Art as Antidote
Until very recently, I was a national newspaper journalist.
For 40 years I reported on the very worst of human behaviour.
The daily diet of murder, cruelty, abuse and deceit took its toll, no doubt, but it was only toward the end of that chapter of my life, as I approached the age of 60, that I began to realise how much it had affected me.
The fact that I could write a headline on a story about unimaginable depravity, then pick up my phone to message my wife about something mundane, didn't strike me as odd or a cause for concern.
Until slowly, inevitably, it did. It really did.
How had I become immune to such things, the very basest of human behaviour?
What did it say about my character and personality that I could go from working on a story so awful, to laughing and joking with colleagues about something utterly insignificant?
I suppose there was a defence mechanism at play, something to keep me on an even keel.
But something else that kept me from deep, dark depression was having a creative outlet, in my case in photography.
I have taken photographs all of my life, though only recently with any serious intent to produce anything of true artistic merit.
I have no artistic training - I can draw breath and paint a fence, but that's about it - but put a camera in my hand and suddenly, things change.
My daughter - a fine art graduate - was once tasked with producing portraits and chose words, rather than traditional portrait painting, to represent her mother, brother and me.
For mine, she wrote: 'He sees so much beauty here' in stark, black letters on a plain white canvas.
It moved me deeply, not only for its simple beauty but for the depth of her insight, for what she saw in me that I had never really engaged with myself.
And you know what, despite seeing so much ugliness for so long, she is right, I do see beauty everywhere, in the simplest, most mundane places.
I was recently sat having a morning cuppa, gazing out of my lounge window on a cold, bright day and noticed the weak winter sun was turning moisture in our garden fence into dancing wisps of steam.
So, I grabbed my camera and went outside in my slippers and started shooting. Maybe half an hour went by and I was frozen but utterly transfixed by what I was seeing and capturing.
The resulting photographs were some of my favourites of recent time, the best of which is reproduced here.
And that's what creativity and artistic endeavour does for you, it takes you out of yourself and your current situation and transports you to a wonderful place where there is nothing but you and the art, whether it be with a paintbrush, pencil, sculpting knife or camera in your hand.
Art, and the beauty it captures, is the perfect tonic to all of the ugliness in the world.