The pernicious effects of a bout of depression can send its host into a desolate place.
Scott Andrews was there some months ago, and while it initially frightened him, he eventually felt emboldened to share his struggle and in turn hear of others’ journeys.
The Queenscliff creative, whose medium is wet-plate collodion photography, said that before he discovered he had depression, his ideas about mental health were somewhat narrow-minded.
“I used to have this idea about people with depression, and I’d think ‘oh, you should just get up and do something’, but when I had a proper dose I was like wow, this is really bad.
“When I came out of it, I thought I’ve got to help people through that somehow. I’m a really creative person and I realised during that phase, I wasn’t being creative… I was kind of in survival mode.”
Determined to use his artform as cathartic healing, Scott began photographing men from around the region who had also been down the rabbit hole and back again.
Titled Man Up Man Down, a play on words about Australian attitudes surrounding men and mental health, the project has seen Scott meet with males of all ages – from ex-servicemen with post-traumatic stress disorder to teenagers grappling with anxiety.
Each person who has a portrait taken also answers an eight-question interview about their mental health journey, with Scott’s aim to have both the photos and answers published in a book.
Scott said the questionnaire was developed with mental health workers Annie Norrish, Kelly Ann Clancy and Beyond Blue ambassador Tony McManus.
“The book’s concept has been designed so if they’re sitting alone, feeling depressed or suicidal, they can pick up the book, flick through and realise they’re not alone, and there are other people going through it.
“Initially it was going to be called Beautifully Imperfect but Man Up Man Down is a classic Aussie attitude. I’ve always been into my feminine side, but I know a lot of blokes aren’t.”
“The book will essentially be 50 portraits done by me, 50 supplied images of the person doing something they love and their interviews.”
While Scott can’t confirm whether the project will be funded for publishing, he said he was “very close”.
He said Tony had been a great support in getting Man Up Man Down off the ground, and that the pair were working towards launching the concept through an exhibition of the 50 portraits.
“My life’s ambition now is to keep doing these books and help people, not only men, but anyone going through a hard time.
“Everyone I met was so different, and everyone’s journey is so different. The book will not only be 100 images, it will offer 50 different ways for people to deal with their mental health.”
For more information on Man Up Man Down, follow @thetravellingalchemist on Instagram or phone Scott on 0488 573 659.