The book “Shades of Self" explores my personal experiences with depression and anxiety over the last 18 months. It could also be described as a “self-portrait of depression and anxiety”. Through a series of self-portrait photographs and complementary text, my aim is to take a deeper look at a man’s struggle with mental health issues; confronting the stigma surrounding men's mental health. Showing my experiences and battles with mental health will be an example to other's who might be going through similar mental health issues.


Men made up over three quarters of the registered suicides in 2013 (Mental Health Foundation, 2016) and often do not find it easy to come forward to talk about their mental health issues: “Men are not given permission to be vulnerable in society and any interpretation of vulnerability is considered a weakness.” (Dosanjh, 2017). By making this project I want to be able to show other men that it is possible to talk about these issues, to be open about the feelings and struggles we go through.

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The photographs depict a variety of self-portraits in which I am in a particular pose or environment, aiming to visualise the feelings I’ve been experiencing during my depression. They are made using a selection of analog cameras and black-and-white film. By choosing black-and-white film I was more able to convey the darkness of the illness. By going back to the roots of photography I echoed my own experiences of mental health; looking back into my memories as a child, growing up, and the experiences that shaped me.

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By working with film my aim was to focus on the process of creating and developing the images manually. By using film I was forced to slow down, creating more thoughtful images echoing the introspection of the project. Working directly with the images, handling them and processing the films and printing the images in the darkroom led me to physically interact with these images of depression and anxiety that I was creating.



The project helped me deal with my depression and anxiety through a self-initiated art therapy. I hope by exposing my feelings around mental health I can help others explore and open up about the feelings they are having.

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Shades of Self was made as part of the "Rethink" module while studying an MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at London College of Communication.

Adam Onishi, 2018

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