throw away your tv: a chance encounter

Too much information and four photos:

As a lot of you who follow me might know I suffer from rather intense depression and anxiety. I have spoken about it fairly openly in the past few years. While the response and support I have received have been heartwarming, it has not lessened the intensity of what I feel.

The hardest part about it is that I feel like two drastically different people, the one I am known to others as, and how I see myself when I’m alone. In groups I’m usually fine, or at least able to distract myself. Alone I feel worthless and without anything to offer. Alone I feel unable to reach out to people I don’t already know.

Alone I’m artistically tormented because my favorite work is documentary in nature. Honest portraits of things as they are. Everyday I see hundreds of pictures that I am too afraid to make and it kills me.

Tonight, after a day of sitting inside wishing I was some other version of myself or someone else altogether, I set out on a walk. Earlier in the night I had offered the advice to a friend that there is power in being honest about what is torturing you. Trying to take my own words to heart I set out with my camera to see if I could be find the courage to make one of the images I always retreat from.

I walked to the park at met a man named Benny. He was sitting in a wheelchair watching the sunset. He told me about his life in Portland and I made a few frames. I met Francois who is visiting from France and made a few more. I talked to a couple eating dinner under the bridge and made a few more. It was a good step out of my comfort zone but I was timid and not as present as I wanted to be.

I started the walk home a little encouraged, but knowing I had left the photos I could have made with more courage behind. As I walked the main street here in St John’s I paused to take a picture of a car.

As I was making the frame I heard someone yelling at me from across the street. A man hunched over a garbage can yelled at me “You taking pictures?! Take a picture of this!” I made the first frame shown here from across the street.

I wanted simultaneously to get closer and to leave for home. Hoping to make the most of my brief bout of courage I crossed the street and met Tim. He informed me that he was drunk and on drugs and if I wanted I could get a couple of shots of a “classic tweaker”. He was flailing, yelling things I couldn’t quite make out and barely holding still long enough to make a frame. Several times while I was shooting he told me to stop, which I did until he told me I could continue. Somewhere in several minutes of this I made the second frame shown here.

His fits of yelling were punctuated with several moments of intense calm. He told me that he didn’t know where he was going to sleep tonight, that his wife had died of alcoholism, and that he was now dying of leukemia. While calm he almost never broke eye contact. I asked him in each moment like this if I could make a photo, each time he told me no. As I could feel that things were wrapping up I asked him one last time if I could make a frame of him, the real him. He agreed and calmed from one last rage and looked right in the lens. I made the third frame shown here. He immediately shook my hand and started to walk away. As he walked I asked him if there was anything he wanted to tell me.

“Throw away your TV” he said.

Now I’m home looking at the faces of the people I met tonight. I don’t have any less depression or anxiety. What I do have are memories and photos I people of met while I felt like shit, not after I got over it. Now I’m trying to remember that the only times you can be brave are when you’re afraid. I’ve been waiting to feel better to have a life. I might not ever feel better. I might just end up with pictures and stories from days I would much rather have stayed in bed.



Vincent 20:44 May 29, 2017 Reply
Thank you for sharing this story. This story gives me the strenght to meet real people instead of loosing myself in the virtual world.
Ashley 13:25 May 30, 2017 Reply
I love this post so much. Thank you for your honesty and intensity.
Sherelle 15:06 April 10, 2018 Reply
Thank you so much for sharing this. This post was inspirational, and has given the re-motivations to go out and take photographs again. Really appreciate the realness and honesty.
Sula 20:32 May 28, 2018 Reply
What a powerful post! Thank you so much.
David Horton 03:01 February 26, 2019 Reply
Ryan, your honesty is refreshing and admirable. I wish more people were as open. I think the majority of people share varying levels of anxiety and depression but don't feel "safe" in society sharing these vulnerable feelings. When more brave people like yourself take steps towards being honest about their internal struggles, we'll all benefit. Thank you.
David 03:07 February 26, 2019 Reply
P.S. Advice from the big wave surfer, Laird Hamilton, that I try to live by with my photography and otherwise: "Once a day, try to do something that scares the crab out of you."
Alexandra Diez de Rivera 11:17 April 18, 2019 Reply
Wow. Who are you? I've signed up to your workshop in London to find out!
Keith 08:21 May 3, 2020 Reply
I an relate to much of what you said here. I hesitate to say "I know how you feel" because I do not. I have suffered from manic depression and extreme anxiety. Nevertheless unless I am that other individual, I cannot know, I only know mine. If you're ever in Sacramento, if you want, email me and we can get some coffee and walk around making some pictures.
Jodi 00:57 June 17, 2020 Reply
This makes my heart hurt, in the most beautiful way. Thank you for sharing this story and these pictures. Oh yeah and I love his advice... F*ck TV's.

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