Unheimlich by Paul Mazza

Issue 127

One of the more evil aspects of depression is the way it makes you inert and useless, and then never stops berating you for being those things. Two years ago, I was in the middle of a depressive bout feeling especially lazy and unproductive, having not picked up a camera for several months. My wife suggested that as an aid to therapy I should try taking short photo- walks around our neighborhood. I resisted, telling her that I couldn’t possibly leave the house, that I was unmotivated and too removed from everything--an alien even in my own head--to make that happen. Even if I could negotiate walking around outside, it was unlikely that I would produce anything of worth. I was depressed and our neighborhood was dull and grey and exhausted of photographic opportunities. Her answer to this was that the photos were beside the point, and even so, such a rarefied point of view, an alien’s point of view, could only be a benefit to picture taking.

The idea appealed to me, and at some point I capitulated and began taking walks with a point- and-shoot camera hanging off my shoulder. The effects of the illness persisted but I found that I was slowly starting to think as a photographer again. And it occurred to me that I had for a long time been developing, with no blame to depression, a kind of perceptual laziness regarding the place where I lived, where I'd spent most of my life to that point. The neighborhood, I'd realized, was not without photographic possibilities; I had just stopped seeing them.

So I made it one of the goals of this project to reengage visually with a topography that had become endlessly familiar to me. To see it as a visitor might. To find and capture something unfamiliar in the recognizable, a bit of uncanny in the very ordinary. Taking, selecting and editing these photos, all from behind the distortion filter of depression, I've attempted to expose something of the subjects, however slight or ephemeral, that might have otherwise gone unnoticed.

All of the photos in this series were shot within 5 miles of where I live in the coal region or northeast Pennsylvania.

Paul Mazza lives and works in Forty Fort, PA
To view more of Paul’s work, please visit his website.