This week, Refinery29 is exploring mental health topics as part of our partnership with Clinton Global Initiative University.
After being diagnosed with general anxiety disorder, photographer Aleksandra Stone
actually welcomed her depression diagnosis. Once she understood the full scope of her condition,
she felt more secure in her feelings.
"Almost instantaneously, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief, because I could finally put a name to the problem," she tells Refinery29. "Finally, I understood that my thoughts and moods were symptoms, and within my reach were means to alleviate them."
Chief among these means was photography — specifically, self-portraiture.
In her work,
Stone casts herself in elaborate, and at times strange, images in an attempt to "cope, heal, and carry on," she explains. The results are an exploration of self that she couldn't have undertaken without her camera. With each image, she aims "to isolate, deconstruct, and communicate fleeting and defining life-moments," and
to give the viewer an idea of what it's like to live every day with depression. In some photos, Stone places herself at the center of the image; in others, it's difficult to find her hiding in much larger landscapes.
Although her self-portraits depict a deeply personal journey, Stone hopes that her work will broaden people's perceptions of mental illness. She says that viewers should feel welcomed when looking at these images, as if she's bringing them into her world.
"Each member of my viewing audience has something crucial to contribute to this conversation, whether it be an introspective assessment of their own life, an improved understanding of an unfamiliar subject, or the discovery of art as an avenue to communicating their own psychological frailties," she says.
Stone admits that it's hard for her to remember to take breaks from work, thanks to the sense of purpose it gives her. This drive is what's been most therapeutic for her: "Depression tends to feel akin to swimming in an ocean with no sight of land. You can tread, swim, or float, but no matter which method you chose, survival requires constant effort."
In Stone's experience, photography has been key to easing this effort. Click ahead to view a selection of Stone's work.