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Two years ago, I would have looked at someone shooting for a brand like Dune and thought “that’s where I want to be”. It was a time in my life where I was feeling completely lost and buried under by the weight of the world around me. You see, I’m not ashamed to say that during my time on this planet I’ve had issues with mental health. For my whole life, I’ve dealt with OCD. I’ve felt the crippling blows of anxiety and had days where I just wanted to shut myself away from the world. There were times when it felt all consuming and like it would stop me from achieving everything I wanted in life. I decided to fight back. Creativity would be my weapon of choice and I promised myself that as soon as I’ve shot for a decent amount of brands, I would share a little bit of my story and prove to everyone that struggling with mental health issues doesn’t defy you. It does not make you who you are and it absolutely can be defeated.

Side note – Everyone’s experience with mental health is different and by no means am I saying that my word is law. It’s all about figuring out what works for you; what small things you can do every day to get back on track. Also, apologies for any swears but sometimes “frick” just doesn’t hack it.

So, like I mentioned before, getting creative really helped me at a time when I needed it the most. It provided me with a purpose that I so desperately needed. At the time, I was living in Bounds Green going from one meaningless job to the next. I was working mostly as a temp and I have to say (no disrespect to anyone doing it now) it was mind numbing. I was selling things I didn’t care about, to the types of people I despise and hating every second of it. With a lack of fire in my stomach, my mental health slowly got worse and could feel my mood changing from day to day. I needed something new in my life. Something I can have complete ownership of. Something I can focus on and grow. Photography became that something. I would pick up my camera, head out into London and  capture every damn thing possible.  At the time, it was just a reason for me to get up and out of the flat but it soon became something more. I found myself getting completely wrapped up in the world through my lens and, after a while, I would forget about the panic attack I had in the shower that morning or the feeling of unexplainable dread I had the night before. Photography became my “thing”. I’ll admit, I wasn’t that good at it at the beginning. In fact, I look back at some of my old photos and think “Jesus Christ, did I actually think that was good” but it gave me freedom and that’s all I really needed.

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You hear a lot about how performers feel nervous and anxious before walking on stage only to feel completely at ease when under out there. Well, that’s how I feel when I’m behind a camera and If there’s ever going to be a feeling that will combat the numbness mental health brings, it’s that empowering feeling of getting completely creative with no with safety blanket needed or limits to be reached. It’s a feeling of the world being in the palm of your hand and you’re able to spin it at your own rhythm. That’s what got me out of the bed in the morning when things seemed cloudy and kept me pushing for more. After a while, I found myself photographing music. I became a resident photographer KOKO in Camden I captured the likes of Logic, Jeremih and Dizzee Rascal. It was incredible exciting and filled my veins with a zest for life. Honestly, there’s no cooler feeling about making your way through a packed crowd, Knowing you’re going to have the best view in the venue. It was fantastic fun and I’ll never forget the experiences I had whilst doing it (being back stage with bob Geldof in a snake skin suit was definitely one of them). However, I still still had more to give.

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Before I picked up a camera, I was a performer. I studied for three years at Urdang and spent another three performing professionally. Although I have had my reasons for quitting that industry I still had love for it and wanted to create something using my contacts within dance. Enter Dancers Of London. This is where my life really started to change. For the first time ever, I was able to marry the feeling of working towards a higher goal and the freedom of creating whatever the hell I wanted. No one to tell what to do, how to it or who do it with. It was and still is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. It completely destroyed this feeling of funk that seemed to hang over everywhere I went in the past and provided me with the inspiration I needed to completely grab life by the balls.

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Getting creative is more than just creating something. It’s a way of expressing yourself when words just won’t do justice. It’s a way taking a break from the madness of the world around you whilst connecting with the others that “just get it”. But, most of all, it’s a way for someone to figure out what makes them tick. Not in a “kid from Chelsea goes on a 2 week break to Thailand and ends up finding themselves” kind of way but in a detailed, comprehensive way. You figure out what you want from life, what you stand for and what things deserve your time and energy. To this day, with this knowledge, I’ve worked with Incredible dancers from company’s like The English National Ballet, The Royal Ballet and Rambert. I’ve also worked on campaigns with BLOCH, Coca-Cola London Eye and Ballet Boyz. I’m currently working on Dune London’s Autumn/Winter campaign and have grown a network of some really incredible social media influencers. I’m not saying all of this to brag but I am saying that I’ve achieved some pretty awesome things whilst dealing with my own personal issues. So, next time you think can’t do something due to any mental issues, kindly tell to that thought to fuck off.

 

I did. You can too.

I hope that wasn’t too self-indulgent.

Thanks for reading,
Ollie.

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