating in mainstream media for the past few years. With TV shows like 13 Reasons Why and high-profile cases of suicide involving K-pop star Jong Hyun and more recently that of the late designer Kate Spade, the public interest on this once taboo topic has definitely grown to be more conversational—whether as a public dialogue on social media or within one’s private chat groups.

Mental health is never an issue to take lightly, nor is it something that's often associated with the word “beautiful.” But for creative photographer Ritz Marie, there is beauty in madness—even though it's painful to perceive or capture. A photographer since 2006 and once an apprentice to Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan’s Official Royal Wedding Photographer Alexi Lubomirsky, Ritz doesn’t only see photography as a means to capture subjects in a way that's aesthetically pleasing to the eye; it's a medium to communicate messages with a deeper and more existential nature. Her work is dreamy, profound, and never fails to evoke an emotion—whether happy or sad. “It’s always my aim in creation, to play with greatness. Because when you look closely at life, it's actually pretty ethereal,” she says.

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For this beauty editorial entitled Then Call Me Crazy, Ritz zooms in on depression, but not as campaign images to raise awareness but rather to raise empathy. “Currently, there seems to be a dichotomy between physical and mental health with great effort to display physical strength, while the health of the mind is somehow disregarded,” Ritz shares. In this interview, we explore the process behind the creation of these beautiful and moving images, and how art can bring to light the darkness of depression.


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What's the general concept behind the shoot?

"This shoot was born out of the need to creatively communicate the insufferable issues regarding mental health. It's a tragic comedy in a sense, because the failure to grasp the true powers of the mind is [often] overlooked. Mindfulness is given little importance, but in this day and age, there needs to be an awakening to a higher plane of consciousness."


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"Stylist Chris Lee had the idea to represent liberation and repression using different materials and texture of the clothes. We used nudes and see-throughs for the liberation part while darker tones and heavier fabrics were used to represent a sense of repression."

"The concept I'm working to communicate here is to strive for greater importance regarding mental health. Awareness for that is passé, what we need is mutual understanding and respect for the battles each person is fighting in the mind's dimension."

This editorial was inspired by those who fatally wounded themselves and is dedicated to every individual who, spoken or not, is going through something painful in the realm of their soul.

What message did you want to convey with these images?


 

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"Mong Amado changed the makeup several times throughout the duration of the shoot to represent an inner world. In one look, the eyebrows were erased and that to me represents the missing parts of ourselves. The smokey-eye represents the bruises of the soul unseen by the simple eye. With a nude lip, it represents the unspeakable journey and trials or silence when you have no energy to verbally express yourself anymore."

"To choose one message for the shoot would be difficult. But I would like to expound on the thought of the unbearable lightness of being (which also happens to be the title of a great novel by Milan Kundera). Life can be burdensome sometimes. The visuals of this project aims to reflect states of repression and liberation. I can go on and on about the messages I'd like to relay, but as the saying goes, one picture can speak a thousand words. So, I would like to invite the viewers to ponder on the photos, on this story, and think about how it affects them. What I'd love the viewers to take away is a heightened sense of inspiration—for love, life, and all it's intricacies."

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Why did you want to focus on mental health?

"The focus on mental health stems from a single thought I had before. The thought being, 'One cannot fathom the bruises of the soul.' I believe that an individual is multi-dimensional. Not one person can truly grasp the war another is fighting within themselves."


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"The lighter looks represent a reality of sorts in the sense of disposition. Like, everything can look peachy and fine on the outside even while a soul is struggling on the inside. The look where she seems bald and her eyes are painted in two colors is my personal favorite. I like to see the colors as tears of the soul and the absence of hair in the layout is almost like the theft of her crowing glory. That crowing glory, being the label of sanity."


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"I've come into conversation with many people who struggle with their 'you-niqueness' or differences, because in everyday life there is a silent expectation to behave in a certain manner. There is always a struggle to reach a certain ideal, and that can drive someone mad. Not reaching a certain ideal can be very disheartening when that person is already struggling to just be. That is a very simple yet complex concept to grasp. It's a paradox. But in the balance of a paradox, a great truth lies.

"Let's take the concept of hate and gratitude, for example. Pretend hate is at one end of the scale and gratitude on another, while love is in the middle. You can love and hate, you can love and be grateful. But one cannot hate with gratitude in their heart. It seems off tangent, but the point I'm trying to relay is the paradox of mental health. It’s physical reality we live in, but we spend so much time in the solace or chaos of our minds. Medicines are administered to cure the chemical imbalances in our brain, but little do we practice patience for patients with mental health issues. Understanding that medicines alone will not cure your mental health issues is a truth based on experience. One can take all the drugs they want, but at the end of the day, what your mental foundation is yearning for is attention to your soul. It's a bruised and abused warrior."

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I create as a form of self-expression, and in this editorial, I'd like a message of hope to come across. In whatever way, shape or form, I would like to share the hope that kept me alive and this medium is where I best excel to deliver that point.

Is there a particular mental health issue you wanted to tackle with these photos?

"I'd like to shed some light on the crisis of depression. I was diagnosed with depression. I am usually a person with a positive disposition. But during that time of my life, I could feel my insides being eaten away by forces unseen and elements unknown. It came to a point that I did not know myself. The medicines administered to me made me forget. I even forgot how to use my camera. I was so lost, and I could spend days lying on my bed staring at a particular point in the ceiling without a single thought crossing my mind. And when thoughts would come, they were so dark. I imagined a world without me in the first place—like maybe it would have been better for everyone if I wasn't born, maybe. And maybe it would be easier to just disappear, like a bubble. It was the most insignificant I felt in my life. Paradoxically, it was such a significant time for self-discovery."

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"It took me years to overcome depression. Hard as it was, it became harder because it was a topic not-to-be-spoken-of with my family. Not knowing what to do, they just hid me from the world, in an effort to protect me. [In the end] I was further wounded. The medical professional I consulted just administered medication without understanding what I was truly going through. In the corners of my room, I was left bleeding.

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"That was until I realized, no one can support me better than myself and I had to will myself to heal. Heal from wounds of the past, the painfulness of the present, and the bleakness of the future."


"It was a war that I had to fight alone. I overcame. But the strength of each individual for war varies. Unfortunately, many times, darkness gets the better of them. Take the examples of Robin Williams, Kate Spade, Alexander McQueen, Van Gogh, Kurt Kobain, Virginia Woolf, and others innumerable and anonymous. It can really be too much for a person to handle. And it's not a new issue, it's just an issue swept under the rug often times.

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"This editorial was inspired by those who fatally wounded themselves and is dedicated to every individual who, spoken or not, is going through something painful in the realm of their soul. I do not know if it really gets better for everyone, all I can say is that you'll never find out without the gift of life. So, wherever part of the deep sea you are right now, keep swimming, just keep going. Keep yourself afloat, because based on personal experience, it does get better."


 

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Mental health is not a common topic in fashion or beauty photographs, why did you pursue that issue with this editorial?

"To begin with, mental health is not a common and openly discussed topic in the society I'm living in now. It's an ugly topic. This editorial is my effort to show the beauty of what I had to go through. I can focus on the negativity of it and be consumed by that, but I choose to focus on the inspiration my other lifetime brought out. I create as a form of self-expression, and in this editorial, I'd like a message of hope to come across. In whatever way, shape or form, I would like to share the hope that kept me alive and this medium is where I best excel to deliver that point."

I want my work to do more than just be pretty, I want it to speak volumes. You could say that this is a self-portrait of a past me. 

 

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"At this day and age, with the hodgepodge of tools that we have, photographs are easily taken. I want my work to do more than just be pretty, I want it to speak volumes. You could say that this is a self-portrait of a past me. The time in my life where I was struggling to just be. The time in my life when I needed someone but had no one. The time in my life I wanted to just die. Thankfully though, not all wishes are granted and I continued to live seeing the light of day. Part of me though did die during that time, but the light within me sustained itself throughout the night."


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"These photographs, they are not just pictures for me. They are drawings of light—drawings of my light with the camera and of my own light from within. Essentially, apart from hope, I am trying to share with you a spark of light. Light for those who find themselves in unspeakable darkness and deep waters. Light for those who might need some inspiration and encouragement. And light for those who have lost hope."

This is my battle cry.


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Photographed by Ritz Marie

Hair and makeup by Mong Amado

Styled by Chris Lee

Model: Karolina (Elite Models)

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