Mind Chatter

A personal narrative and photography by Stephanie Guttenplan.

I personally have a very close connection with mental health/illness, my work coming from that place within me. Growing up with dyslexia and not knowing it, to then being put into special classes to create a space for extra support in learning how to read, write and express myself – I always felt as if expression would be a difficult task. As a result, visual arts became a powerful way for me to explore what was going on within me, as well as gave me something that allowed me to dig without getting my words backwards. As I got a greater grip on my disorder, I found my writing to take a poetic form, which some still to this day say is too abstract – yet I don’t have an issue with this.

As I aged, so did my mental health. I found my “outsider” self getting into lots of trouble to try to cope this battling constantly with depression, as well as never feeling enough.

From this, I collapsed into a couple of bottoms in my emotional and spiritual self. An addict/alcoholic as well as in recovery for an eating disorder, mental diseases have gotten the better part of me for a while. Therapists, rehabs, recovery houses, psychologists to then taking myself through a transformative experience of life skills workshops, I have been taking great strides in who I am as a person. Two and a half years sober as well as in recovery for my eating disorder for one and a half years, I am grateful.

Along my journey I found my mental health challenges intertwined with others: an uncle who is younger than me with low functioning autism, in a school who had a special education department where I became an art mentor from, college opportunities to teach disabled adults in stop motion classes, a close connection to a younger autistic boy who I began doing art therapy with, being an assistant to a water therapist for physically and mentally handicapped kids to adults, to now being a life coach on the side of my art career to provide guidance for a collection of people who choose to create a new version of themselves through a transformational experience. 

What it means ToBeReal to Stephanie:

ToBeReal is to be authentic and transparent: know my darkness and to not be ashamed nor fearful of it, while also knowing that through the dark is the lightness of who I truly am. Being able to share all of me and to not hold back who I truly am on all fronts, allows for others to do the same. ToBeReal, is to be in connection in a way where there are no walls, nothing to hide and to realize that we are all in this journey of life. When I connect to who I truly am and what is coming up for me in my day to day interactions of life, I find that honesty with myself to then be able to share this with someone else – I find that we all are one. It doesn’t matter the disabilities and diseases that I have, the experiences that I have been through, nor the details of the who/what/when/where/how. When it comes down to it, the roots of our desires are all the same: to be love, to give love and to have love. Whatever love means to you, whatever you desire – so do I.
ToBeReal is to express whatever I can, in whatever way my heart desires. To speak about it with someone, inspire them to take the same leap into vulnerability and trust to share themselves and to stand for a world of authentic expression.
— Stephanie Guttenplan

Stephanie's Bio:  Stephanie Rachel Guttenplan was born a Virgo in Atlanta, Georgia in 1987. Growing up in a Smörgåsbord of heritages and an undiscoverable family tree, she has always hoped that her ancestors pranced among the pyramids. As she grew older, her tight knit family of scattered artists, athletes, music lovers and travelers filled her life with passports, pools, cultures, pigments and hints of classic photography. Dyslexic and quiet, Stephanie found herself getting lost in her unfinished basement filled with materials to create from and sketchbooks to fill. Becoming a closeted poet, she found herself partnering her art with letters to lust, love and pain. She grew into her artistry, spilling ink filled letters to combine with her love for merging distorted pixels with the land of mixed media. By age 14 her mind was made up: Artist and adventurer she shall be.

A southern belle runaway, Stephanie skipped to Towson, Maryland to earn her BFA in Digital Art and Design, as well as swim for their Swim and Dive team. When she retired her swim career, she jumped over the pond to Florence, Italy to study photography and art history. After graduating, she adventured through the land of e-commerce and design, yet always found herself magnetized to her camera. The urge rose to create from a personal place and to solidify her voice of artistry, resulting in her attending the School of Visual Arts to attain her Masters in Professional Studies in Digital Photography. Since then, she has become a freelance artist who creates photographically: combining photography, design, web, and typography together for her clients to create a clear transition from reality to pixels on the World Wide Web. Stephanie is currently living in Brooklyn, being a photographer, artist, adventurer, storyteller, poet and sketchbook filler. An apple addict with an adventure problem, you can find filling her veins with coffee partnered with some poetry in the park, or perched on her roof top. 

Learn more about Stephanie below! (fine art + fashion) (freelance + event photography)

A Photo Narrative of Anxiety

My Anxious Heart by Katie Crawford

My Anxious Heart explores and identifies how emotionally and physically depleting general anxiety disorder can be from a personal perspective. As I have carried anxiety for the majority of my life, I’ve chosen to photographically depict this battle and its constant presence. Since it is within my own mind where anxiety is born, I have decided to interpret my roles as both instigator and victim through self portraiture. 

  a captive of my own mind. the instigator of my own thoughts. the more i think, the worse it gets. the less i think, the worse it gets. breathe. just breathe. drift. it’ll ease soon.

a captive of my own mind. the instigator of my own thoughts. the more i think, the worse it gets. the less i think, the worse it gets. breathe. just breathe. drift. it’ll ease soon.

Through this body of work, I am visually interpreting my own emotional and physical journey so that others may be able to understand this weight that so many bear in our society. The physical ramifications of the disorder, such as a racing heart, dizziness, shortness of breath and lightheadedness, frequently go unnoticed or are misinterpreted by those who have never suffered from anxiety. Although the physical symptoms make up a great deal of the disorder, the emotional outcome is exceedingly difficult to encapsulate as well. Anxiety bars the sufferer from the risk of discovery, the desire to explore new ideas, and the possibility of exiting a comfort zone. It makes sure that it will never be alone. It finds you when you’re in the midst of joy, or alone in your own mind. It is quiet and steady, reminding you of your past failures, and fabricating your future outcomes. 

My interpretation of these symptoms through my images aids in the explanation of how true anxiety has the capability to drain every last drop of aspiration. This representation is achieved in the photograph with the use of black objects and materials that subtly interact within the frame. Manipulating the images in this way evokes a sense of overprotection and lingering presence. By providing these surreal images as expressions of anxiety within a realistic portrait, the viewer is guided through the internal and external struggle of a person living with this disorder. Using my own stories and experiences, I am capturing the raw essence of anxiety. Through this personal journey, I have grown and found that depicting my fears has become therapeutic, as well as a gateway for others to express their oppression and begin their own healing process.

Katie Crawford received her BFA from Louisiana State University.  Specializing in surreal portraiture, he focusses on depicting her battle with anxiety and depression through the photographic medium.  Find out more about her work on FacebookBlog, or on her Website.

Bound By the Binary

 'Identity' by  Ze Jucutan

'Identity' by Ze Jucutan

I’m androgynous and have been labeled with GID (Gender Identity Disorder). I have bound my chest, went through top surgery, and have taken shots of testosterone to fit into the binary. This image represents the silence and restrictions faced upon my identity by not associating with the norms of society. I don’t fit in a box so they are confused on how they label me. This is me. It’s time #tobereal.
— Ze Jucutan

Check out more of Ze's work here!

Suicide, Drugs, and Beauty in Photography

Wick Beavers

Wick Beavers is an award-winning photographer based out of New Mexico.  His work is a merger of photographic and personal experience.  He has had work featured in Newsweek, the Daily Best, Forbes, Architectural Digest, NY Magazine, Miami Herald Newspaper, El Heraldo, billboards on I-95 and many other places.  

My brother committed suicide by overdosing on heroin in a bath tub about 15 years ago. To beat the angst, I shot this picture of my girlfriend. Note, the letter on the floor is the exact one he wrote to me the night he killed himself. Might be a little racy but it’s truthful!
— Wick Beavers


More of Wick's work.

Read more about Wick here.