Christian Hopkins never dreamed of pursuing photography while growing up, but when his mom gave him a point-and-shoot before a trip to China when Hopkins was 16, he forced himself to use the gift. Hopkins didn't just want to document his trip, though. "I wanted to take pictures of things worth capturing — fleeting moments of beauty or intrigue that would only last a moment before eternally disappearing," he tells us. Hopkins was immediately more interested in recording emotions than events, and when he had to create a solo project his senior year, he thought of photography — and his ongoing struggle with major depressive disorder. Maybe, he thought, he could turn his lens on his inner life.
The surreal, evocative images Hopkins developed — photos the now-22-year-old artist has shared on Flickr and Facebook for years — served as both a personal emotional outlet and what The Huffington Post calls "an educational resource for those who may not understand what people with depression so often encounter." We spoke with Hopkins about his artistic process, the healing power of photography, and what he wishes more people knew about mental illness. Click through for his thoughts and 24 of his haunting works.