Me, my mental health and my photography

Boardwalk man © Greg Vivash 

Boardwalk man © Greg Vivash 

I have been involved in photography for many, many years. Most people, who know me, are aware that I am passionate and dedicated to the medium. What quite a few people probably don’t know is that I have a mental illness. I suffer badly from anxiety and depression. You’ll note that I clearly stated ‘mental illness’. For a few seconds, I hesitated to use that term. Mainly, because my inner pride tried to stop me but also because some people feel it’s too strong a label for anxiety and depression.

My experience of anxiety and depression goes back some way, around twenty years or so. I believe some of the foundations of it, are from my school days. Although a fair deal of it may have come from some pretty big life events. I can imagine, some of those whom I have worked with over the years are probably saying, “Who knew...he looked OK to me” Therein lies the rub. I don’t have a plaster cast on me; wear an eye patch or any other obvious visible clues to my condition. For the most part, I would have hoped my general demeanour seemed pretty ordinary. Now, that’s the thing for many anxious people. We are actors/performers. Our outer brave shell hides an inner critical, self deprecating and sometimes crumbling self-confidence. For me, the stronger the anxiety, the harder I have to work to hide my feelings to the world. It’s like on the outside, I’m a peacock, strutting around with unruffled plumage but inside, I’m running around like a turkey in a slaughterhouse! Sometimes, it gets out of hand and it results in a panic attack. For those of you whom have never had a major panic attack, I can tell you, it’s one of the most debilitating and scariest experiences you can ever have. A tremendous feeling of guilt, low self worth, even deep depression, often follows it. This is mainly because you feel weak, both mentally and physically, frustrated, that you were not in control and disappointed, because you want to feel stronger and be rid of these horrible feelings.

Coping with Anxiety and depression

First and foremost, there is no magic ‘one size fits all’ solution. Like many, I have taken advice from medics and counsellors. A combination of medication and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has helped. I have to try hard to remind my self of the techniques I have learned. It is certainly not a case of do a course of CBT and you’re cured. It’s like learning a language; you need to keep practicing it. One key piece of advice that I’ve read so many times, is to divert your mind from the negative thinking patterns and keep your mind busy. Do something that you enjoy. Give your mind chance escape the negativity. We live in a competitive fast paced world. We also have our own personal worries, be they health, relationships or money. I’ve got my fair share of troubles and I wish they’d go away. But the way I think about these troubles is the root cause of my anxiety and depression.

How photography helps me

I enjoy music and reading, but my outlet is my photography. I’ve been smitten by the photography bug since I was 12 years old. Since then, I qualified and I practice professionally and yes, that’s another challenge to my mood, as getting work isn’t easy.  I am competitive and I want to get my work recognised. To be honest it’s a fine line, as I do beat myself up about my successes (or lack of them!)  However, like most creatives, it’s a passion and it costs nothing to keep the creative mind active and developing it further. So, as much as I can, I do photography for my own well being. When I am out with my camera, I am in the moment. I am practicing Mindfulness. To be more specific, as I am walking around, I am constantly looking for photographic opportunities; my senses are heightened, as I notice the details around me. A good example is walking around a city. I see the details of buildings, the design, the texture, the use of space. I am people watching. I notice what they are doing, what they are wearing, how they are interacting with others and their surroundings, their facial expressions and mannerisms. I am also looking at the surroundings technically. How the light falls on the subject, the shadows and shapes it creates. Tones and colours changing the mood of the scene. Now, all of these might seem obvious, but how much do we really notice when casually looking around? As a photographer, I am probably more visually aware than many, but unless I go out with a purpose, in this case to create images, then I am not fully in the moment. This concentration is my escape, my diversion from negative thinking. In this time, I’m doing something I enjoy and I’m not dwelling on challenges I have in life. In fact, in some instances, when I feel I’ve captured an interesting image, I feel excited about the potential of what the image may offer me, when I get back to the office to process it.

It is fair to say, that I occasionally come back from a personal project shoot and not be happy with the outcome. My thoughts are: have I really nailed it today? That’s the inner critic in all artists, be they photographers, songwriters or actors. But it’s also this self-doubt, which spurs us on, to keep going and improving all the time. The important thing for me is not to take self-doubt too far and get in a deeper state of depression, as that will also feed my anxiety. I have to keep reminding myself of that. I also have to keep pushing to give myself this ‘me’ time. It’s an integral part of my therapy. It’s a prescription for the mind, which like prescriptions for other conditions, should be taken regularly. I’m still on the journey to better mental health. It will take a lot of strength and courage (Crikey!, I been trying to build up the courage to write this post for a long time). One thing is for sure. I see my photography (with or without recognition) as a key element of that journey.

One of the reasons for my writing this post is to hopefully help and encourage others to be open and true to themselves. Ultimately, by way of my little contribution,  to help end the stigma surrounding mental health. 

Useful mental health websites:


Time to change


Beyond Blue depression & Anxiety (Australian site)

National Institute of Mental Health (US site)

Winner in International Garden Photographer of the Year

I am pleased to be awarded 3rd Place in 'Abstract views' of The International Garden Photographer of the Year awards. The image will be featured in a major  IGPOTY touring exhibition and Series 11 coffee table book

My image, entitled: 'Floral dreams' uses a combination of photographic techniques, including multiple exposure and intentional camera movement to capture Lavender, Daffodils and Poppy flowers, 

Floral dreams © Greg Vivash 

Floral dreams © Greg Vivash 

2nd place in Photocrowd "Law & Order"

I am delighted to hear that my image "police lines" has been given 2nd place out of over 500 entries by Documentary Photographer Philip Joyce in the Photocrowd "law and Order" category. The image was taken around 30 years ago at a public disturbance in Wolverhampton, West Midlands.

Philip commented:  

"This is a very strong B&W image that makes excellent use of a limited tonal range with a strong composition. The rows of police show us law enforcement in action whilst the smattering of snow adds a pleasing artistic touch"

Police lines ©  Greg Vivash 

Police lines ©  Greg Vivash 

Feature in Digital Photographer Magazine

Great to see my image on a two page bleed in issue 191 of Digital Photographer magazine. The shot is of the old lifeboat station and jetty at Selsey, West Sussex. The station served the south coast for 57 years. It was demolished in Summer 2017, upon completion of the new land based station.

I captured the old station in monochrome with a long exposure, allowing the waves of the sea to produce a soft flow, giving an ethereal look to the image. 

Selsey lifeboat station printed in Digital Photographer Magazine September 2017 © Greg Vivash 

Selsey lifeboat station printed in Digital Photographer Magazine September 2017 © Greg Vivash 

Image selected for RPS International Images for Science Exhibition

I am pleased that one of my images has been selected by the Royal Photographic Society for their International Images for Science Exhibition 2017. My image below, shows colour interference in a soap bubble. The exhibition goes on a UK tour starting in September 2017. 

Bubble colours . Shot in the studio using electronic flash with a Nikon D700 and 105mm Macro lens. © Greg Vivash 

Bubble colours. Shot in the studio using electronic flash with a Nikon D700 and 105mm Macro lens. © Greg Vivash 



The Sand Man

The ripples of sand and the lone figure on a Sussex beach are used as compositional elements to lead the eye into the picture. Additionally, the use of intentional camera movement at a slow shutter speed, creates an ethereal or possibly ghostly atmosphere.

The Sand Man © Greg Vivash 

The Sand Man © Greg Vivash 

Weald & Downland Museum - Opening of Anglo Saxon house

I was delighted to be commissioned to document the opening day of the Anglo-Saxon hall house at Weald & Downland open air museum at Singleton, Chichester. A tremendous amount of research and hard work has gone into the reconstruction of this building. The event was celebrated with talks from archeologists and historians, as well as practical demonstrations of wood carving, pottery and wattling. The 40 acre museum is located near Chichester in the beautiful Sussex downs and well worth a visit.

© Greg Vivash 

Thanks Photocrowd for making my image No 1

The community photography website Photocrowd runs regular contests. Many of the best images  are chosen by a public vote. I am chuffed that in a contest for original cafe images, my image was got the number 1 spot. 

image taken in Malcesine, Italy © Greg Vivash 

image taken in Malcesine, Italy © Greg Vivash 





My image makes National Geographic Daily Dozen

On the 8th September, I was delighted to hear that this image had been selected by the editors of the National Geographic website for their top 12 photographs of the day. It's no surprise that National Geographic receive thousands of images every day, so being selected, even just for a day is nice news for any photographer!

After the rain  © Greg Vivash National Geographic daily dozen 8th Sept. 2016

After the rain © Greg Vivash National Geographic daily dozen 8th Sept. 2016



Pope John Paul ll: The story behind the photograph

Pope John Paul ll making his way through crowds in the Popemobile. © Greg Vivash  

Pope John Paul ll making his way through crowds in the Popemobile. © Greg Vivash  

This image of Pope John Paul ll was taken in May 1982, during his visit to the UK. The preparation for my getting access to the press area at Coventry airport began some months before the pontiff arrived. Even 34 years ago, security was tight and getting media accreditation was tough, especially for a young photographer based in the Midlands. The first stage of the process was to complete the appropriate application forms, including providing a passport and the details of the agency/publication sponsoring my coverage. In my case, it was a London picture agency, Barnaby’s. Once I was notified that accreditation had been approved, I had to collect the large laminated press pass in person from the Catholic Church press office in London. (Unfortunately, in recent years I’ve disposed of this card, which included my photograph. I certainly had a lot more hair in those days!) The press office wouldn't post it for security reasons. Again, for a young freelancer on a budget, the trip was all part of the essential prep. work. 

On the day the Pope was due to arrive in Coventry, it was a 5am start, in order for me to be well in time and go through security and get a good position on one of the two photographer platforms.  On arrival, I found the press tent and proudly handed over my accreditation card to the awaiting representative of Warwickshire constabulary, whose job it was to verify the details and issue another signed and rubber-stamped pin badge, for access to one of the photographer areas. To be honest, there was a temporary hiccup at this point, where my name was missing from a list of all those expected. I gulped, thinking after all this; I was going to be chucked out. But, after a little shuffling of papers, all was well. 


One of the photographers press stands at Coventry © Greg Vivash 

One of the photographers press stands at Coventry © Greg Vivash 

I made my way the press stand. There was no designated spot, like many of these things; it's a case of the earlier you get there, the better position you get. From there on it was a waiting game. The Pope was due to arrive at 11am. There was plenty of banter between the photographers present and some of them even lay down to take a short snooze on what was a very warm sunny day. I met some interesting characters that's for sure, including a young Mike Moloney from the Daily Mirror, who went on to be their Chief Photographer. A really nice guy, who shared some interesting stories.

My personal favourite image of the day © Greg Vivash 

My personal favourite image of the day © Greg Vivash 

Like most of the photographers there, I took many typical record images of the Pope arriving and taking mass, adorned in traditional red robes. All pretty much of a much. However, my favourite image was later in the day, when he travelled around the attending crowds in the famous popemobile. As he passed by, I got several frames, some were against the bright sunny sky. A couple of images presented me with a silhouette of the Pope. To me, there is no mistaking that this is the outline of John Paul ll. The glow of his white robe, the outline of his hand, as he gestures to the crowds, giving his blessing and in particular, the highlight from the papal ring, I feel,make this a more symbolic image. 

It was a long day, but a really great experience and one that I’ll never forget. 

UK Copyright Code

Copyright can be a thorny issue at times, but anyone who creates for example; a photograph, illustration, piece of music or computer game, will no doubt want to protect their work from unauthorised use, especially in these times where so many works are in electronic form, across multiple media platforms day to day. It is challenging if not impossible, to monitor copyright infringement and it will almost always continue to happen. Like many things, education is the key and being aware of the key points of copyright is both useful in terms of reminding ourselves as authors of work and informing those intending to beg, steal or borrow work without permission. 

In the UK, The Royal Photographic Society works closely with other organisations and photographers to provide support on the sharing and using of images. More information is available on their website The list below, published by the British copyright council  is an introduction to the rules that apply to most works in the UK.

© British Copyright Council 2016 

© British Copyright Council 2016 

Billingham offers brighter range


Having made bags since 1973,  Billingham bags have been used by many photojournalists and travel photographers across the globe. They are renowned for their versatile design and durability. In fact, it’s not uncommon to come across owners who boast that their well used Billingham bag is still in daily use after 20 years. 


Traditionally, Billingham bags were produced in earth colors, such as Khaki and Sage green. Then, along came offerings in smart business black. The company has recently announced that some of their range is now available in what can be described as bright fashionable colors. The 5 series and old stalwart of travellers the 550, are now available ‘Imperial Blue’. This option is also available in their smaller and very popular Hadley range, some of which are also available in rather striking ‘Neon Red’. ‘Neon Orange’ and ‘Neon Yellowand ’Sulphur yellow’. 


Bright colors such as these, may not be to everyone’s taste, but for the style conscious and the bold amongst us, they provide a little more variety for those seeking a quality photographic or everyday travel bag.

Billingham Hadley Pro in Neon yellow

Billingham Hadley Pro in Neon yellow

Smoke art photography

‘Germinate” image Greg Vivash

They say, ‘there is no smoke without fire’. That’s generally true but we often see the smoke before the fire. It’s smoke that has fascinated and inspired me to create a series of photographs, illustrating the flow of smoke and turning them into a set of creative fine art images. 

I often looked at the wisps of smoke created when a candle is extinguished. With a gentle breeze, random swirls appear along the path of the smoke, creating something quite beautiful, which, within a few seconds has disappeared forever, So, to capture this, with a fair bit of patience and post processing techniques, I decided to shoot a series fine art smoke images.

Antelope tribal mask? You decide. image Greg Vivash

The images were made using the smoke from incense sticks. A roll of Black paper was used for the background, placed roughly three feet behind the incense sticks. One speedlight flash positioned on the floor, pointing directly upwards and towards the path of the smoke, producing oblique lighting, which provides more contrast, picking out the patterns of smoke from the background.  Due to the unpredictable nature of the smoke, perseverance is the order of the day. Many exposures were made, but to change the flow and patterns of smoke, I used a piece of card to gently waft the smoke. 

Equipment doesn’t need to be sophisticated. A Canon 7D SLR with 50mm F1.4 and a single Canon Speedlight flash was fired using the cameras built in flash trigger. The camera was on a tripod and pre-focused on the incense stick leaving enough room in the frame above the source to capture the smoke. A couple of safety tips: Ensure that the source of smoke is not close to anything flammable and do all your shots in a well-ventilated area.

Once the shots were done, the process of editing began, looking through the images to ascertain which had the most interesting patterns of smoke and had the potential for post processing and making a pleasing fine art image.  

In Photoshop, Start by checking that the background is completely black by selecting Layers>Add New Adjustment Layer>Levels and adjust the white/black points to increase the contrast between smoke and the background. If you prefer a white background, i.e. a negative image, then select Image>Adjustments>Invert.

To create the final image, a copy of the image is made then after extending the canvas to twice the original size, paste and flip it horizontally to create a mirror image. The two images are then joined together to create one, giving a symmetrical pattern. This is similar to a Rorschach picture psychology test.  At this point, the image takes on a new appearance and depending on your imagination, different patterns emerge. 

The last fine tuning steps are adjusting Gamma levels to enhance the smoke against the dark background. Experiment using color balance sliders and Hue/Saturation to personal preference.

“We are watching you” image Greg Vivash

The images make a great talking point. People have told me they see faces, gargoyles, animal skeletons and even aliens!

Greg Vivash

RNLI Selsey

The RNLI do fantastic brave work. The lifeboat station at Selsey, West Sussex operates an all weather Tyne class lifeboat and a D class in shore lifeboat. The station has a history of over 150 years and the crew have been presented with 10 awards for gallantry. This station is being dismantled in the Summer of 2016 and being replaced with a new shore launch station.

I recently shot some images of the station and wanted to create something moody. We are all aware that the sea is both beautiful and unpredictable, I wanted the image to have a calm yet mysterious appeal to it, contrasting against the man made structure of the station. I used a long shutter speed give a soft misty flow to the sea and the tones and contrast of the black and white image contribute to make it an atmospheric image.  I am pleased that the RNLI were impressed by the image and shared it through their media channels:  

Follow RNLI on Twitter


Royal Photographic Society Journal article

Over the years, I have done a fair bit of product photography. I do enjoy experimenting in a studio environment. In fact, I gained my Associateship of the Royal Photographic society many moons ago, under the category of'Advertising & Commercial Photography'. A while ago, I was asked by the deputy editor of the journal of the Royal Photographic Society, to put together an article on basic tips on product photography. I am pleased that the article has been published in the January 2016 edition of the journal.